<
>

Sean Payton: Practice fights 'unfortunate' despite crackdown

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton took a jab at the way practice fights are being glorified while the NFL insists it's trying to crack down on them.

A source confirmed to ESPN that Payton sent a strong message to his players that fighting would not be tolerated while practicing with the New England Patriots on Wednesday and Thursday. Payton has repeatedly emphasized that he doesn't expect that kind of "B.S." to happen -- and that it wasn't an issue when the teams practiced together in 2010 and 2012.

"You guys watched it last night," Payton said of Tuesday's melee between the Dallas Cowboys and St. Louis Rams. "For as much as we're harping about avoiding it, hell, the network puts it on 11 times."

Practice fights have been happening across the league, including a brief scuffle Wednesday between Dolphins defensive end Olivier Vernon and Panthers left tackle Michael Oher. A major brawl also broke out a few weeks ago between players from the Houston Texans and Washington Redskins.

Although it wasn't a joint practice, a scuffle marred the Pittsburgh Steelers' session Wednesday. Several players wrestled to the ground at the line of scrimmage during practice, resulting in the biggest scuffle of the team's training camp. No obvious punches were thrown, but rookie pass-rusher Bud Dupree was held back by defensive teammates, and left tackle Kelvin Beachum was the last to get up. The problem diffused fairly quickly.

Green Bay Packers guard Josh Sitton said Wednesday he's not a fan of joint practices because he believes they invite fights.

"I'm not a big fan of those. It's kind of stupid. It's just inviting fighting. It happens every single time," he said.

Payton didn't specifically call out any networks.

"It's a big reason why we're practicing with [the Patriots] a third time," Payton said. "We know it's gonna be about improving both teams. We're both trying to do the same thing at this period of training camp.

"That's unfortunate when you see it happen with other teams. And clearly when you put a team on television like 'Hard Knocks' and then practice with someone else, we've seen that formula happen two years in a row. So that's nothing new."

Payton and Patriots coach Bill Belichick spoke before their teams took the field Wednesday morning. They'll practice together for the next two days at the Saints' training camp site at The Greenbrier resort in West Virginia.

Quarterback Tom Brady walked out and hugged Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan before practice and chatted for a while. Ryan was an assistant with the Patriots early in Brady's career.

ESPN.com's Jeremy Fowler and Rob Demovsky contributed to this report.