Texans, Niners open with fiery practice


Associated Press

HOUSTON

There was plenty of intensity on Wednesday when the Houston Texans and San Francisco 49ers met in the first of two joint practices before this weekend’s preseason game.

A little too much in fact, with Houston receiver DeAndre Hopkins and 49ers safety Jimmie Ward being kicked out of practice after getting into a scuffle on the first play of receiver drills.

Ward got under the helmet of Hopkins and knocked it off as he was covering him before Hopkins made the catch on a pass thrown by Deshaun Watson.

The two then began pushing each other and some punches were thrown, though none of them landed, and the pair was soon on the ground surrounded by teammates, including Richard Sherman, appearing to try and break things up.

Order was quickly restored and both players left the practice field.

The incident came after both coaches told their players that such behavior in these practices would have consequences.

“We made it very clear that if anyone throws punches or you do anything that would get you ejected in the game, you’ll be done with practice,” San Francisco defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said.

Houston coach Bill O’Brien wasn’t as keen on talking about the fracas as Saleh, but did have a terse response to what he thought about it.

“It’s ridiculous,” he said. “Just have to move on.”

O’Brien wasn’t the only one that didn’t have much to say about it.

“Just competition,” Watson said. “That’s all I’m really going to speak on that.”

Saleh was disappointed that it happened for a variety of reasons.

“It’s a missed opportunity on a bunch of levels,” he said. “One, you don’t get to face a guy like Hopkins. But it’s a trickle-down effect because now other people have to pick up Jimmie’s reps and I’m sure on their side receivers had to pick up for Hopkins. So, it’s something that they’ve got to be aware of. It’s a real thing. If you get ejected in the game, it’s a trickle-down effect all the way through.”

Despite losing his top receiver before he could get much work done, Watson thought practicing against another team was valuable for him as he makes his return after missing the last half of last season with a knee injury.

“Just find some new ways to get better,” he said. “Seeing different looks, going against different competition, different guys that are showing different techniques and just try to improve as an offense and build our chemistry going against other guys.”

O’Brien said he didn’t want to evaluate Watson’s work on Wednesday before reviewing the film, but did say that he’s been impressed with how he’s worked every day during camp.

“Training camp’s really hard,” O’Brien said. “You don’t know what you’re going to see. You have to apply your rules play-in and play-out. I think he does a great job of that. He thinks about the game, does a really good job at the line of scrimmage. I’m really happy he’s our quarterback.”

Also, on Wednesday, 49ers rookie receiver Dante Pettis had a special guest as his dad and Houston Astros third base coach Gary Pettis watched practice before heading downtown for his team’s game against the Colorado Rockies.

The elder Pettis said he was excited to watch his son work, but disappointed that he’d be out of town with the Astros for his game against the Texans on Saturday night.

The visit came a day after his son donned some Astros gear and took batting practice at Minute Maid Park before Tuesday night’s game.

Though Dante, who was a second-round pick in this year’s draft, is now a professional football player, he showed plenty of baseball skill on Tuesday when he hit multiple homers during batting practice.

“Put on a little bit of a show,” he said with a smile.

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