IRVINE — The words came from a man being paid $16.7 million this season and were directed at a man in the middle of a four-year, $83.25 million contract.
“He started it,” Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson said, and clearly no amount of money can buy the kid out of some grownups.
A day later, it remained unclear if Johnson followed his remark by sticking out his tongue at the Chargers and threatening to give Dean Spanos a nuclear wedgie.
In an exercise as brutally mundane as NFL training camp, Johnson on Wednesday uttered easily the most entertaining comment to date when he described what led to the Rams and Chargers hosting their orgy of testosterone.
He started it? That’s an explanation you’d expect from a player in Pop Warner, not in the NFC West, Johnson reminding all of us that a game as graphically adult as football still can encourage responses as honest and innocent as a child.
“That’s just us being us,” the cornerback explained Thursday. “It’s all fun. I know it’s our lives and our jobs, but we’re still going to have fun out here.”
The “he” in “He started it” was quarterback Philip Rivers, who is 35 and a veteran of 180 NFL regular-season games yet still playful enough to irritate the opposition, even in practice.
Rivers evidently was talking something other than X’s and O’s during the Rams/Chargers joint workout here Wednesday, the chirping obviously burrowing under Johnson’s skin like a neck tattoo.
Soon thereafter, he was scrapping with Chargers receiver Dontrelle Inman. Johnson ripped off his helmet and slammed it to the ground and finally punched Inman.
Other than that, he quietly returned to the huddle and patiently readied for the next play.
Inman called the punch “stupid,” noting that, at the time, he was still wearing his helmet, NFL helmets made from a substance that can turn human knuckles into granola.
Mercifully, no one was injured, though a tone had been set, a tone suggesting the Rams and Chargers, who also practiced together Saturday, were now familiar enough with each other to share everything, including flaming contempt.
In the next several minutes, two other scuffles ignited and spilled into more mutual dislike, the fight card ultimately reading as follows:
Inman vs. Johnson, Inman vs. Nickell Robey-Coleman, Keenan Allen vs. Robey-Coleman, Jamaal Jones vs. E.J. Gaines and Chris McCain vs. Robey-Coleman and Gaines.
It’s amazing, huh, all this fight coming from two teams that last…