Scrap heap: More scuffles at Pats' camp

833531.jpg

Scrap heap: More scuffles at Pats' camp

FOXBORO - Three laps to take an inventory of the exact nature of their wrongs.

That was the sentence for the entire Patriots roster Friday after two more post-whistle dustups ballooned into full-team pushing and shoving.

The first appeared to start when Shane Vereen got stood up and wrestled down by Bobby Carpenter and Patrick Chung. That scrap was over quickly with the only noticeable combat developing between rookies Jeremiah Warren and Justin Francis as people jostled to break things up.

The second fight began when Dane Fletcher was blocked from behind by an unknown offensive player. Fletcher and the lineman landed on the ground and wrestling ensued followed by another high-intensity team meeting.

Bill Belichick then sent the team on a three-lap jaunt around the goal posts. When that was done, Belichick addressed the team for about two minutes. Tom Brady then called them together and spoke for another minute.

That was the third set-to in three practices and Belichick, given his response, has had enough.

What led to the issues?

"Same stuff it always is, it's guys trying to go all the way through the whistle and things got a little heated and one thing leads to another and the next thing you know there's 60 guys out there," said Carpenter. "Coach Belichick talked to us and hopefully that won't happen again. We can't be fighting ourselves, we gotta be working to improve."

Stop roughhousing?

"With a few choice words in there but that was the message," said Carpenter. "That's the first time I've done three laps probably since high school.

Competition is good, fighting is not," Carpenter added. "There's a fine line between taking it to the whistle and taking it a little bit beyond. It gets hotter, camp gets longer, about 9-10 days now, guys start getting a little irritated, agitated, and things get a little hot sometimes. Thats what those laps are for, to cool us off. ... You hit the same guy and no one wants to be embarrassed out there. The offense wants to look good, the defense wants to look good, the coaches want to look good, you want to be competitive and improve, but there is a very fine line between competition and fighting.

Running back Stevan Ridley was asked about Brady's message.

"Brady's our leader," he explained. "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. 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. And that's what we want to do as a team effort. So we buy into whatever he says and whatever the coaches have to say."

Matt Slater and Jerod Mayo also had lead roles in trying to end the rough stuff.

Full-team dustups are rare with this team. And three in three days is unheard of. It's a clear sign of the competition on every rep in camp and the fact that the New Orleans Saints, who arrive Tuesday for two practices and a preseason game, will be a welcome sight for the Patriots as they grow weary of running into each other.

Patriots making contract statements with OTA absences?

snc_butler_0530161464560931088_3450k_1280x720_695203907893.jpg

Patriots making contract statements with OTA absences?

Malcolm Butler was one of many not spotted during OTAs on Thursday when the media got a looksee at one of the practices.

Butler wasn’t the only one. But he did stand out as a missing player who hadn’t (to my knowledge) had a surgery but did have a contract that needs addressing. Another one? Rob Gronkowski. If we really want to extend it out, throw in Duron Harmon and Logan Ryan.

This is the point where it’s important to point out that these workouts are voluntary – VAW-LUN-TERR-EEEE! Players don’t have to be there. Additionally, I’m not even sure Butler or Gronkowski (or Ryan and Harmon) weren’t at the facility. All I know is they weren’t on the field. And, per usual, nobody’s tipping his hand as to why.

But we do have this, relative to Butler. ESPN’s Mike Reiss wrote Sunday that he “wouldn’t be surprised if it was related to his contract status.” Reiss said that Butler “told teammates and friends he plans to push for an adjustment to his contract before the 2016 season, and staying off the field in voluntary workouts would be a decision that limits injury risk and also could be viewed as a statement to the organization that he's unhappy with the status quo and/or the movement/specifics of contract talks.”

In the same vein, I wouldn’t be surprised if Gronkowski opted out as well for the same reason, especially since he threw out a tweet that signaled dissatisfaction with his pact in March.

But in terms of a statement, not going to OTAs is more of a throat-clearing than a noisy proclamation.

Not to minimize the move if Butler, Gronkowski or anybody else is actually staying away because of business. The Patriots usually enjoy almost perfect OTA attendance. Also, there hasn’t been much contract strife around here for the past five seasons.

Money matters were an annual issue for the Patriots from about 2003 through 2010. Lawyer Milloy, Ty Law, Richard Seymour, Rodney Harrison, Ty Warren, Logan Mankins, Vince Wilfork, Randy Moss, Adam Vinatieri, Mike Vrabel and – quietly – Tom Brady all had their contract dances back then. But the only one that got hairy in the recent past was Wes Welker.

It’s still too soon to know if any of these will get contentious. When will we know? When either a player or his agent spouts off. Or, when someone’s a no-show at mandatory minicamp beginning June 7.

That would amount to a shot across the bow. Of all the players likely to take that shot, Butler seems a reasonable bet. His base pay this season is $600K after a Pro Bowl campaign in 2015 that saw him check the opposition’s best wideout on a weekly basis. He’s a restricted free agent at the end of the year. He deserves longer-term security than he currently has. Gronkowski has a lot less to kick about. He may make less than lesser players, but he also was the league’s highest paid tight end when he was missing scads of games due to injury.

After Butler, Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower would figure to have the strongest cases to want new deals and want them snappy. Ryan and Harmon would be right behind those two. Then Jabaal Sheard.

Sheard, Hightower and Collins were all on the field Thursday. 

Can the Patriots get all these guys reupped? Will they even try? How do they have them prioritized? If the guy who howls loudest gets to the front of the line, the time to make some noise is close.

But we have yet to hear any of these players loud and clear.