By MATT WINKELJOHN
Atlanta Journal-Constitution Staff Writer
Greenville, S.C. -- For Keith Brooking, it was about holding his ground. For Kynan Forney, it was about holding. So they brawled.
The Falcons' first fight of training camp was a doozy Saturday, when Brooking and Forney locked up late in the morning practice, in the midst of 11-on-11 drills.
It started out like most scraps, with the men tugging at each other's facemasks after a play. But it escalated when Brooking, an inside linebacker, yanked off the right guard's helmet. As the two went down, Brooking threw a few punches, one of which may have grazed Forney, and they continued grappling on the ground.
Coaches yelled to stop, yet Brooking continued raging, screaming, "That's enough of that [stuff]," as defensive mates Matt Stewart, Keion Carpenter and Ray Buchanan strained to reign him under control.
Brooking threw off his gloves and continued ranting when he finally stormed to the sideline, where linebacker coach Billy Davis said, "Get it back, Keith. Get it under control. Be a leader." Twan Russell replaced Brooking for the next play.
Later, Brooking said he got sick of being held, "Every play. Our offensive linemen, they love to hold and they get away with it. I'd hold too if I was an offensive lineman, because the refs don't call it in games.
"But sooner or later you got to stand your ground. You get tired, hot, frustrated and then they hold you every play and you're going to lose your cool," he said.
After practice, Forney, whose scrappy style of play appeals to coaches, was ho-hum. "Yeah, you know, just try to play hard all the time," he said. "Sometimes if it results into a fight, so be it. I mean, you know, we're all teammates out here."
Training camp fights aren't rare, and Brooking has been in them before. In fact, in his very first training camp practice as a pro, in 1998, he and former tight end O.J. Santiago went at it. He was occasionally sent to the sideline for rough play in practice when he played at Georgia Tech.
"I've been doing it since I played this game, and I won't change," he said.
Left tackle Bob Whitfield tried to participate a few years back when former running back Jamal Anderson got into a camp tussle with former linebacker Jeff Kelly. That day, Whitfield ran to jump in, but upon going airborne, Kelly ducked, Whitfield whiffed, and the big guy flew like a 315-pound not-so-superman.
"I wasn't jumping in the middle of that [stuff]," Whitfield said Saturday. "But when you break it up, you can't just hold one guy. Kynan, they were holding his arm, his leg, his ankle and he was getting the [stuff] knocked out of him."
That's an exaggeration. In fact, the two men got a chuckle out of it.
"I walked past [Forney] going to the shower, and he said, 'Brooking, I appreciate you not hitting me with my helmet when you took it off,' " the linebacker said. "He was laughing about it. He said, 'That was a good one, man.' That's part of it as long as you don't take it in the locker room, and I would never do that."