Then things went a bit over the line when a hard hit by Dallas cornerback Morris Claiborne on Oakland tight end Mychal Rivera led to a brawl that nearly spilled over into the stands and featured a Raiders fan swinging a helmet at a Cowboys player and cornerback B.W. Webb retaliating with a swing at the fan.
”It’s definitely a dangerous situation,” Webb said. ”I don’t know why fans would want to jump on this side of the fence. I don’t think they’d like it too much on this side.”
But even that brawl and a smaller one on the other field involving Cowboys running back J.C. Copeland and Raiders linebacker Justin Cole couldn’t mar the day.
”I don’t like the fights. I want to come out and practice football,” Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. ”We don’t have any time for that, and we certainly don’t want to get anybody injured in fisticuffs. I thought both teams came out and competed and got a lot of good work in.”
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones praised the enthusiasm and atmosphere of the practice that was watched by 8,326 fans, many of whom lined up early in the morning for the chance to watch.
”It was hard to believe that this was a practice,” Jones said.
The practice was more physical than anticipated with players frequently being brought down to the turf despite both coaches saying before it started that they did not want any live tackling.
But after nearly three weeks of practicing against each other, the players were excited for the chance to hit players in another jersey.
That’s how the first brawl started. Claiborne felt as if Rivera lowered his shoulder to try to break a tackle so he responded by throwing Rivera to the ground.
That raised the ire of Raiders receiver Greg Little, who came flying in to protect his teammate, leading to the fight on the sideline in front of a boisterous group of Raiders fans.
Players even ran over from the other field to get involved before everything was broken up.
”When I came to the sideline, guys were still talking about it and talking about how it amped them up,” Claiborne said. ”It should have happened a little earlier in practice and maybe we would have gotten a little more noise out here.”
This was a homecoming of sorts for the Raiders, who held training camp at this exact site from 1985-95.
Celebrities such as Magic Johnson and Tommy Lasorda even came out for festivities.