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Tempers flare as fights mar Titans, Rams joint practice

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Coaches and seasons change. Tension whenever the Tennessee Titans and St. Louis Rams get together doesn't.

These teams had some feisty joint practices back in 2000, months after St. Louis beat the Titans in the Super Bowl. It didn't take long for tempers to flare up again Wednesday as the teams gathered for a joint practice, as Rams receiver Reche Caldwell grabbed Titans cornerback Cortland Finnegan in a bear hug and took him to the ground.

St. Louis coach Scott Linehan was watching his defense with rookie end Chris Long going against the Tennessee offense and Vince Young when he heard some of the grumblings two fields over.

"We've got to limit that," Linehan said. "We can't get to where we lose our cool out here. It's that time of year. Guys aren't in very good moods out here. We've just got to make sure we continue to get better. It's good to see us compete and those things. We'll get rid of the extracurricular stuff. It wasn't anything big, a couple of little ones."

That included Pro Bowl defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch skirmishing with Rams left tackle Adam Goldberg. After being blocked to the ground on his rush, Vanden Bosch took a big swing at Goldberg.

The head coaches tried to calm things down. But on the next play, Titans end Sean Conover tangled with St. Louis tackle Mark LeVoir, with Vanden Bosch rushing in to help, without his helmet.

"We were anticipating it, and we need that as a football team," Rams receiver Torry Holt said. "After a while it kind of got excessive as far as the banging and guys trying us. We needed that. That's something we're trying to build on is our toughness and at the same time build on our mental toughness."

Wednesday's first practice was the only session in full pads. Tensions eased in the afternoon, though the second session didn't pass quietly. Titans running back Quinton Ganther ran over a Rams defender in a drill, and Titans safety Calvin Lowry and Rams receiver Derek Stanley shoved a bit.

"They ended up helping each other off the ground, which is what you like to see because there's a lot of respect for what people go through at this time of camp," Titans coach Jeff Fisher said.

The Rams are trying to build off a 3-13 season by working against Tennessee, a team that went 10-6 in the AFC South and made the playoffs in 2007. The Titans had the NFL's fifth-stingiest defense in yards allowed last year, so they offer a good early test for a Rams offense that was 24th in the league a year ago.

The Titans are pushing themselves defensively to improve as well, and All-Pro tackle Albert Haynesworth, who stayed out of the frays, said it's easy for something to happen with Tennessee's aggressive style.

"You know this defense. We're a tough, rough defense. We don't back down from anybody, and that's how we've always played," Haynesworth said. "Ever since that day that Lance Schulters gave us that nickname the Tennessee Tyrants, that's what we've been trying to live up to."

Tennessee cornerback Vincent Fuller, the Titans' fifth defensive back in passing situations, gave Brock Berlin a rough morning by picking him off twice. Fuller said he and Berlin know each other from college when Fuller was at Virginia Tech and Berlin in Miami.

Holt wasn't too surprised by what Fuller did after watching him on film.

"He's definitely a guy we've got to pay attention to the next two days," Holt said.

The Rams had the last say with Caldwell catching a short pass from Marc Bulger and faking to his left, then running past Finnegan into the end zone.

But the action was so hot on the other field for a bit that even Tennessee tight end Alge Crumpler wished he wasn't tied up in other drills.

"Man, I wanted to watch the other field. I wanted to go over there so bad," Crumpler said.

Notes:Rams left tackle Orlando Pace, who missed most of the past two seasons with injuries, had some spot work in team drills in the morning. Coach Scott Linehan said it would be easy to be conservative with Pace but they're pushing him along now. ... Titans tight end Dwayne Blakley injured a groin muscle, which will be evaluated. Running back LenDale White sat out both sessions with back tightness, and rookie cornerback Cary Williams has a sore knee that will be evaluated. Defensive end Jevon Kearse sat out the morning session but worked in the afternoon for Tennessee.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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