FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (Aug. 14, 2006) -- The broiling tedium of training camp finally made the Atlanta Falcons snap.
Veteran Lawyer Milloy was among several players to lose his temper in the oppressive August heat Aug. 14. DeAngelo Hall, Matt Lehr, Adam Jennings and Alge Crumpler were seething, too.
"This is football, and as long as it don't translate into the things in the locker room, everything will be fine," Milloy said. "In my 11 years, this has been one of the toughest, if not the toughest, training camp in my career. You have to expect tempers to flare."
Milloy's fight with Lehr escalated so quickly at the end of an 11-on-11 drill that the 32-year-old strong safety quickly found himself lying face-up on the bottom of a huge pile of players.
"This is the part of camp where things start to wear on you," Milloy said. "In the end, though, you've just got to remember what color jersey the other guy's wearing."
The Milloy-Lehr matchup served as an undercard of sorts for Hall's insult-laden shoving match with Crumpler. Off the field, the two players have maintained a friendship, but several teammates and coaches twice had to restrain Hall, a Pro Bowl cornerback, and Crumpler, a three-time Pro Bowl tight end.
Hall only ended what he started earlier in the 90-minute workout. Frustrated by Jennings during a 7-on-7 drill, Hall punched the rookie receiver so hard that Jennings' helmet flew off his head.
"Didn't mean to tangle with him, but you've got to be aggressive sometimes," Jennings said. "He's an aggressive guy, but he's my teammate, and I have a lot of respect for him."
Nobody was hurt from the incidents, though Hall didn't participate in the night session with his left wrist wrapped in a bandage. Coach Jim Mora long ago established a precedent of giving his starters and important reserves extra time off during camp.
According to Milloy, who signed a three-year deal five months ago with $3 million in guaranteed bonuses, Mora challenged everybody during a team-wide meeting that preceded the morning session.
Mora sidestepped the specifics of his message, mostly because he wants the team's energy to flow first from high-profile veterans Milloy, Hall and Crumpler.
During a segment in which three offensive linemen faced off against two defensive linemen and a linebacker, however, Mora and assistants Chris Beake and Clancy Barone yelled louder and more frequently than they had at any point since camp opened July 27.
"We had what we call a three-part pod drill to get the pads cracking early in practice with the up-front guys," Mora said. "I think it's a sign of their maturity and leadership that they came out like that."
The Falcons are coming off an 8-8 season in which they finished 2-6 and missed the playoffs. Despite beating New England 26-23 in the preseason opener last week, Mora hated seeing the Patriots' first-team offense hammer Atlanta's run defense so easily.
Aug. 14 was the last day of camp that Mora planned to hold two practices in pads. The Falcons have two sessions planned for Aug. 16, but coaches expect to install an abbreviated game plan for a preseason game at Green Bay on Aug. 19.
"Obviously, we don't want to allow (82) yards on 11 carries," Milloy said concerning the first-quarter production of Laurence Maroney and Corey Dillon last week. "That's definitely a situation that has to be corrected. That's why you saw a more physical practice today. It's preseason, so you have to work on things when you can."