Friday, August 3, 2012
Fights erupt at Patriots practice
By Mike Reiss and Mike Rodak ESPNBoston.com
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- For the second time in three days, New England Patriots players were involved in a full-team scuffle at training camp.
The scrap was one of two that occurred on Friday, and prompted a peeved coach Bill Belichick to order all players to run three laps around the field, from goal post to goal post.
Afterward, there was a full-team huddle. That was followed by a players-only huddle, apparently led by quarterback Tom Brady.
"Competition is good, fighting is not. There is a fine line between taking it to the whistle and taking it a little bit beyond," said veteran linebacker Bobby Carpenter, who seemed to be at the heart of one of the scuffles, as he was engaged with offensive lineman Ryan Wendell.
"As it does every year, it gets hotter, camp gets longer, about 9-10 days now, guys start getting a little irritated and agitated, and things get a little hot sometimes. That's what those laps are for, to cool us off."
Seemingly every player on the team was involved in the scuffle, although no one appeared to be injured. Many were acting as peacemakers, but there was also pushing and shoving from some.
"You hit the same guy and no one wants to be embarrassed out there," Carpenter said. "The offense wants to look good, [the] defense wants to look good. It's a contest and that's what it's all about. You want to be competitive and improve, but there is a very fine line between competition and fighting."
After the players-only huddle, it looked like the coaches removed themselves from practice. Linebacker Jerod Mayo took a coaching whistle, and it appeared that the players ran the rest of the session.
Brady led a sharp two-minute drive to essentially put a capper on the fiery practice.
"Brady's our leader. It's Brady's show out here. For him to say something and voice his opinion, that's nothing that we haven't heard before," second-year running back Stevan Ridley said. "And he's only going to tell us what's best for this team and for us to get better. We all listen and we all key in when he talks, because at the end of the day, he's just trying to get to another championship, man."
After Wednesday's full-team scrap, Belichick downplayed its significance, saying, "Football is competitive, and we're in a competitive camp, so I think some of those things are just part of football. I don't think it's a big deal."
But he was clearly fed up after Friday's two scraps, the second of which seemed to be sparked by two long-shot rookies hoping to impress.
"There is definitely a fine line," veteran receiver Jabar Gaffney said. "You want to be aggressive, but you don't want to hurt anybody in practice. You can't have fighting. We're a team out there. ... You have to realize we're all out here on the same team, trying to go for the same goal. If you get in a fight, and someone gets hurt, you're going to hurt the team."
ESPNBoston.com Patriots contributor Field Yates contributed to this report.