Bodies And Fists Get Busy In Major Dustup At Camp Eagles Tackle Jon Runyan Got Angry. This Made Linebacker Jeremiah Trotter Angry. "It's A Violent Sport," Andy Reid Said After The Mini-riot.

Posted: August 12, 2000

BETHLEHEM, Pa. — It was easily the most memorable moment of what has been a largely uneventful training camp.

There was Jeremiah Trotter, the Eagles' 260-pound middle linebacker, throwing himself into the vast midsection of 330-pound offensive tackle Jon Runyan.

"The bigger they are, the harder they fall," Trotter said afterward. "I don't back down from anybody."

The two heavyweights squared off in perhaps the best training camp fight in recent years here. It was a full-on hockey-style fight, with punches thrown and teammates rushing in from every direction to jump into the fray. Head coach Andy Reid went wading into the fray to try to restore order. The sight of Reid among all that turmoil brought Anthony "Butch" Buchanico - former Philadelphia police officer and club director of security - into the action.

"We hadn't had a fight in a while," Trotter said, "so I thought I'd better start one. It was a nice cool day, so I figured, why not start a fight?"

It actually started with Runyan, who declined to comment on the brawl. Late in the morning practice, during a full 11-on-11 drill, Runyan became upset with defensive lineman Dwight Johnson. On a screen pass, Johnson kept driving left tackle Tra Thomas, whose leg was stuck in a stack of bodies. Thomas went down, knocking quarterback Donovan McNabb down.

Thomas twisted his ankle on the play. He was slow to get up. Runyan saw Thomas kneeling there and turned to shout at Johnson, but the big defensive end had taken off in pursuit of the play. So Runyan swung his foot in a wide arc, attempting to kick Johnson's departing rear end.

Runyan missed, but Trotter saw the whole thing. The linebacker wasn't even involved in the drill. He was kneeling behind the line of scrimmage, near his defensive teammates.

"That's not right," Trotter shouted. Then he bolted toward Runyan and the battle was on. McNabb smartly got out of the way.

"You want to get into it, maybe throw a clothesline on somebody or use some of those WWF moves," McNabb said. "But in that case, you have to just relax and wait for things to calm down."

After a few minutes, everyone returned to his normal position. Cornerback Al Harris spied a TV camera that was trained on the wild rumpus.

"You all better edit that tape," Harris said with a big smile.

"It's that time in training camp," Reid said. "Things like that happen. The important thing is, if they do happen, that guys leave it out on the field and don't take it any further. If they do have a problem with someone, they hash it out as opposed to carrying it with them."

A few plays later, Trotter intercepted a pass and began running down the sideline. Along came Runyan, with a perfect angle for a big-time collision. At the last moment, Runyan slowed up and grazed Trotter. That was the closest thing there was to a public gesture of bygones being bygones.

"We're all teammates out there," Trotter said. "We have to leave that on the field and work together."

Thomas left the field with his right ankle bandaged, the only tangible reminder of the incident.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the whole thing was what it said about the mind-set of this team. Runyan is the sort of offensive lineman who plays with attitude. That's not the first time he proved that he neither asks nor gives any quarter. And Trotter is the imposing, big-hitting enforcer that is a staple of any great defense. His willingness to rumble with a mammoth like Runyan will only enhance his reputation.

Throughout this camp, the offense and defense have been pitted against each other in an increasingly intense rivalry. The edge is sharper this year because the offense has improved enough to present a challenge.

"Last year, a lot of guys would try to tiptoe through the offense, just trying to make sure we were on the right page," McNabb said. "This year, guys are eliminating a lot of mistakes. Now we can go out and play football."

And that means the occasional outburst.

"It's a violent sport," Reid said. "It's late in training camp. Guys get hot and tired and things happen."

Paying the tab. The damage "was extensive," Reid said. He was referring to the bill he paid to treat about half the players and other Eagles staffers to snacks at the movies Thursday night. The team convened for a special screening of The Replacements, a movie inspired by the 1987 NFL strike.

"I think we set a record for consuming popcorn and candy," Reid said. "At one point, [center] Eugene Chung had a whole tray of candy to himself. He was eating like a bear."

An unscientific poll showed the Eagles personnel thought the movie was good, if not entirely realistic.

"They didn't touch on the strike very much," said punter Sean Landeta, the only Eagle who was in the league in '87. "But it was funny. It made for a pretty good movie."

Visitors guide. The Eagles are scheduled for a full practice at 8:45 a.m. and a special-teams-only session at 2:15 p.m. The players will be off tomorrow, then return for the final four days at Lehigh next week. After Friday night's preseason game against Tennessee, the players will work at Veterans Stadium. Those practices are closed to the public.

Today's autograph session - held after the morning practice - will feature the defensive line, including first-round pick Corey Simon, Hugh Douglas, Mike Mamula, Hollis Thomas, Brandon Whiting, Paul Grasmanis and Greg Jefferson.

And so on. Yesterday's afternoon practice was canceled because of a sudden electrical storm. The weather put a premature end to Arizona day, part of Reid's continuing series of sessions dedicated to NFC East opponents. . . . Cornerback Troy Vincent took part in the lighter drills but sat out the team stuff because of his groin strain. Wide receiver Na Brown was back in action. Cornerback Jason Bostic and wide receiver Troy Smith remained unable to practice.

Phil Sheridan's e-mail address is psheridan@phillynews.com

|
|
|
|
|