WESTFIELD, Ind. — The skirmishes started early Thursday.
Receiver Jaelen Strong scuffled with a Colts defensive back, and left guard Joel Bitonio sprinted downfield to get involved in the scrap. Tight end Demetrius Harris got locked up with Colts defensive end Ben Banogu blocking on the backside of a play. Rookie safety Sheldrick Redwine and Colts receiver Deon Cain got into it, drawing safety J.T. Hassell and Colts receiver Zach Pascal into the action.
The main event came near the end of the second of two joint practices.
During a punt coverage drill, linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong and Colts cornerback Quincy Wilson began fighting at the line of scrimmage. As bodies separated them, Armstrong began throwing haymaker after haymaker at Colts linebacker Zaire Franklin.
Not only did the sidelines empty as the brawl grew in size and intensity, the players on the other field ran over to join the fracas.
Coach Freddie Kitchens said Wednesday he wanted his players to stand up for themselves.
“Message was received,” receiver Odell Beckham Jr. said. “We came here to impose our will the same way we would do in the regular season when it comes up.
“We’re not backing down from anybody and I love that mentality. That’s all I’ve ever known.”
Kitchens wasn’t happy with his team’s tempo Wednesday and amended his stance against practice fights for when another team is involved, saying “we’re not going to take nothing from anybody.”
A reporter mentioned to Kitchens that there were more scuffles Thursday.
“There was, wasn’t there?” he said. “I told you guys yesterday, we are not into backing down from anything.
“We identified a problem yesterday, we set the tempo. Nobody else does. I think these guys learned that today.”
Tempers took awhile to calm after the brawl, and Kitchens barked at Colts special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone, who played for the Browns from 2009-12, when he yelled at Browns players.
“We just have a way that we are going to treat our practices. That doesn’t ever change,” Kitchens said. “It doesn’t matter who we are going against. It doesn’t matter if we are going against ourselves.
“I think we learned a lot about ourselves from the standpoint of that’s how you have to approach it. You keep your tempo. Let everybody else adjust to yours, not the other way around.”
An unexpected candidate has joined the right guard competition.
Rookie Drew Forbes, a sixth-round pick out of Southeast Missouri State, took a few reps with the starting offense at the end of practice for the second straight day. He spent most of the day at second-team right guard.
“He has gotten better. He kept his head down when everything around him seemed to be falling apart. He kept his head down and just kept working,” Kitchens said. “Some of these guys come from small schools, and they just have to play. He flashed in the game the other night so that earned him some more reps. He flashed yesterday so that earned him some more reps. It is kind of like we are on a reward system around here, I guess, like your little gas card thing.”
Quarterback Baker Mayfield isn’t happy receiver Antonio Callaway will open the season by serving a four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. He’s more upset Callaway is missing practice time with a high right ankle sprain. The leg was in a boot Thursday.
“Obviously very disappointing, but I think Callaway’s made some changes and we’ve seen the progress with him,” Mayfield said of the suspension. “Him being hurt right now hurts more right now because where he could be getting reps with some of our guys sitting out in practice. I think that hurts us a lot. It’s given guys other opportunities to play. But I expect Callaway to come back better than ever.”
IN THE SWING
Harris, the No. 2 tight end, hasn’t missed a beat since missing time with a concussion. He was active in both practices against the Colts.
“He was coming on before he went down with a concussion, and he looks like he picked up where he left off and is continuing to get better,” Kitchens said.
At 6-foot-7, 230 pounds, Harris is an inviting target for Mayfield.
“A big, athletic body,” he said. “He’s a guy that can go up and get it and we’re just expanding on his run-blocking ability and continue to grow with him in the offense. But he’s a guy that can make some plays that not everybody can.”
The Browns feel fortunate with defensive tackle Devaroe Lawrence’s knee injury suffered Wednesday. They initially feared it was serious but listed him as day-to-day Thursday.
** Safety Jermaine Whitehead stopped practicing and had a wrap on his left leg.
** Cornerback Denzel Ward (undisclosed injury) was held out of team drills again.
** Receiver Damion Ratley (hamstring) returned and was limited to individual drills. He hadn’t practiced since Day 1 of camp, missing 14 practices.
** No. 2 running back Dontrell Hilliard and safety Juston Burris were added to the injured list with hamstring injuries and worked on the side with the training staff.
** Tight end David Njoku (knee), rookie linebacker Sione Takitaki (hamstring) and defensive end Chad Thomas (neck) were among those who remained sidelined.
FROM THE FIELD
Rookie cornerback Greedy Williams intercepted Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett.
** Undrafted rookie receiver Damon Sheehy-Guiseppi dropped an easy touchdown from Garrett Gilbert in the two-minute drill.
** Tight end Pharaoh Brown caught a touchdown despite being double-teamed in the back of the end zone.
** Rookie tight end Stephen Carlson caught a long touchdown on a corner route.
** Defensive end Myles Garrett had another good day against Colts left tackle Anthony Castonzo.
Kitchens said “time is running out” for players who’ve missed a lot of camp, like Ratley, to impress and make the roster.
“The sense of urgency has to be picked up in some areas,” Kitchens said.
** Former Colts coach Tony Dungy attended practice and talked to the Colts.
** Kitchens said he hadn’t decided on playing time for the game Saturday.