- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Wrapping up the 22nd day of training camp and the key storylines:
Edelman & Koutouvides ejected from practice. In a scene not often seen, Patriots coach Bill Belichick kicked both receiver/returner Julian Edelman and linebacker Niko Koutouvides out of practice. The two were engaged with each other at the end of a punt return and the emotions were spilling over. It broke up quickly -- not like the few earlier scraps in camp -- but Belichick seemed to be operating on a zero-tolerance policy. He sent both players off the field ... and back to the locker room. It was a rare sight as Edelman walked off first, and Koutouvides followed about 20-25 yards behind, both heading to the same place with about 30 minutes of practice remaining.
Ridley & Wilson knocked out. Running back Stevan Ridley and safety Tavon Wilson both didn't finish the practice because of lower-body injuries. As part of being evaluated by head athletic trainer Jim Whalen, Ridley stood on one foot and squatted slightly, which could have indicated that he was testing his knee. To the layman, it didn't seem too serious and Ridley did watch the remainder of the practice from the sideline, and later walked off the field on his own. Wilson had ice on his left ankle/foot and watched the remainder of practice sitting down between the two practice fields.
Mankins ups his workload. Starting left guard Logan Mankins has gradually been eased into the mix since coming off the physically unable to perform list on Sunday, and on Thursday, he took another step by participating in team drills for the first time. If Mankins keeps progressing from offseason surgery to repair a torn ACL, he should be on the field for the season opener Sept. 9 in Tennessee.
Gaffney held out of practice. Receiver Jabar Gaffney, who pulled up in practice Wednesday with what appeared to be a right quad/hamstring injury, did not participate in Thursday's on-field workout. That left more work for Deion Branch, Donte' Stallworth and Julian Edelman (pre-ejection) in the competition at receiver behind Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd.
Belichick lights up in presence of astronaut. Bill Belichick was all smiles at his news conference, and the presence of NASA's Chris Cassidy was the main reason. Cassidy, who is from Maine and is a big Patriots fan, struck up a conversation with Belichick at the end of the news conference. Belichick then stopped to pose for a photo with him, spending some extra time on the way out to practice. While Belichick may be a NASA fan, he's also a fan of the Naval Academy, and Cassidy has some ties there as well (bio here).
Quote of the day. "I don't like heights." -- Bill Belichick, when asked if he could envision himself living on a space station for six months.
Star performer. Safety Nate Ebner. The sixth-round draft choice is getting more quality defensive reps and showing up in a positive way. He had a pass-breakup that displayed his solid athleticism (he broke very quickly to the ball) and also nicely defended a reverse. He moves well back there.
Tough day at the office. Receiver Wes Welker. Uncharacteristic day, as he dropped a pass and also took a lap for a false-start penalty.
Storyline to monitor. Will the Patriots' kickoff returns impove? Bill Belichick said Thursday that even though there are less opportunity, the return remains an important play and he'd like to see better results.
Rookie watch. Defensive end Chandler Jones continues to impress. After a solid stop in 11-on-11 work, he pumped his fist in celebration as he plays with a lot of emotion. ... Running back Brandon Bolden is being asked to do different things as the coaching staff takes a closer look at his versatility. ... Defensive lineman Marcus Forston showed up with a big stuff in 11-on-11 work. ... Defensive end Jake Bequette showed quickness in 2-on-2 drills, working with Ron Brace to get to the cone past Dustin Waldron.