Jed York told 95.7 The Game on Friday that the 49ers are in talks with the Raiders to hold joint practices in training camp. The benefits of such practices enumerated by York were mostly focused on proximity. But, beyond locale, York noted how nice it is to be able to hit somebody not on your team.
“It’s nice to hit somebody that’s not wearing your own uniform, and it’s nice to get more work from your first team going against somebody else’s first team and the twos and the threes and something like that and being able to do more work with your guys and being able to do split squads instead of having your guys go against your guys,” York said. “I think you can get more out of doing something with another team.”
In the past, it’s been the 49ers who have mostly benefitted from the practice. In 2009, in particular, Nate “The Great (Contract)” Clements had such a good practice that he ran around the field, shouting, “I love it when they can’t compete!”
Of course, by “they,” Clements was mostly referring to JaMarcus Russell, who would throw two interceptions: one to Clements and the other to, wait for it… Diyral Briggs. Once replaced, Bruce Gradkowski picked up where Russell left off, throwing interceptions to Clements and to, wait for it… Dre Bly.
Dre was, of course, being Dre, which lead him to say this about the Raiders effort:
They couldn’t respond. We just dominated in all areas. You would think that somebody would have stepped up on their side of the ball, would have been like, ‘Let’s go,’ or a coach would have fired at them, but they were just mellow. I don’t know what it was or why. I know on our side of the ball, that wouldn’t have went down. … This is my 10th year, going into my 11th camp. I’ve never been a part of practice like that where it was just total domination. And I’m dead serious. It was total domination today. We had a great day.
The year prior was forgetful for both teams. The 49ers were trying out offensive coordinator Mike Martz, while the Raiders were in the final year of the Lane Kiffin Project. The highlights of the practice were the return of Kwame Harris, who spent the previous season on the 49ers bench and the four seasons before that accruing penalty flags.
Said Harris of his return, “There’s a little bit of that ‘Let me show you.’ … Anybody who has gone through a year like last year would find it rather challenging. You have to take a step back and reassess yourself, see where you are and kind of look at yourself in the mirror.”
Of course, Harris’ toughest challenge would come years later when being charged with felony domestic assault charges. If you remember, Harris brutally beat of an ex-partner after an argument over soy sauce.
To segue to less serous fights, if I may, the 49ers and Raiders had their share of skirmishes at this camp. As described by Eric Melendez of Niner Noise:
FB Moran Norris took a shove from Raider’s LB Edgerton Hartwell which he did not agree with. A pushing match ensued with RB Frank Gore joining the action by taking off the helmet of Raider safety Jarrod Cooper which prompted both to grab each other by the neck. Players and emotions were calmed with no injuries as practiced continued. Another scuffle broke out at the night practice between TEVernon Davis and Raider DE Kalimba Edwards.
Though the fights on-the-field have always been mild, the same can’t be said about those off-the-field. In 2011, following a 49ers-Raiders preseason game, three people were hospitalized. Two men were shot in the parking lot, and another was beaten unconscious in side of a Candlestick bathroom. The brutality of these events led the 49ers and Raiders to end their long standing exhibition game.
On Friday, York did discuss concerns of safety at the practice, but not as you might expect. When asked specifically about the history of fan violence, York didn’t comment directly. He instead downplayed any role in canceling of the exhibition games.
“The teams don’t create their preseason schedule,” York said. “The only preseason game that we schedule is the fourth game, and we’ve had a long standing relationship with the San Diego Chargers. The NFL schedules the other three games. It’s not the teams canceling anything. That’s an NFL decision.”
Later, when describing his desire to make any joint practice “fan-oriented,” York would cite safety as a chief concern, but only the safety of the players. ”Your football aspects, which is obviously first and foremost for both organizations, that comes first and you want to make sure your players are taken care of, your players are safe, your players are healthy,” York said.
Given what I’ve seen from both fan bases, I’m not confident that a public joint practice is a good idea. Sure, alcohol would not be supplied by either team’s vendors, but there would certainly be plenty of salt and vinegar — which is a recipe for either Lay’s Potato Chips or violence. Either way, it’s a lose-lose. In 2008 and 2009, neither team benefitted greatly from the practice. That and the disparity in each team’s talent would suggest that a joint practice in 2013 would fair no better than its precedent.