SANTA CLARA, Calif. — After stopping practice for the second time due to a brawl on Tuesday, coach Kyle Shanahan called on his team to buckle down.
He immediately made a few choice words about what had just happened. Beneath the anger was a simple message about how Shanahan wants his team to play.
Physical? Absolutely. Hard? Of course Irritate? Certainly.
“I want everybody to challenge each other,” Shanahan said Friday. “I don’t care how much stuff they talk to; it doesn’t matter how close they get to fighting. They can do whatever they want to be as intense as they want and bring out the best in each other, which happens a lot like that .And it’s the same on the field.
“But once you throw a punch, you get thrown out or you get a penalty, and we’re proud of ourselves, I want people to be angry, I want people to get as close as possible to all those things. I want people to get . right on the line where they’re going to be knocked out, but you can’t knock out on the football field or you cost your team.”
The problem this week for Shanahan’s team was that it happened on the practice field between teammates. It was the hottest day of this camp and a longer, fully padded session, factors that several players said contributed to the situation. And while fights are common at every training camp, this one was between two players expected to play significant roles this season.
The biggest fight — between Warner and Aiyuk — started when a late hit from Warner landed a receiver. Marcus Johnson in the concussion protocol.
Something was already brewing between Warner and Aiyuk, with Aiyuk telling the media a few days back, in a half-joking manner, that Warner was “annoying” and his insistence on continuing to rip the ball and touch guys after plays were over was “irritating.”
Warner countered that he believes Aiyuk is ready to take the next step in his career and he is doing what he can to help him take his game to another level.
“Specifically with Brandon, I picked him,” Warner said. “I think he’s ready to take that next step to play at an elite level. I’ve been chasing him a little bit … because I know how much he’s got in him. And I know if I upset him a little bit, he’s going to get sick and tired of that and will start to hold his own … He’s really gotten into that mindset of knowing that he’s a guy and he’s capable. I’m trying to get the best out of him. That’s it.”
On Friday, Shanahan said he’s fine with his players pushing each other, and he trusts them to do it right. But events like Tuesday’s must come to a natural halt.
“I love the intensity of it,” Shanahan said. “I don’t think you have to fight to be intense, though. Fights are riots, but then they lead to other things. I think that’s why we have a guy on the log because he took an unnecessary shot on somebody, which led to the big battle and then we had a bunch of haymakers and stuff thrown in there that just break hands.”
The Niners got through the rest of Tuesday’s practice and all of Wednesday without further incident. In the meantime, Shanahan hammered home the point that his team can be physical without resorting to fights.
“I think our team is pretty tough,” Shanahan said. “I think we’re pretty physical. I think if it was most likely a vote on who was the most physical team on tape last year, I think we’d win most of that, and we wouldn’t have gotten into one fight last year. So , I don’t think that has anything to do with durability.”