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Shanahan Likes Spirited, Poised Competition


Despite temperatures in the mid-90's, some of the hottest action today was on the playing field, where honest competition briefly led to extracurricular shoving between players.

While teammates broke up the scuffle before anything happened, head coach Mike Shanahan took the opportunity to remind players that there is a limit to spirited, physical competition.

"You like to see the spirit. You like to see the energy, but at the same time there's a fine line," he explained to the media afterward.  "It's a good lesson when something like that happens to talk to both guys and just say, 'Hey, you can't fight on the football field.'"

Tempers flared during full-team drills, after the offense had had a run of success against the defense. 

Now in the ninth day of training camp--having seen no other competition besides themselves--a few players admittedly took things too far.

"It's on me," said tight end Niles Paul, taking responsibility for his mix-up with linebacker Markus White.  "I've got to do a better job controlling that."

Paul explained that in that play, that he was engaged with linebacker Lorenzo Alexander away from the ball, and was surprised to be hit by White.  Rather than brush it off, Paul said he lost his cool.

"I definitely feel like I went too far," he told the media after practice.  "It shouldn't have gone to that level at all.  I should have been the bigger man and just let that go. 

"It's hot out here, and you try not to make excuses, but I just kind of snapped."

Shanahan reminded the players that while cheap shots happen in every NFL game, officials rarely see the instigation. With the first preseason game right around the corner, he wanted to reel in the backlash now.

"If you react and don't keep your poise, it can cost you the game," he said.  "I've had that happen to me many times."

The very nature of training camp inspires tension, with 90 men competing for 53 jobs under extreme conditions. 

Physical well-being and pride are usually on the line, but veteran linebacker Lorenzo Alexander knows what it's like to be fighting for your professional career.

"Sometimes you've got to go a little bit harder, and show the coaches that you want to be here and have an opportunity," he explained.  "It happens every year at about this time. You always see a couple of fights."

Alexander understands the mentality of the men playing the final spots on the roster, having played for three teams as an undrafted free agent.

"You're kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place, because you're out there trying to make plays and you've got some vets telling you to slow down," he said.  "You don't want to get the guys upset, but at some point the vets have to understand that I'm trying to make the team.

"I'm not going to try and throw you to the ground or anything, but I've got to do this to make the team and feed my family."

With the the Redskins' first preseason action only five days away, Alexander recommended that players heed Shanahan's advice and find a way to keep composure under duress. 

"It's never a win-win situation when you retaliate a guy," Alexander said.  "The best thing to do is just line up on the next play and catch him throughout the game.

"Catch him legally and then you're good. That's how you've got to work it."

Paul and White both assured the media that they were friends, the altercation was a misunderstanding, and this would never happen again.




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