FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The second day of New England Patriots mandatory minicamp had a “dog days of summer” training camp-like feel to it.
Toward the end of the session, third-year center Bryan Stork and undrafted rookie defensive tackle Woodrow Hamilton (Mississippi) were ejected from the practice for fighting. Stork appeared to land a few blows on Hamilton after a play in which Hamilton was rushing the passer.
The majority of players on the team came on to the field in a scrum and the situation was extinguished quickly.
As is Bill Belichick’s longstanding rule, any fighting leads to an immediate ejection.
“Football is an emotional game. Your emotions are going to get the best of you at times, especially when everybody’s competing for a job. We like to see the competitiveness of the practices, but we have to be smart,” said Matthew Slater, one of the Patriots’ captains.
“We all know that numbers are limited at this level and we have to take care of one another as we practice. We have to be smart about that. At the same time, you like the competitive nature of practice. It’s a double-edged sword.”
At the end of practice, players gathered around Belichick, and one player said he stressed how they are all on the same team.
“At the end of the day, in the game, that’s our starting center. If it was in the game, and he got ejected, thrown out, it could have hurt the team,” defensive tackle Terrance Knighton said. “It’s all about the team. You try to eliminate penalties like that and keep your cool and let the other team self-destruct.”
Fourth-year offensive lineman Jonathan Cooper, who is in his first year with the Patriots, was asked how players toe the line between playing with intensity but not letting emotions spill over.
“It’s an intense game, so it happens,” he said. “[You] just continue to work and realize that sometimes it may flair but handle it to the best of your ability on the field and not doing anything out of regulation.”
In a show of leadership, one of the team’s captains, Devin McCourty, walked alongside Hamilton afterwards as the situation simmered.
Some other notes from practice:
Martellus Bennett injury scare. There was a hold-your-breath type moment midway through the session when tight end Martellus Bennett appeared to fall down during a passing drill, which had the athletic training staff coming to see him as he lay prone on the field. Bennett got up under his own power and walked by himself as Tom Brady, Belichick and tight ends coach Brian Daboll were among those to check with him. Members of the athletic training staff were looking at his left leg/knee, but Bennett returned to practice shortly thereafter and caught a Brady pass on his first snap.
Harbor, Mitchell, Bolden among new absences. Tight end Clay Harbor, receiver Malcolm Mitchell, running back Brandon Bolden and undrafted rookie linebacker C.J. Johnson were new absences at practice. Tight end Rob Gronkowski once again remained off the field, along with receiver Julian Edelman; cornerback Logan Ryan; running back LeGarrette Blount; safety Duron Harmon; running back Dion Lewis; safety Nate Ebner; guards Tre' Jackson, Josh Kline and Shaq Mason; offensive tackles Sebastian Vollmer and Nate Solder; and receiver Danny Amendola.
Extra points. Keeping a close eye on the rotation at center, where second-year man David Andrews had notable reps before Stork in the practice. After watching three practices, it appears that center is a spot where there could be a notable competition come training camp. … Tight end Michael Williams didn’t finish practice after sustaining an undisclosed injury late in the session; he walked off the field slowly under his own power. Members of the athletic training staff appeared to be looking at his left knee. … The team’s scouts, including Brian Belichick, watched practice for the second day in a row. … Sponsors and other guests were at the practice. … Punt return was again a top special teams priority and undrafted rookie D.J. Foster joined the group of returners along with Cyrus Jones, Keshawn Martin and V’Angelo Bentley. An undrafted free agent out of Illinois, Bentley had some struggles catching two punts. … Notable reps for defensive tackle Markus Kuhn … Rob Ninkovich has worked as an off-the-line linebacker in one package, which Patriots.com highlighted. … Overall, it seemed like a sharper day for the offense than Tuesday.
Music set list. With speakers set up at practice, music blared as the intention was to put stress on coaches and players with communication. The set list: “Cult of Personality” by Living Colour; “Enter Sandman” by Metallica; “Flex” (Ooh, Ooh, Ooh) by Rich Homie Quan; “Handsome and Wealthy” by Migos; and “Murder Incorporated” by Bruce Springsteen. In a reflection of how he values depth, Belichick has yet to turn to his pal Bon Jovi.
Conditioning at the finish. Players headed to the hill after the football-specific part of practice had concluded and worked on conditioning. That has been a big focus of the spring, according to players.
Stepping to the mic. Players who conducted post-practice interviews included defensive end/linebacker Rob Ninkovich and Shea McClellin; right guard Jonathan Cooper; special teams captain Matthew Slater; running back James White; receiver Nate Washington; defensive tackle Terrance Knighton, kicker Stephen Gostkowski; punter Ryan Allen, long snapper Christian Yount and tight end Martellus Bennett. Belichick also answered questions for the second day in a row.