Training camp felt different and familiar at the same time for the Atlanta Falcons on Monday in Flowery Branch.
The Tennessee Titans were in town for the camp’s lone combined practice, where another pair of brief fights ensued.
Falcons coach Mike Smith has talked about the players cutting back on their fights, but a brief scuffle ended with Atlanta center Joe Hawley being ejected from practice.
It all came a day before HBO’s “Hard Knocks,” which is documenting Atlanta’s preseason camp, premieres tonight at 10 p.m.
Falcons fan Garry Sparks of Douglasville was at the practice wearing his Julio Jones No. 11 jersey. He welcomed the animosity between the teams.
“I wanted to see some fights,” Sparks said. “That shows the guys aren’t going to be bowing down.”
Titans quarterback Jake Locker wasn’t caught off-gaurd by the fireworks, either.
“It’s surprising it only happened once,” Locker said.
Tennessee defensive back Michael Griffin was pleased with the way his teammates responded.
“Everybody had each other’s back,” Griffin said. “Nobody backed down.”
Having two NFL teams on the same field, even in a limited-contact setting, brought a large crowd to the training camp complex.
“That’s what drew me out here,” Sparks said. “I wanted to see them go against someone else.”
At least one family’s allegiances were split. Brian and Jennifer Walls of New Brockton, Ala., both got to see their favorite team on Monday. Jennifer Walls had on a Titans T-shirt, while Brian Walls was wearing a Falcons T-shirt. They have season tickets for Atlanta’s games since that’s closer to them than Nashville.
“I was hoping to come out and watch my guys go against the Falcons,” Jennifer Walls said. “I like seeing them hit. It’s better than regular training camp.”
She enjoyed the day but said she hopes the teams will have the combined practice again next year and allow time for Tennessee to sign autographs for fans. Jennifer Walls also welcomed the fighting.
“I like it when they get physical, as long as they don’t hurt each other,” she said.
Atlanta’s receivers made some strong plays. Griffin said he could tell Roddy White wasn’t 100 percent, but he added that the Falcons may have the strongest wide receiver corps in the league.
“It’s a great test,” Griffin said.
The preseason schedule begins this weekend for both teams, as the Falcons host the Miami Dolphins at 7 p.m. Friday at the Georgia Dome and the Titans welcome the Green Bay Packers to LP Field at 7 p.m. Saturday.
The regular season is also fast approaching, as Atlanta opens the season at 1 p.m. Sept. 7 against the NFC South Division rival New Orleans Saints at the Georgia Dome.
With the day off Tuesday, the Falcons return to the practice field Wednesday for a 3:30-6:05 p.m. session, which is open to fans, before a closed practice Thursday.
Training camp runs through Aug. 12.