CORTLAND, N.Y. >> Tebowmania turned into Wrestlemania for the New York Jets during one big training camp throwdown.
About 20 players were involved in a brief brawl during a chippy practice Monday after running back Joe McKnight and safety D’Anton Lynn tangled after a play.
Lynn, the son of Jets running backs coach Anthony Lynn, shoved McKnight out of bounds after a handoff from Greg McElroy. An angry McKnight then fired the football at Lynn.
“That was a first,” Lynn said. “That’s never happened to me before, so I lost my temper for a second.”
The two got into it, with McKnight charging Lynn and throwing a punch that didn’t land. Lynn then pushed McKnight — with help from cornerbacks Julian Posey and Donnie Fletcher — and all four went rolling through advertisement placards and into an area where reporters were watching practice.
“If you’re fighting, I mean, are you going to just love-tap him?” McKnight said. “I mean, you’re going to try to hit him. It’s a fight.”
Offensive and defensive players ran over to their tussling teammates and a pileup ensued. Several reporters scattered as the players jumped on each other and wrestled a few feet in front of a barricade where fans sit.
Coach Rex Ryan, along with several players, including Tim Tebow, ran over to break up the melee by pulling players off the pile.
“I felt like I could hardly breathe,” said Lynn, an undrafted free agent from Penn State. “Everyone was on top of me, so I had to get out of there.”
Meanwhile, several other players jokingly acted as if they were taking swings at each other.
McKnight said Ryan told him: “Keep playing hard.”
It all lasted about a minute, and the Jets (No. 17 in the AP Pro32) went back to team drills as if nothing happened — with none of the players suffering any apparent injuries.
“Sometimes, offense and defense, you’re out there competing and sometimes fights happen,” Lynn said. “It’s nothing personal.”
The two said they would talk to each other, and things would be smoothed over.
“We’re not trying to hurt each other,” Lynn said. “I doubt he was trying to hurt me and I wasn’t trying to hurt him. It just kind of escalated for a minute. It was more wrestling than anything.”
Lynn did see the irony in the fact that he was fighting with a guy who’s coached by his father.
“Yeah,” D’Anton Lynn said with a smile. “He was probably rooting for Joe.”
McKnight said he didn’t even realize who he was going up against until his teammates told him.
“It was something that just happened spur of the moment,” McKnight said. “I’m over it now. We’re teammates. I love him, just like I love his Dad. So, we’re moving on.”
Quarterback Mark Sanchez said he was watching the fight from “an advantageous position” and wasn’t happy about the scuffle.
“There’s no excuse for it,” Sanchez said. “There’s no throwing a ball at a teammate. There’s no shoving a guy out of bounds into the signs. One, it doesn’t look good, and two, it sends the wrong message to our team. We want to take care of our guys. I get it, guys are competitive, guys are fiery. That’s nice, but you want to take it to the brink and compete to the last possible moment and always remember to protect your teammates.
“So, I don’t like to see it.”
McKnight later went down after taking a hard hit, and walked gingerly off the field with a trainer by his side. McKnight said he suffered a stinger, but was fine after practice.
“That stuff doesn’t help,” Sanchez said. “You get too physical out there and hurt a guy on your team … we’re playing together.”
Tebow said his first camp with the Jets has had less tension among the players than those he spent with the University of Florida and Denver Broncos. He also said he’s never thrown a punch on the field.
“No, I’m clean,” he said, laughing. “I stay clean out there.”
Scuffles in training camp are fairly common around the league, particularly during the second week of practices. The Jets play their first preseason game Friday night against the Bengals in Cincinnati.
“When you go against the same people every single day, that stuff tends to happen,” Lynn said. “I think we’re looking forward to hitting someone from a different team for once.”