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Cowboys-Rams practice brawls leave both teams searching for answers

OXNARD, Calif. -- The Dallas Cowboys and St. Louis Rams were unable to finish their second joint practice Tuesday because of a pair of brawls that has Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones wondering if there is something the competition committee can do in the future to help prevent them.

"I can't imagine that we can't continue to have joint practices and get this right just like we do a lot of things," said Jones, who is on the committee with Rams coach Jeff Fisher. "But we're going to have to continue to emphasize that stuff is not what we want. It should not be a part of our game. It's not good for either team. Obviously, there are huge injury risks. We've just got to learn from it. I'd hate to think two teams can't get together.

"When you see the energy level out here with the fans, they enjoy it, watching the teams play. I do think we can continue to do this. I just think we have to emphasize we don't want this in our game."

The NFL has made eliminating in-game fighting a point of emphasis this year to teams, but Jones said training-camp fights were not part of the discussions.

Tuesday's brawls happened in team drills between the Cowboys defense and the Rams offense on back-to-back plays.

The first fight was triggered by Cowboys linebacker Andrew Gachkar and Rams center Demetrius Rhaney, which then led to a multi-pronged fight with a number of players, including the Cowboys' Randy Gregory, Jeff Heath, Tyler Patmon and the Rams' Jared Cook, Tre Mason, Tavon Austin and others. Defensive end Eugene Sims ran across the field and leveled Cowboys defensive end Ben Gardner.

The second fight came one play later and lasted a few minutes and led to a helmet-less Dez Bryant getting punched by Rams cornerback Imoan Claiborne. Rams rookie running back Todd Gurley, who is coming back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament, was also involved.

Eventually, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett and Fisher decided to end practice. The Cowboys finished their team period against each other; the Rams sat on the adjoining field and eventually made their way to the team buses.

"There is no excuse for it. You can't blame it on anybody. It just happened. Fortunately nobody got hurt." Rams coach Jeff Fisher

"There is no excuse for it," Fisher said. "You can't blame it on anybody. It just happened. Fortunately, nobody got hurt."

Garrett, who was displeased with his team's performance in Monday's practice, declined to comment after Tuesday's work. He didn't necessarily discourage the flare-ups with players.

"Way to show fight," defensive end Jeremy Mincey said of Garrett's post-practice input. "It's always good to show fight, but we got to be composed in situations like that and stay away from that. Fight with the pads and focus on the game."

While Garrett has T-shirts with the word "fight" on it, it is not meant to be taken literally. Monday's practice had a few shoving matches, but Tuesday's work was much more lively on both fields and eventually boiled over.

Bryant, who did not practice because of a hamstring strain, found himself in the middle of the fracas, running to the aid of his defensive teammates from the other field. Like he did in a fight with Patmon earlier in camp, he could not let it go and continued to yell at Rams players, eventually retriggering things.

"You've got to catch it early ... At the end of the day it comes down to fines and sitting people down for games." Cowboys executive VP Stephen Jones

"You've got to catch it early," Jones said. "There are no right answers. If there were right answers we would address it and get it fixed. It is a point of emphasis. At the end of the day it comes down to fines and sitting people down for games. Certainly, it's easier to do in a game. How we handle this situation out here, as a competition committee, as a league, as the Dallas Cowboys, Jason, Jerry (Jones) and I have to huddle up and say how we're going to prevent this in the future."

The Cowboys had a fight erupt at a practice last year with the Oakland Raiders that saw an Oakland fan swing a replica helmet at a Cowboys player. This year, Rams receiver Daniel Rodriguez picked up Cowboys safety J.J. Wilcox's helmet and tossed it in the stands.

"I would be the first one to say I would love to come back and practice against the Cowboys again because they are a talented team and first-class organization," Fisher said.

It was the second time in less than two weeks that a joint NFL practice had to be cut short because of fights. On Aug. 8, Houston and Washington ended the mixed portion of a practice after several fights on both fields.

St. Louis linebacker James Laurinaitis said he was trying to make a defensive call when he noticed several teammates had left his field and run toward the first fight.

"There's a fine line between defending yourself, so to speak, versus instigating it," Laurinaitis said. "You want to defend your teammates, but you never want it to turn into that. I'm just glad nobody got hurt."

Patmon, who threw the first punch in his fight with Bryant on the fourth day of Cowboys camp, said he wasn't thinking about the fact that he joined the fray without a helmet.

"All you're thinking about is having your teammate's back," Patmon said. "And that's all that matters."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.