IRVINE — The third fight was the final straw.
Twice already on Wednesday, the Chargers’ joint practice with the Rams had been interrupted by brawls.
Receiver Dontrelle Inman and cornerback Trumaine Johnson sparked the first, jawing with each other after some excessive contact during one-on-one drills. Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman ran over, shoving Inman to the ground. Dozens of other players soon rushed in — including Chargers receiver Keenan Allen, who threw Robey-Coleman to the ground.
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A few minutes later, Rams cornerback E.J. Gaines got tied up with Chargers receiver Jamaal Jones, leading to a second skirmish.
So when yet another fight broke out within the same half-hour span, Chargers coach Anthony Lynn took action, ejecting defensive end Chris McCain.
“At some point, you have to make an example out of somebody,” Lynn said. “We weren’t gonna fight all day.”
Tensions were bound to boil over at some point. The Chargers and the Rams had already met once before, holding a joint practice this past Saturday at StubHub Center. They will see each other again on Aug. 26, during a preseason game at the Coliseum. In an inherently brutal game, violence manifests itself in different forms.
“It was two competitors from two different teams that want to win,” Inman said. “Just the nature of us is we’re aggressive. Just like he thinks he shouldn’t take anything from me, I felt the same way.”
Some of those underlying emotions can be useful in football — if properly channeled and controlled. Running back Melvin Gordon said that his team needs to minimize those physical extracurriculars, but appreciated that the Chargers were building “a nice little rivalry against the Rams.”
“You’ve got to be there for on another,” Gordon said. “Your brother’s going to war, you’ve got to be there to back him up. You can’t be afraid. You can’t be scared. Sometimes, you’ve got to go in there.”
The Chargers might face similar situations a week from now. They will host back-to-back practices with the Saints next Thursday and Friday in Costa Mesa — essentially warm-up sessions for a preseason game on Aug. 20. With three meetings scheduled in four days, it won’t be a shock to see someone else step over the line.
For Lynn, however, the potential risk is worth it….