I know football is a physical sport, but when it’s your first time participating in OTAs and trying to make an impression that will keep you on an NFL roster for years to come, fight with your teammates doesn’t seem like the best course of action.
A fight ? Okay, maybe it was just miscommunication or a misunderstanding of the team’s practice culture. Two fights? Now you are entering risky territory. Three fights? Now you have a reputation and you ask to be reprimanded by your team. That’s exactly what Trevor Penning, the Saints’ first-round rookie tackle, did. Worse still, Penning entered those fights for three straight days. It was becoming a tradition of the Saints: stretching, calisthenics, position drills, lining up for the scrum, battling Penning. Saints head coach Dennis Allen likely put him on the team’s practice schedule that morning.
Penning is known to be an aggressive guy in the trenches. He has even publicly stated that his favorite part of football is ‘molding the person in front of you’.
That’s not a good look for someone who’s been called a “total bite” and “too aggressive.”
Surprisingly, a lot of people came to Penning’s defense in the comments section of the tweet I referenced. Several people claimed that Penning was just “playing the whistle” or “playing hard”. Others claimed that Penning did not initiate some of the fights.
In the video, we can see punches thrown in Penning’s direction before Penning makes a non-football related move towards the other player. To those defenses, I ask “Would it still be ‘playing hard’ if one of Penning’s teammates ended up getting injured?” and “Obviously Penning has a reputation, so I doubt this is the first kerfuffle he’s been in. If the opposing player thinks Penning can start fighting them at any time, I’d also throw a punch for try to end it before it starts.” There’s a difference between playing hard and playing to hurt someone. Saints know the difference Very good. Penning doesn’t toe the line. For years he jumped the wrong way, probably only getting away with it because he was too talented to be reprimanded in college.
Penning has had this aggression problem for a while. Even in the Senior Bowl, Penning, who played for Northern Iowa, was seen consistently going a bit too hard after some of his opponents.
You can tell by the reactions of the people Penning opposed that Penning’s so-called “aggression” was not normal. You could argue that all of these guys were just upset that Penning beat them, but with so many upset players, you have to look at the common denominator. When a man’s multiple ex-girlfriends talk about him, it probably means he was the problem and vice versa.
Nor are these aggressive tendencies an indication of the greatness of the NFL. More often than not, they just bring unwanted attention and/or trouble. Penning will replace Terron Armstead as the Saints’ starting right tackle next season. Armstead was, and still is, one of the best left tackles in the game. He earned three consecutive Pro Bowl nominations from 2018-2020. Has Armstead ever been a problem in Saints training? No. Is David Bakhtiari a problem in Packers training? Of course Trent Williams had this whole resistance situation with the COs and once hit Richard Sherman in the face, but at least those two didn’t have to share the same locker room. Quenton Nelson? Corey Linsley? Humphrey Credo? Joel Bitonio? Ryan Ramczyk? Joe Thuney? Orlando Brown Jr? Ronnie Stanley? Did any of them have a history of violence against their teammates? No, but they are all considered some of the best offensive linemen in the NFL today. Shocking, I know. How could they get big without triggering fights in training? It’s an unsolvable mystery that science may never be able to answer.
While any NFL team would rather have an offensive lineman who needs to tone things down rather than elevate his physique, teams also greatly appreciate a guy who knows when to turn that aggression off and how to be a good teammate who doesn’t. risk injuring other players. When even the head coach of the team says “we don’t have time to [Penning’s actions]”, you know there is something wrong.
There have been a slew of great NFL players who struggled to adjust their attitude early in their NFL career. Vernon Davis is the first person that comes to mind. He needed Mike Singletary lays on top of him before he was ready to burst into the NFL’s tight elite stratosphere. There are other examples too, but more often than not, when said player’s attitude is unchecked, he can never fully commit to his team and he becomes a disadvantage rather than an asset. So, yes, the Saints should be worried about Penning’s antics. They spent a first-round pick on him and expect him to be a vital part of the team’s offensive line going forward. He better raise his head.