The competition to make the 49ers 53-man roster escalated into a brief tussle between players on the practice field Tuesday in Santa Clara.
Following a play during 11-on-11s, safeties Michael Thomas and C.J. Spillman argued and pulled each other to the ground.
Head coach Jim Harbaugh and wide receiver Ricardo Lockette were part of the group that dove in to separate the pair.
Spillman’s sweatpants were torn and he was sent to the locker room and did not return. Thomas continued playing.
Tempers flaring in training camp is not a surprise, especially for two former undrafted free agents fighting for a job at a crowded position where every rep counts. It happens in football.
It’s 80 degrees out, you’re sweating bullets under your helmet and workout gear, you’re not guaranteed a roster spot, the starters are watching you and the coaches who decide your fate are eyeing you even closer.
To top it off you’ve been practicing against your teammates for weeks already.
It’s a competition for employment and frustration can easily set in, and that’s likely what happened on Tuesday. It’s not a sign of a bigger issue or problem. The players will be fine.
For the record, Thomas is currently fourth and last on the depth chart at free safety heading into the Aug. 16 preseason game in Kansas City while Spillman is listed as the starter.
Expect Harbaugh to address the incident at a scheduled Wednesday press conference at 1 p.m.