Players scolded for fighting

Belichick issues some discipline

By Shalise Manza Young
Globe Staff / August 4, 2012
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FOXBOROUGH — Bill Belichick said Thursday that fighting is just part of football, and that he’s seen plenty of skirmishes in past training camps.

But Friday we learned that the Patriots coach has a limit when it comes to camp clashes.

After two more full-team scrums, he paused practice to make all of the players run three laps, and then gathered the team to have some words with them.

And once Belichick made his point, Tom Brady kicked the coaches out of the huddle and talked to his teammates. The quarterback then got back under center and marched the offense down the field.

Players were tight-lipped about what was said, but everyone got the message.

“Brady’s our leader,” running back Stevan Ridley said. “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 another championship. So we buy into whatever he says and whatever the coaches have to say.”

“Hopefully we’ll learn from that and we’ll come together as a team,” wide receiver Jabar Gaffney said. “[Brady] is the leader. We expect nothing less from him and once he gets fired up and gets going, then we all have to follow behind him.”

The temperature was above 90 degrees for the afternoon practice, which may have contributed to the fights, but players also said it’s time for the Patriots to square off against a different team. That will happen starting Tuesday, when New Orleans arrives for a joint practice.

The Patriots were in full pads Friday, and the fights started breaking out during 11-on-11 drills late in the session. First, safety Patrick Chung and linebacker Bobby Carpenter tackled running back Danny Woodhead to the grass, which an offensive lineman took offense to, and the pushing and shoving began.

A few plays later, it appeared that offensive tackle Darrion Weems and linebacker Dane Fletcher got into it, setting off the second fracas.

That’s when Belichick put his foot down.

Carpenter said Belichick had some “choice words” for the players, and that he hasn’t run three penalty laps since high school.

“Competition is good; fighting is not,” the veteran linebacker said. “There’s a fine line between taking it to the whistle and taking it a little bit beyond. But as it goes every year, as it gets hotter, camp gets longer — we’ve been out here about nine, 10 days now — guys start getting a little irritated, agitated. And things get hot sometimes, but that’s what these laps are for, to cool us off.”

Both the offense and the defense are battling, and as Carpenter noted, neither side wants to look bad.

“No one wants to be embarrassed out there. The offense wants to look good, the defense wants to look good, coaches for both sides want to look good,” he said. “So we have some heated contests, and that’s what it’s all about. You want to be competitive and improve.’’

The players have today off, which may also help to cool any hard feelings.

Some lip service

It hasn’t all been fighting in Foxborough. During Wednesday night’s practice in Gillette Stadium there was a tender moment between Belichick and tight end Aaron Hernandez.

After getting tangled up with Jerod Mayo during 7-on-7 drills, Hernandez got up favoring his elbow and Belichick gave him a little kiss on his boo-boo.

No, really.

“I had a little bruise on my elbow and I was whining about it, and he was just showing me the love of a father figure and he gave me a kiss on the elbow,” Hernandez said after practice on Friday.

Did you ask for him to make it better?

“No, I didn’t ask him,” Hernandez said, smiling. “I damn sure liked it though. Felt some love.”

Holding pattern

Director of player personnel Nick Caserio said there is no update on the status of guard Brian Waters, who hasn’t reported to camp . . . Caserio said offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia traveled to Portland before the draft to work out lineman Dustin Waldron. The Patriots claimed Waldron off waivers Thursday . . . As has become custom in training camp, Brady was serenaded several times by fans singing “Happy Birthday,” and there were also a number of handmade posters in his honor. The quarterback celebrated his 35th birthday on Friday. Fortunately for Brady there was not an incident like the time prankster Matt Light stole his helmet at the start of practice, allowing teammates to douse him with liquid and push a cake in his face.

Shalise Manza Young can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @shalisemyoung.

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