FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick has a non-negotiable rule for players that if they fight in practice, they are immediately ejected. The reason, as he has explained in the past, is that a player would be ejected for fighting in a game so practice shouldn't be any different.
When newcomer Brandin Cooks was asked Tuesday if that was made clear to him, he said, "Absolutely. We don't have time to waste."
The rule is timely to highlight after receiver Julian Edelman and cornerback Stephon Gilmore got the heave-ho for a scrap they had late in a hot, humid session. It all lasted about 10-15 seconds and ended with Edelman on top of Gilmore, both players without their helmets, before support staffers and players separated them.
The message from respected veteran players afterward was that these things happen in training camp, and while it was unfortunate, there was no concern it would spill over into the locker room. The Colts, for example, tweeted out a similar scrap between cornerback Vontae Davis and receiver Phillip Dorsett on Tuesday morning, essentially promoting it as a positive thing.
That was a notable contrast to how Belichick views it.
While Colts coach Chuck Pagano sent both Davis and Dorsett back to the huddle, Belichick and his staff directed Edelman and Gilmore to the locker room. There have been similar ejections over the years, with center Bryan Stork getting tossed last year, which was also what happened to cornerback Malcolm Butler after a scrap with receiver Alshon Jeffery in a joint practice with the Chicago Bears. And in 2014, then-Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Cary Williams started a fight with then-Patriots receiver Aaron Dobson in a joint practice that earned both of them an early exit.
The message from Belichick has been clear over the years: Fiery competition is good, but there's zero tolerance when the line is crossed from fiery competition to a selfish act that hurts the team.