Atlanta Falcons rookie safety Keanu Neal and tight end Jacob Tamme got into the first fight of training camp on Sunday.
Tamme was upset with a thunderous hit that Neal, the 17th overall pick in the draft, put on the former Boyle County and University of Kentucky star after a catch.
“I wasn’t trying to kill him,” Neal said. “It just happened.”
After practice Neal admitted that he was in the wrong.
“He just really emphasized that we are trying to protect the team,” Neal said of Tamme. “That was the point he was trying to get across. That’s the biggest thing and it’s true.
“He held me accountable. So, he put me in check. I got out of hand hitting him like that. We are a physical team, but we’ve got to protect the team. He emphasized that.”
Falcons Coach Dan Quinn knew a big Neal hit would happen.
“We thought that would show up once we got to the pads,” Quinn said. “That’s certainly his game. He’s got such respect from other members of the team because of his work ethic.”
The Falcons released former starter William Moore over the offseason and are hoping that Neal can replace him and add an intimidation factor to the unit.
“That physicality, we know that’s an element to our team,” Quinn said. “He’s off to a good start.”
Neal also broke up a pass intended for tight end Levine Toilolo over the middle.
“See ball,” Neal said. “Get ball. I lined up … and I just went for it.”