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New York Jets: The Fine Line Between Physical Play & Stupid Fighting

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The Jets are trying to get it right, but practice boils over as temperatures rise.

Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Fights in camp happen, it's a physical sport and players are  hitting each other for hours at a time. You can't avoid the off scuffle breaking out, however you do have to try and limit the altercations. Obviously the Geno Smith incident wasn't during the practice period, but the jets have already been hit with several injuries, Brandon Marshall being the latest player to remove himself from the field due to injury, there was no news on how serious that was, but I'm sure we'll find out about it today.

Yesterday, several fights broke out among the players, the latter one between Dalton Freeman and Jason Babin resulted in a dog-pile involving a number of players, no punches were thrown but Todd Bowles wasn't impressed with players taking shots at their brothers. Bowles made it clear that this kind of behavior wouldn't be tolerated and he punished the team with some conditioning exercises. Nobody wants to be running wind sprints in full pads in blistering heat, so if the message didn't get through before yesterday, it certainly did by the end of practice.

Bowles was asked after the session about the fine line between being physical as a football team and just being plain dumb:

I mean it's a fine line. You want to be very physical and nobody wants get their butts kicked. You see the same guy every day and you're fighting him every day physically and to get into a fist fight is what we don't want because you can break your hand on a helmet, you can hurt somebody. We're not trying to hurt each other. At the end of the day, we all need each other, but it's a fine line.

The mess-talking, the bravado and swagger and everything is fine but you have to understand situational football at the same time. You can't fight and be braggadocious and be loud if you don't understand what's going on in the game. That makes for a dumb player and we are not trying to have dumb players.

I think the Jets do have a slight reputation as a physical football team. For many years we've played tough defense while running the football well. Having a reputation for being physical is great, and being physical is a necessity in this sport, but you need to tow the line in practice, you need to play smart and understand that these are your teammates.

Bowles has been impressive in his first camp and he's not about to ask his players to tone it down, but if things start to escalate, he's going to nip it in the bud before it becomes a problem.

"My rules were the same going in," Bowles said. "If you fight and hit somebody out on the field, I don't think they got bad out there. But you want to prevent it before it starts. The arguments were fine. You just want to make sure nobody cheap-shots nobody. They knew they'd be running, but it's at my discretion of how much.

"We understand that we can talk and mess, and we can jaw at each other. As long as the hits are clean and everything, we're fine. But we've got to take care of each other at the same time. If it's good, clean play, I don't have a problem. They can talk all day."