By Terrance Turner
Aug. 25, 2022
The Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals reunited today on the field for the last of several joint practices. But practice got called off today after a brawl erupted on the field. Players had to be physically separated during the melee, and Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald was caught on video swinging Bengals helmets at several players.
According to ESPN, “On a day filled with post-snap affairs, a melee broke out during a team drill featuring the Bengals’ first-team offense and the Rams’ first-team defense. A Rams defender who was unable to be identified from a distance was engaged with Bengals right tackle La’el Collins. The defender had Collins wrapped up from behind, arms around his chest, seconds after Cincinnati running back Joe Mixon was a few yards downfield.
Collins took exception and swung punches once he was free, sparking a massive fracas that drew several whistles and flags from the officiating crew. Multiple helmets were removed, with a Cincinnati Enquirer photographer spotting Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald wielding a Bengals lid in each hand. After practice, a video circulated on Twitter appearing to show Donald swinging a helmet multiple times during the scrum.
Donald’s actions have been compared to that of Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett.
Garrett infamously swung his helmet at the head of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph in a 2019 game. During the altercation, Garrett hit Rudolph with his own helmet, which led to Garrett being fined more than $45,000 and being suspended for the final six games of the season. Garrett later said that Rudolph — who was fined $50,000 for his role in the altercation — called him a racial slur, which he denies.
The two made up in early January 2021. According to NBC Sports, Garrett sprinted to the Steelers quarterback after Cleveland’s 24-22 victory Sunday. Garrett shook Rudolph’s hand and offered a compliment. “I just told him ‘good game,’” Garrett said, via Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com.
Today’s Rams-Bengals practice came just days before the two teams are scheduled to face off in a final preseason game. The two teams are set to have Friday off before they close the preseason with a game Saturday in Cincinnati. Neither team is expected to play their starters in the finale. Bengals coach Zac Taylor told ESPN he doesn’t anticipate any animosity to carry over (Hopefully not: Jay Morrison of TheAthletic.com wrote on social media that there were “full on roundhouse punches being swung, helmets being slammed on other peoples heads, multiple players joining in. Full on melee.”)
Players from both teams were strewn across the practice field closest to the street dividing Cincinnati’s practice facility and Paycor Stadium, according to ESPN. After a few minutes, the teams decided to end the contentious practice. (It’s worth noting that these two teams have history: the Rams beat the Bengals in the Super Bowl in February.)
Donald declined comment through a team spokesperson, who also said the team would not be commenting. (But Donald is reportedly unlikely to face other serious consequences for his role in the brawl. “Based on the NFL’s history of ignoring joint practice fights, Donald presumably faces no discipline, according to NBC’s ProFootballTalk.”
Donald, 31, played an important role in Super Bowl 56, sacking Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow and throwing him to the ground — before Burrow could throw the ball — in the last play of the game. Donald sealed the game for the Rams, earning his first Super Bowl ring.
In June, Donald agreed to a new deal with the Los Angeles Rams that will make him the highest-paid non-quarterback in NFL history. The contract extension guarantees him $65 million over the next two seasons with an option that allows him to either return or retire in 2024 for an additional $30 million, according to ESPN. The deal offers him a total of $95 million through the 2024 season, a person with knowledge of the deal told USA TODAY Sports.
This story will be updated as more details emerge.