The Rams and Las Vegas Raiders held a joint practice Wednesday in Thousand Oaks and, predictably, a fight broke out.
It did not escalate into an all-out brawl, but hey, there’s always Thursday.
Observations from the workout:
Rams running back Cam Akers and Raiders defensive lineman Maxx Crosby exchanged punches: Akers is 5 feet 10 and 215 pounds, Crosby 6-5 and 255. That did not stop them from going at it after Crosby chased Akers about 25 yards down the field in an apparent attempt to strip the ball.
Both players spent the remainder of practice on the sideline, with Akers in street clothes. The Rams did not make him available to reporters.
“I didn’t see exactly what happened when there was a little bit of a skirmish but, got it separated, it wasn’t an issue and we were able to get everything that we wanted accomplished and that’s the important thing,” Rams coach Sean McVay said.
The fracas between Akers and Crosby was not unexpected. The Rams and Raiders brawled during joint practices in 2019 in Napa and 2021 in Thousand Oaks.
Rams star defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who swung a helmet during a joint-practice brawl last year in Cincinnati, did not practice Wednesday because he was given a rest day, McVay said. Donald will practice Thursday.
As always, stay tuned.
Matthew Stafford looks ready to start the season: Stafford, preparing for his 15th season, began the workout against the Raiders’ first-team defense by completing eight passes — 10 if you count two that came after apparent sacks — in three series. The only ball that hit the ground was one dropped by reserve tight end Brycen Hopkins.
“The juices are definitely higher when you’re playing against another team,” Stafford said.
Crosby pressured Stafford several times. The two-time Pro Bowl end is a “a heck of a player” and fun to practice against, Stafford said.
“Any time he gets within five feet of me, he’s yelling, ‘Sack!’ in my face,” Stafford said, chuckling. “So I have no idea if those [pressures] are real.
“I mean, I’m not just an absolute statue back there. I can move a little bit.”
Backup quarterback Stetson Bennett struggled at the outset. His first two passes were broken up and his next three fell incomplete. He completed a pass to receiver Demarcus Robinson, but then had a ball slip out of his hand, and had a pass intercepted when deflected off tight end Davis Allen’s hands.
Bennett recovered and made several good throws during red-zone drills.
Receiver Tutu Atwell will be more than a gadget player this season: The diminutive Atwell, a second-round draft pick in 2020, might be the biggest beneficiary of Cooper Kupp’s absence because of a hamstring injury.
Atwell made plays on short, medium and long routes and appears to have earned Stafford’s trust.
“Tutu did a really nice job,” Stafford said. “Had some big plays for us.”
It remains to be seen how much McVay utilizes Atwell … and if Atwell seizes the opportunity. But through offseason workouts and training camp, he qualifies as the Rams’ most-improved player.
“He’s got a lot of confidence that he’s earned,” McVay said.
Offensive line remains in flux: In March 2022, the Rams gave Joe Noteboom a contract that included $25 million in guarantees, and then six games into last season lost him because of an Achilles injury.
Noteboom is back and has worked at left tackle and right guard but does not appear to have a hold on either spot. He did individual drills Wednesday but will not practice the rest of the week because of an unspecified issue, McVay said.
“We’ll hopefully get him out here sooner than later,” McVay said, “but we don’t want to waste our emotional energy on stuff that we can’t control.”
Young defensive players are coming along: Edge rusher Byron Young and cornerback Tre Tomlinson are among the rookies aiming to make leaps after their preseason debuts against the Chargers. Young and Tomlinson both showed improvement in the workout against the Raiders.
McVay said he encourages players to take chances in the joint-practice setting.
“Let’s go try some stuff, with no ramifications,” McVay said. “That’s how you really give yourself a chance to get better.”
Going against unguardable Raiders receiver Davante Adams helps.
Adams’ resume — he’s a three-time All-Pro and six-time Pro Bowl selection — speaks for itself. But to watch him rep after rep, even from afar, is a sight to behold.
“What a great opportunity to go against one of the best,” McVay said. “If you’re in the growth mindset, and you’re in the mentality that the work pays off and you continue to get opportunities to challenge yourself, that’s what you love.”