ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Firsts and fists defined Monday's uneven training camp practice.
Quarterback Joe Flacco will make his Broncos debut on Thursday at Seattle, per coach Vic Fangio, surrounded by starters. Flacco's schedule became overshadowed by a scuffle. Midway through the workout, veteran Emmanuel Sanders and second-year receiver Courtland Sutton traded words, and punches, with guard Ron Leary separating Sutton from the veteran. Moments later, the dustup continued with Sanders throwing a water bottle at Sutton. Flacco and Derek Wolfe separately talked with Sanders, trying to defuse the situation.
Even in the NFL, it appears the first rule of the fight club is: you do not talk about fight club. Sanders and Sutton both declined to comment after practice. I asked Sanders, jokingly, if he would be on the podium and said smiling, "I am not talking."
The second rule of fight club: you don't have a fight club. This is deduced from Fangio's stated opinion on scuffles.
"Obviously, it's not good. It can't happen. It shouldn't happen. You gotta be able to react to these things and handle them the right way," Fangio said, before adding, "As you well know, being an ex-receiver (talking to 104.3 The Fan's Brandon Stokley), there's a bunch of divas in there... Hopefully, it's just a rare episode. If it continues, then it's a problem."
Fangio stopped practice not long after the Sutton-Sanders episode, disappointed in the fight and the sloppy play by the first-teamers.
In talking to multiple players after practice, concern is minimal. That is subject to change if the issue lingers.
Fights occur more often than realized, but the media has limited viewing periods of practice during the season. What made this fracas stand out was that it involved the same position group. Sanders has served as a mentor to Sutton during his brief career in Denver, both having starred at Southern Methodist. Each views himself as the team's No. 1 receiver, which Sanders clearly is when he's on the field. Sanders is working in 11-on-11 drills as he returns from December Achilles surgery. Sutton produced a promising rookie year -- 42 catches, 704 yards, four touchdowns -- but struggled after the trade of Demaryius Thomas and Sanders' injury, catching 14 passes for 146 yards over the final four games.
"You all have brothers? I have an older brother that I used to bug the hell out of. He used to hit me, and I hit him. It's just what brothers do," Broncos star linebacker Bradley Chubb explained. "We've been around each other for what 15, 20 days now? You probably get tired of seeing someone's face. It's all that brotherhood. At the end of the day, we still love each other."
Added defensive back, Kareem Jackson, "You can learn from a moment like that and move on. We are all competitors out there, and sometimes it can get a little heated."
The easiest way to ease tension is to continue establishing momentum entering the season after winning 11 games combined since 2017. Flacco remains critical to improvement. He has made strides over the last several practices, and connected multiple times Monday, including a dart over the middle to Sutton. While he's likely to play only one or two series, Flacco will have a full complement of weapons. The starting line is expected to play -- left tackle Garett Bolles, guard Dalton Risner, center Connor McGovern, guard Ron Leary and right tackle Ja'Wuan James, who is working back from a calf injury. Phillip Lindsay (wrist), Royce Freeman, Theo Riddick (a lock to make the team if shows he's healthy) and Devotae Booker should get reps as well.
"I definitely see it (with Flacco) in practice every day. I can't wait to see it in game time," Chubb said. "I feel like it's going to be a jump (in play), and we are excited for it. All those guys, they are going to prove a point out there, either in the preseason or regular season, so it's going to be fun to see."
Linebacker Josey Jewell left with practice with an upper body side injury. ... Tight end Jake Butt (knee) is making progress but hasn't practiced since July 20. He is trying to remain patient, but recognizes he needs to perform to make the team. ... Rookie quarterback Drew Lock took second team reps on Monday. As part of the plan, he could play after Flacco at Seattle, though it hasn't been decided. ... Receiver DaSean Hamilton (hamstring) has strung together consecutive good practices leaving him in line to play on Thursday. ... Defensive lineman DeMarcus Walker has bulked up to 296 pounds, up 15 from where he finished last season. He needs a good preseason to stick and has shown improvement. He credits hard work and a connection with the new coaching staff. "I keep saying it. I really appreciate coach Vic and coach Donatell. They are great, and they get the best out of you. I have been non-stop working since January. I pushed my body this offseason to its limit. It has definitely helped. But, I have a lot of work to do."