Seahawks defensive lineman Frank Clark was kicked out of practice Thursday after punching teammate Germain Ifedi during a fight.
The Seahawks have long taken pride in how they practice with an intensity and aggression they say can sometimes be misinterpreted by those unfamiliar with their culture.
But an event that happened Thursday — defensive lineman Frank Clark punching helmetless offensive lineman Germain Ifedi in the face forcing Ifedi to head to the locker room and miss the rest of practice — was one that even veteran Michael Bennett, who is often at the center of such incidents, said crossed a line and one coach Pete Carroll termed disappointing.
Carroll said Ifedi is “fine” but did not elaborate and also referred to him as “hurt.” Clark was escorted out of practice after the incident while Ifedi, who lay face down after the punch for a few seconds, got up and left alongside a trainer with blood visible from his face.
Neither player was involved at the start of the incident, which began during pass rush drills in which a defensive lineman tries to rush the quarterback against an offensive lineman.
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Near the end of the drill, recently-signed defensive tackle Rodney Coe was called on to rush against backup offensive lineman Will Pericak. Pericak appeared to grab a hold of Coe by the waist and didn’t let go as the play continued and the two moved near a water cooler. Coe then appeared to push Pericak over the water cooler with both players falling. Offensive lineman Rees Odhiambo rushed into the fray in apparent defense of Pericak and then both defensive and offensive players moved into what became a big scrum.
It appeared that maybe the incident had passed as players began to move to their respective sides of the line of scrimmage. But Bennett appeared to continue jawing at the offense and then Ifedi — who was not wearing a helmet — took a move toward the defense. Clark, a third-year player out of Michigan, then rushed Ifedi, the team’s first-round pick last season, and appeared to throw a punch, decking Ifedi.
At that point there was more rushing into the group and players from other drills ran over to try to break it up, notably safety Kam Chancellor sprinting 20 yards or so from the other side of the field.
Coaches also rushed into the pile and it ended there and there were no more incidents the rest of practice.
Carroll has sometimes shrugged off such incidents as showing how the team plays close to the edge.
But he appeared merely chagrined and upset about this one, volunteering comments about the incident in his post-practice press conference before he was even asked.
“Disappointed we had a couple guys get after it today,” Carroll said. “There’s no room for fighting in football. It is not part of this game. It’s not supposed to be part of this game, and we frown upon that very heavily. Real disappointed that that happened today. We have to learn and get better and be right.”
Asked how Ifedi is, Carroll said: “Don’t know. He’s alright.”
Asked a followup question about the incident, Carroll said: “Tempers flare. Frustrations and stuff like that. And then somebody goes overboard. Can’t do it. Can’t do it at all. I know it’s happened all around the league, it happens everywhere, but it’s not OK and it shouldn’t be part of it. You can’t do it in the game; you get ejected, which is just what you saw happen. Somebody can get hurt, which you saw happen. We’ll take a big stance against it, and really disappointed it happened on day four. But that’s it.”
Clark became one of the team’s most productive players on the defensive line in his second season last year after arriving in the NFL under a shroud of controversy in 2015.
Seattle picked Clark in the second round in the 2015 draft after he had been kicked off the team at Michigan late in his final year in 2014 following an arrest for domestic violence. Clark eventually plead guilty to disorderly conduct.
The fight happened on what was Seattle’s most physical practice so far during camp with players in pads and contact drills throughout. It also came on a day when the temperature is expected to get into the ’90s.
“Scuffles happen in camp,” said Bennett. “We’ve built up so much testosterone all of camp, and we want to go out here and battle every single time. Sometimes we go a little overboard. I think you have to find that line. I think we may have crossed that line today. But we can talk about it and figure out where we stand upon that line again.”
Asked what he will tell Clark, Bennett said: “You just tell him, ‘You go apologize to the guy.’ It’s about apologizing and being vulnerable. Sometimes you in life you don’t want to be vulnerable because it doesn’t show that you’re a man, but in this case, it’s important to be vulnerable and let him know you made a mistake and you’ll never cross that line again.”
Ifedi did not return to practice and was replaced for the rest of the workout by second-round pick Ethan Pocic, who also played right tackle with the second and third units as Ifedi’s departure left the Seahawks with just 11 healthy offensive linemen