FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — The problem wasn’t so much that Lorenzo Mauldin and Kelvin Beachum got into a fight.
Granted, having your starting linebacker punch the back of your left tackle’s helmet isn’t exactly ideal, but long after it happened, that wasn’t what struck Todd Bowles.
What bothered Bowles is that, up until that skirmish, the fight was the most fire he had seen out of his team on the 12th day of training camp.
After a glacial start to practice, Beachum and Mauldin collided on a play and things escalated from there: Beachum went down, Mauldin began pummeling the back of his helmet, and surrounding teammates took their sides.
By the end of it, Bowles was forced to stop practice when the fight began to cross into “melee” territory. He talked to his team, Muhammad Wilkerson did the same, and punitive wind sprints commenced.
“They need to know why they’re running,” Bowles said. “They need to take the onus on themselves, and if they’ve got energy to scuffle, they’ve got energy to run. If you’ve got energy to scuffle and run, you should have energy to practice.”
Bowles called Monday’s practice “sluggish” and “sloppy.” He added, “Hard but not smart.” And though things certainly picked up after the wind sprints, there were indications of lag throughout. Josh McCown was sacked five times during team drills and Christian Hackenberg went down seven.
The fault, Bowles said, didn’t fall on the offensive line alone. “Sometimes it fell on the quarterback, sometimes it fell on the receivers, sometimes it fell on the running back. It was all-inclusive,” he said, adding that Hackenberg’s total was up because “it’s tough to hold on to the ball when they’re not blocking the guy and running scot-free. We’ve got to pick up some blocks and help the guy out.”
Bryce Petty also had a rough day with two interceptions.
Beachum and Mauldin downplayed the fight, but Beachum said he noticed the lackluster start to practice. It happened after the last day off, too, he said, and the Jets can ill afford it.
The team has to understand “the urgency right now,” he said. “We’ve got a game in a couple days. We’ve got the regular season coming about. We know what’s being said. We’ve got to take care of business. We’ve got to come out a lot faster than we came out today. Again, these off days, it’s the second one. After the off day, it’s been kind of sluggish coming out of the gate.”
The two, he said, will make up soon enough. “It’s training camp,” he said. “If you don’t have a fight during training camp, I don’t think you’re on a good team. It’s part of training camp. It is what it is. We got to go back in the locker room and get in the cold tub together. It’s fine.”
Mauldin, who still is experiencing lingering tightness in his back after missing Saturday’s game, said the skirmish was a result of his getting a little frustrated.
“Bowles said we came out slow and we need to pick it up pretty much, and that’s what we did,” Mauldin said. “We came out slow and we saw it and, of course, Muhammad again approached the team and told everyone that we needed to pick it up as well. We needed a faster pace at practice.”