On a day filled with post-snap affairs, a melee broke out during a team drill featuring the Bengals' first-team offense and the Rams' first-team defense. A Rams defender who was unable to be identified from a distance was engaged with Bengals right tackle La'el Collins. The defender had Collins wrapped up from behind, arms around his chest, seconds after Cincinnati running back Joe Mixon was a few yards downfield.
Collins took exception and swung punches once he was free, sparking a massive fracas that drew several whistles and flags from the officiating crew. Multiple helmets were removed, with a Cincinnati Enquirer photographer spotting Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald wielding a Bengals lid in each hand. After practice, a video circulated on Twitter appearing to show Donald swinging a helmet multiple times during the scrum.
Players from both teams were strewn across the practice field closest to the street dividing Cincinnati's practice facility and Paycor Stadium. After a few minutes, the teams decided to end the contentious practice.
Donald declined comment through a team spokesperson, who also said the team would not be commenting.
The Rams will handle the matter internally, with any potential discipline to remain private, a team source told ESPN's Jeremy Fowler on Friday.
The NFL's long-held stance is that individual teams, and not the league itself, are responsible for imposing discipline for conduct of players during practices, including joint practices, so any punishment for the melee would have to be determined by the Rams and Bengals themselves.
Rams coach Sean McVay said earlier that he didn't want to make a big deal of the fracas and said in some instances, it was just two teams defending each other. Both coaches spoke to wanting to be safe and wanting to get the proper amount of work in.
"I just see guys swinging and some guys have helmets on, some don't," McVay said. "There's a scrum. You just never know what can occur. And my biggest concern is just unnecessary injuries for people that we're counting on, whether it's for our team or the other team."
Said Bengals coach Zac Taylor: "It just got a little scuffley."
"We just called it," Taylor said. "We were in the last [practice] period. We got two really good days of work. So was it worth getting the extra couple of plays? No. So we called it."
It wasn't the first time Collins was involved in a dispute on Thursday. He appeared to be involved in two other fracases with a Rams defender. On one occasion, he was replaced in a team drill by Bengals reserve tackle D'Ante Smith.
When asked about Collins' role in the scuffles, Taylor declined to get into specifics. Cincinnati did not make players available following practice.
Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford, who was the lone Los Angeles player to speak to the media, was on the opposite practice field working against the Bengals' starting defense and didn't have details on the incident.
The two teams are set to have Friday off before they close the preseason with a game Saturday in Cincinnati. Neither team is expected to play their starters in the finale. Taylor said he doesn't anticipate any animosity to carry over.
Earlier in the week, Bengals safety Vonn Bell said Taylor relayed a message from team president Mike Brown about fights after an uptick of scuffles at other teams' joint practices.
"You never want to be a headline," Bell said of the message from the front office. "Keep everything clean."