About nine minutes had passed since Jim Harbaugh’s Wednesday press conference began, and I started to worry that nobody was going to ask about yesterday’s fight between C.J. Spillman and Michael Thomas. Sure, there was absolutely zero chance Harbaugh would go into great detail about why the two players came to blows or what it was like to jump into the pile and attempt to break them up, but it couldn’t just go ignored.
So I asked, and here’s the video (followed by a transcript, which includes two follow up questions from other reporters):
Q: There appeared to be a bit of a skirmish yesterday during practice. (Harbaugh nods) Do you feel like that can actually help a team bond or increase competition, or do you feel like that’s something that really has no place in practice or training camp?
Harbaugh: I think it’s something that has no place in practice or training camp.
Q: Is that something you needed to address with the team or (inaudible) let’s just move on?
Harbaugh: Not to go into what the policy is right now, it’s been addressed.
Q: Will those players, are they playing Friday?
Harbaugh: It’s been handled, it’s been addressed.
Looking back, I wish I would’ve asked him about breaking up the fight — even though he almost surely wouldn’t have gone into specifics. I asked that first question mostly because Harbaugh’s reaction both during the fight and afterward show he’s not a fan of training camp scuffles. That doesn’t necessarily make him unique, but over the years there have been plenty of coaches who came close to encouraging fights during training camp. Or, at the very least, they didn’t mind seeing players let off some steam.
A five-item list is posted on the door of leading to the 49ers’ locker room:
- WORK HARD
- STAY LOOSE
- STAY FOCUSED
- BE ACCOUNTABLE
- TAKE CARE OF ONE ANOTHER
Spillman and Thomas broke rule No. 5. Since yesterday was the first time most of the beat writers had seen any kind of intrasquad fighting since back in the days when Vernon Davis was breaking into the league, it appears part of the culture Harbaugh has instilled includes complete and utter discouragement of the kind of behavior seen yesterday from Spillman and Thomas, two backup defensive backs fighting for reps. We’ll have to wait until Friday night before we see if either player gets benched during Friday’s game against the Chiefs … but for what it’s worth, Thomas was allowed to continue practicing after the fight, while Spillman (who tore his pants) was sent to the locker room.
Right after Harbaugh’s presser, the NFL and 49ers released the following statements:
Statement by an NFL Spokesman
Demarcus Dobbs of the San Francisco 49ers has been suspended without pay for the first game of the 2013 regular season for violating the NFL Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse.
Statement from San Francisco 49ers general manager Trent Baalke:
“The San Francisco 49ers organization supports the NFL’s code of conduct policy and their recent decision regarding Demarcus.”
Dobbs was charged with suspicion of DUI and possession of marijuana after wrecking his car on San Tomas Expressway in Santa Clara around 3:45 am on November 30, 2012 (his 25th birthday). Despite the crash (where he was the only person in the car and escaped injury), Dobbs had a great opportunity to contribute to the 49ers this season. He has served as Justin Smith’s backup, in the process showing solid pass rush ability during practice. He also played well in the 49ers’ first preseason game, scoring a 1.2 according to Pro Football Focus.
Dobbs looked certain to make the 53-man roster, but that could change in the wake of this suspension — which means that no matter what, he won’t count toward the 53-man in Week 1. Dobbs can still practice with the team and take part in the next three preseason games, but the 49ers might have a hard time trusting Dobbs to stay out of trouble. In other words, this bit of bad news for Dobbs could be good news for Will Tukuafu (who’s looked decent in practice to me, but hasn’t been overwhelmingly impressive), Tony Jerod-Eddie (who takes over for Ricky Jean-Francois as the 49ers’ top defensive linemen with a hyphenated last name) and even Lawrence Okoye (who’s still learning the game and got pushed around during his first six preseason snaps).