“We want to be smart bullies. We don’t want to be idiots.”

That was the message from Broncos head coach Vance Joseph about his offensive line’s intensity on Thursday – specifically, new right tackle Menelik Watson.

Joseph met with the media after a joint practice with the San Francisco 49ers that was described as “chippy.” Reports from the practice said Watson threw punches and had to be restrained when a scuffle broke out between the two sides. It was Sorry – this audio content is no longer available. that occurred.

“We don’t want to get penalties that cost us big plays in the game. He’s an emotional guy, but he’s also a tone setter,” Joesph continued on about Watson. “There is a fine line – even [Garett] Bolles. Bolles is a guy with a serious edge. We want some of that. But, we want to be smart bullies. We want to be aggressive, but not hurt our football team with selfish penalties. When you’re fighting a guy one-on-one, that’s your battle and you hurt us, that’s about you and that’s selfish. We don’t want that.”

Penalties on the offensive line were a big story in Denver’s first preseason game against the Chicago Bears, as the two teams combined for 18 total penalties for 157 yards (10-76 by the Broncos). While Denver was able to elicit a few, including an unnecessary roughness penalty drawn by Bolles, the O-line also took a taunting penalty and several holds, and Watson was flagged for illegal use of hands.

Denver is in the midst of an offensive line rebuild and the toughness of Bolles and Watson, along with free agent offseason acquisition Ronald Leary, was at the forefront of that mission. The two joint practices with San Francisco gave them a chance to demonstrate that John Elway‘s efforts weren’t in vain.

Cornerback Chris Harris Jr. shed light on what led to a separate scuffle than Watson’s.

“I guess it was a little more chippy. We wanted to bring more effort today and I was able to make a play and Justin [Simmons] picked it. Aqib [Talib], he blocked the intended receiver and then [the receiver] tackled him. It was a pretty dirty move,” Harris said.

Talib downplayed things, saying it was “Just a little wrestling match. It wasn’t anything major. I’ve been in real fights, that was nothing.”

As for the practice becoming chippy, it wasn’t in Joseph’s plan but he did note the importance of both sides moving on and finishing the practice.

“Expected? No, but it happened. We didn’t want that, but we got past it and finished practice. Both sides were being really competitive. It’s football,” Joseph said. “It’s a physical sport. Some of that stuff is going to happen. But, both sides caught their composure, and we’re able to finish practice. That’s what important there.”

Watson, Bolles and the rest of the offensive line will get another crack Saturday at showing they can be smart bullies when the Broncos and 49ers square off for the second game of the preseason.