UNITY TWP., Pa. — What does it take to get two veteran players, that have camped with each other and battled against each other on the practice fields for five years to come to blows during a practice session?
That’s what happened on Wednesday between fifth-year offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva and ninth-year defensive tackle Cameron Heyward, with Villanueva, a former U.S. Army Ranger, landing a big swing on a still-helmeted Heyward.
The cause? Villanueva swears it was all about the hit HBO television series Game of Thrones.
“I thought the ending could have been better,” Villanueva said before practice on Thursday. “Cam thinks it was the greatest show of all time. … John Snow should not have been sent north of the wall after everything that he did for the Seven Kingdoms. To get that treatment, I thought it wasn’t fair.”
Villanueva did show remorse for his actions, though he remains insistent that his opinion of the show’s controversial ending is the correct one.
“There’s no place for fighting in training camp,” he said. “It’s childish. It’s unprofessional for both us. Again, it’s just a very different opinion that he has of the show.”
Heyward had a slightly different take on the cause of the conflict.
“Football,” he admitted. “I was just playing football.”
The cagey veteran gave a “no comment” when asked about his views about Game of Thrones. He seemed to suggest that — deep-seated television preferences aside — the players have been able to put things behind them.
“It’s water off our back,” Heyward said. “It’s just another day at the office. I don’t worry about it. If there’s a fight, there’s a fight. … Coach [Tomlin] always tells us we’re not trying to raise a UFC team.”
Perhaps most importantly, Heyward thought that Wednesday’s fight came within a practice session full of game-level intensity, and that’s what the team is looking for as they move forward through the rigors of training camp.
“We’ve got to continue setting that and keep it going,” he said.