Brawl brings end to camp grind

IAN BUSBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:57 AM ET

Chalk this one up as the boiling point of two-a-day frustrations.

Tempers flared yesterday as the Calgary Stampeders engaged in a full-scale brawl at the end of practice, but head coach John Hufnagel was quick to take control of the situation.

The fight started in team drills when right tackle Jeff Pilon and defensive lineman Marcus Parker started throwing punches.

Pilon took the upperhand with a few uppercuts, but then defensive lineman Eddie Freeman slammed into the longest-serving Stampeders veteran, knocking him to the ground where a pileup started.

More punches were thrown as about 20 players tried breaking up the scrum.

Hufnagel stepped in, made everyone take a knee and delivered an emotional, pointed few sentences to end the set-to and the workout.

"We always have spirited practice, and they had too much spirit at the end there," Hufnagel said. "I don't mean to make light of it. I was disappointed. I will have a chat with them.

"It's unfortunate that it happens, but we will have to learn from this as a team that we can't lose our poise.

"We need discipline. We can't have altercations like this in a game because we can't afford ejections. The guys playing in the game are too important. That's the message I tried to send out."

Pilon, who is no stranger to the occasional skirmish, was quick to forgive and forget, although his beat-up hands will take a bit longer to heal.

"It's just football. It's full of emotions," Pilon said. "This stuff happens every year. Two-a-days are over, so let's get on with it and worry about B.C. (Thursday in the pre-season finale). We're going to focus on them, now."

Freeman refused to come out of the locker-room after practice to address why he hit Pilon, but Parker said it was just a matter of his linemate coming to his defence.

Because the size of those involved -- Pilon is 6-ft.-6, 300 lb., Freeman is 6-ft.-7, 318-lb. and Parker is 6-ft.-2, 280-lb. -- the incident may have appeared more serious than it actually was.

"Some guys started to surround me, and (Freeman) hit somebody, and it started a pile-up," said Parker, who also wanted to put the clash behind him. "Guys are defending guys they play with, so it's nothing major. There's no hard feelings. It popped off quick, and it ended just as quick. It's a heat-of-the-moment type of thing.

"With physical play of football, you will get in confrontations like that. We're not turning against each other. And in the end, we're going to be a stronger team because of that."

In the early stages of training camp, the Edmonton Eskimos had a similar fight that was caught on television cameras and made national news.

The Stamps are lucky in that no media was filming the play and no outside cameras were there.

To have a brawl such as this happen during the final two-a-day practice session could be a sign that a tough camp took a mental toll on the players.

Outside of this incident, Hufnagel is pleased with the way his team dealt with learning new systems and dealing with ugly wet weather over the tough grind of the club's training camp.

So the coach didn't mind cutting yesterday's session short.

"I wanted to make a point," Hufnagel said. "You can't play football in that frame of mind.

"You need to have control of yourself. If you don't, you don't belong on the field. That was the best way to relay my message.

"Most of the guys were in the melee, so see ya later."


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