JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Andre Dillard said that he had never gotten into a fight in football before.
But that was about all the Eagles first-round rookie tackle would divulge several days after he was involved in a few tussles at training camp.
“I think it’s a good idea to dismiss that at this point, not make it a bigger deal than it is," Dillard said Thursday in his first interview since incidents on Monday and Tuesday. "It’s football.”
Asked if there had been anything in the way he had been practicing that he felt led to his aggressiveness and the response of defensive players -- most prominently defensive end Derek Barnett -- Dillard declined to go into further detail.
“It happens in football,” Dillard said.
But has it ever happened to you before?
“No,” he said.
Dillard got visibly emotional as coach Doug Pederson and general manager Howie Roseman spoke to him following Monday’s workout. Safety Johnathan Cyprien had to be held back during practice after the offensive lineman blocked him forcefully to the ground during what was supposed to be a light practice. And Barnett chased Dillard and they mixed it up after they had faced off during a later play.
Asked about Pederson and Roseman’s message to him, Dillard said, “I’d say that’s between us.”
Pederson said after Tuesday’s practice that the fight between Dillard and Barnett was just a by-product of camp and competition. Fights were once almost a daily part of past camps, but the Eagles have only had a few scraps per camp over the last several years.
Defensive end Shareef Miller went after Dillard during a one-on-one drill Tuesday, although it was broken up quickly.
Dillard has otherwise had a promising camp and preseason. While the Eagles don’t need him to play right away with Jason Peters starting at left tackle, the rookie has shown that he at least is capable of playing at the NFL level. Some analysts are already predicting greatness.
He appeared to fare well in the Eagles’ 24-10 preseason win over the Jaguars.
“I feel like I did all right, about as good as the first week,” Dillard said. “But obviously, there’s a bunch of little things I want to improve upon.”
Quarterback Cody Kessler was knocked out of the game with a concussion on the Eagles’ first series when defensive end Datone Jones came off the left side unblocked. While it might have appeared that Dillard missed his man, several former NFL offensive linemen said on Twitter that it was Kessler’s responsibility to know that he was “hot” (had an unblocked man rushing at him).