Defensive lineman shoves quarterback, sparks brawl at Ticats training camp

Don’t. Touch. The. Quarterback. Ever.

This is one of the cardinal rules of a professional football practice and an egregious violation of the code sparked one of the largest and most intense brawls in recent memory at Ticat training camp on Thursday.

“The quarterbacks are our golden ticket and nobody touches them. That’s the way it has to be,” said offensive lineman Mike Filer. “We did what we had to do.”

The incident came during a 12-on-12 team drill as quarterback Jacory Harris was bumped by defensive lineman Delano Johnson as he tried to make a throw. There was a little pushing and shoving but things really went haywire when pivot Jeremiah Masoli stepped in, encouraging Johnson to calm down.

But Johnson wasn’t having it and did something unusual: he shoved Masoli.

A massive melee ensued with players from both sides of the ball involved. First on the scene was fellow quarterback Jeff Mathews – sans helmet – who quickly got tossed to the ground. The offensive line arrived, then rest of the defence as players from the sidelines joined in.

After things calmed down, head coach Kent Austin brought the team together and spoke to them for two or three minutes. He kept his voice low – no yelling – but things returned to normal after that. There do not appear to any injuries as a result.

“Things happen, especially this time in camp. When things get out of control, we have to bring them back, keep the focus on that they are your teammates and this is our team and to get back and practice the proper way and move on,” Austin said afterward. “We’re all good.”

Johnson, who is looking for a roster spot in Hamilton along a deep defensive line after two up-and-down seasons with the Toronto Argonauts, was contrite.

“I apologized immediately to the quarterbacks after the situation,” Johnson said. “When you’re trying to make a team, you have to go as hard as you can all the time. I just made a mistake and the guys weren’t going for it.”

Johnson was impressed that Mathews was the first one to step up in support of his fellow quarterback.

“I didn’t expect that. I’m used to the offensive lineman stepping up in that situations but you don’t usually see the quarterbacks do it – they were on top of me immediately,” Johnson said. “That was great.”

Masoli had a good chuckle about the whole thing afterwards and said the team was able to turn it into a net benefit.

“I think we handled ourselves well. It was good to get a little frustration out, it was fun. No hard feelings,” he said. “We got together in the locker room during the break and shook it out and it was all good.”

The fact that nobody was injured likely saved Johnson from any drastic repercussions. The coaching staff made it clear to Johnson that he’d made a mistake – he missed some reps in subsequent drills – but defensive coordinator Orlondo Steinauer didn’t seem overly concerned.

“I think it’s healthy… we want the intensity. I look at as a coaching opportunity as opposed to a negative,” Steinauer said. “Is it acceptable? No. But I don’t think he’ll be going home.”

Johnson recognizes, however, that the guys in the gold jerseys are untouchable and that he probably got off lucky: things may have been different if he was still with Toronto.

“If I’d hit Ricky Ray, they would have had me on flight immediately,” he said.

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