Tempers flare at practice for Jets as multiple skirmishes go down

CORTLAND, N.Y. -- Ding! Ding! Ding!

Punches were thrown while tempers flared at a rough and tumble practice at New York Jets training camp Monday. And coach Rex Ryan couldn't have been more pleased.

"Hey, we had a little rock 'em, sock 'em robots out there," Ryan said with a grin.

Thomas Jones took a swing at James Ihedigbo and a few Jets players quickly jumped in to break things up early in the practice session.

Round 2 came a few minutes later when Howard Green got into it with Brock Christopher, and several players stood around the skirmish and shouted at each other.

Then came Ahmad Carroll and Nevin McCaskill getting into a shoving match, and Darrelle Revis playfully jumping on the pile.

All that was missing was a ring and an announcer.

"That was interesting," Ryan said. "It always happens in camp this time of year. You've been through a few days and you're tired of getting hit and you're tired of doing all this kind of stuff."

Truth is, the players loved it, as did the fans watching in the stands at SUNY Cortland. Ryan promised to establish an aggressive, tough and mean attitude -- and the team is quickly taking to that.

"It's good," Ihedigbo said. "If this is how you go against your teammates, OK, well, let's see how you go against your opponents. It's going to be that much more of an edge and that much more of a chip on your shoulder."

Surprisingly, there appeared to be no hard feelings after practice.

"It lightened things up," quarterback Kellen Clemens said. "We'll all go in the locker room and there won't be a word said about the fights in a bad way. Guys will be joking around about it."

Added defensive end Jamaal Westerman: "We're still teammates off the field. On the field, it's offense vs. defense. In the locker room, we're all Jets."

It's not exactly the rigid, no-nonsense camp Eric Mangini ran the last three seasons.

"I just think people are little bit more relaxed, a lot more relaxed," guard Brandon Moore said. "Guys are out playing football, having fun and feel like they can say what they want to say and do what they want to do, within the rules. You don't feel like someone's hovering over you and everybody's kind of tiptoeing around."

Obviously, Ryan doesn't want his players brawling on a regular basis, but he recently told them the "rules of engagement" for fighting.

"People go in there and break up fights, but there's an art to doing it," Ryan said, adding that offensive players need to pull off defensive players, and vice versa.

"The reason you do that is because your buddy can get another shot in on somebody," Ryan said, smiling. "You don't want to pull off your guy and he gets hit. I mean, that's just the way it is."

The action all came after Ryan gave the players Sunday night off from meetings after a few impressive practices.

"Usually, you come back the next day and everybody's mind is in the wrong place and we don't have a good practice," quarterback Mark Sanchez said. "Today, it was real sharp. So, when Rex gives us that time and space, it's on us."

Not that everyone should expect a Mixed Martial Arts event to take place after every night off.

"I let them know after practice that I don't need them to fight," Ryan said. "I don't need them to fight each other, I really don't. Things like this happen, but I sense that there's a lot of pride in the particular units. ... We want to be physical and we want to play tough, hard-nosed football and I think we're working to that."

In the main football-related showdown, Clemens outplayed Sanchez until he was intercepted by Revis late in practice.

"Yeah, that is frustrating because those are things that get you beat," Ryan said.

The pick, helped by Bart Scott tipping the ball, came on the 13th play of an impressive drive -- possibly the best of training camp.

"Talk about bad luck, huh?" Clemens said.

In a competition that has been just about even through the first four days of camp, Clemens is going to need more than luck to win the starting job. He has thrown six interceptions during 11-on-11 drills in six practices.

"I've put the entire competition in the coaches' hands," said Clemens, who has worked with the first-team offense for all but one practice session.

NOTES: The Jets plan to practice on natural grass Tuesday after working exclusively on artificial turf while waiting for the other field to set. "We've got to do some tackling now," Ryan said, adding that the focus will be on short-yardage and goal-line situations. ... S Keith Fitzhugh had his left arm in a sling during the afternoon special teams practice after injuring his shoulder in the morning practice. ... TE Richard Owens was waived, and TE Kevin Brock was claimed off waivers from Carolina..

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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