The Chicago Bears have had a very harmonious, positive and productive offseason–until a few days ago, that is. The Bears have had three physical altercations in their last three practices, two of which involved punches being thrown.
Two of the three incidents also involved the same person: veteran offensive lineman Kyle Long. Here’s a breakdown of the Bears’ three recent fights during practice:
Kyle Long and Akiem Hicks: No Punches
On Sunday, the Bears had a slow, mistake-filled practice where, at one point, two veterans had a heated conversation and had to be separated by teammates. Kyle Long and Akiem Hicks didn’t come to blows, but their confrontation was the first of an increasingly aggressive series of alterations that have eluded the Bears all training camp–until very recently.
Matt Nagy blamed “mental exhaustion” for the dust-up, noting that the team was extremely fatigued and eager to get back to Halas Hall. The fights in practice have only escalated since then, however.
Round Two: Prince and Javon
After a much-needed day off Monday, the team held back-to-back practices Tuesday and Wednesday. During Tuesday’s practice, Javon Wims threw the football at veteran cornerback Prince Amukamara before throwing several punches at him. Amukamara used restraint and never swung back, but Wims was lucky he didn’t hurt his hand.
According to USA Today‘s Bears Wire, Eddie Jackson had to be restrained from going after Wims, but the scuffle was over pretty quickly, ending with both men meeting in the middle of the field, shaking hands. An apology was also apparently handed out. Both players said after the altercation that they were fine and that it was an insignificant situation in which tempers flared–end of story.
Coach Matt Nagy refused to disclose which team member apologized, although that seems pretty obvious at this point, as the young Wims was clearly the aggressor. Nagy noted that Amukamara and Wims were two of the team’s “nicest” players, and chalked the skirmish up to competitiveness:
“The guys want to do well. The beauty of the sport, and sports in general, is that you care,” Nagy said. “These guys care. They’re trying to make plays and trying to make teams. Sometimes the juices get going. That’s my job, to make sure I come in there and settle the dust.”
But apparently, the dust hadn’t all settled yet.
Kyle Long Throws a Helmet–and Punches
During an evening practice Wednesday in which the team played a mock night game complete with simulated crowd noise and the new fan favorite Bear-raid siren, Kyle Long lost his cool again in what some observers called a “scary fight.”
It seems as though Long went after backup defensive lineman James Dalton after Long took objection to a block Dalton threw during an interception return by the defense. In what was the worst of the three incidents so far, Long took Dalton’s helmet off and threw several punches at the undrafted free agent before heaving the helmet downfield. Long was removed from practice and didn’t return. Apparently, Long must have been feeling under the weather, because he then vomited on the sidelines multiple times per Jason Lieser:
After practice, Nagy seemed a bit more miffed about this particular incident when speaking to reporters:
“You know, yesterday to me was a little bit more of a pillow fight,” he said. “Today I thought was a little bit…it’s disappointing…it’s all that kind of stuff where we’re more mature than that. I know that I personally expect more from us.”
Will This Alter Team Chemistry Moving Forward?
Long has recently stated that this year’s camp has been the most fun he’s had as a pro, so his being involved in two separate incidents in which he has lost his cool seemingly came out of nowhere.
Also surprising is Long lacking the restraint usually shown by veteran players in those types of situations. Long has yet to comment on the fight, but Nagy noted that this wasn’t something he was going to tolerate as a head coach:
“It just can’t happen. It’s not going to happen, but we’ll handle that internally. I’ll have man-to-man, one-on-one discussions with everybody to make sure it’s handled the right way.”
These types of altercations are the norm in professional football; as quarterback Mitchell Trubisky responded when asked about the Amukamara/Wims altercation: “Brothers fight.” That’s true. But it sounds like Matt Nagy has had enough of the brotherly fights.