Postcard from Camp, Day 14: Butler ejected as tempers boil over
FOXBORO -- Day 14 of Patriots camp was highlighed by the arrival of the Bears for the first of three joint practice. Here's what we saw...
* Tempers flared on multiple occasions Monday during the fully-padded practice. First, Patriots corner Malcolm Butler was ejected after getting into it with Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery, helping to start a shoving match that included several players. Jeffery was pulled from practice as well, but he remained on the sidelines for the remainder of the session. Former Bears tight end Martellus Bennett also got into it with a few of his former teammates, including Lamarr Houston, during a field-goal period. No punches were thrown and there were no further ejections.
"We gotta not let our tempers rile up that much," said Duron Harmon, who was in the middle of the fracas at one point, "and continue to have discipline even when stuff's not going the way we want it to."
* Rob Gronkowski left the practice early after participating in a 7-on-7 drill. He pulled up while going after a Tom Brady pass near the sidelines and walked slowly up the sideline following the play. He removed his helmet and stood near tight ends coach Brian Daboll for a few moments before head trainer Jim Whalen jogged over. Gronkowski headed for the lower fields with Whalen and was not seen for the remainder of the session. In his absence, Bennett and AJ Derby appeared to get more reps.
* The Patriots on the physically unable to perform list -- Danny Amendola, Sebastian Vollmer, Dion Lewis and Tre' Jackson -- did not participate Monday. Amendola was present and doing some conditioning with other players dealing with physical ailments.
* Rob Ninkovich (torn triceps) and Malcolm Mitchell (dislocated elbow) were present for the start of practice but did not participate beyond warmups. They headed for the lower field -- along with Keshawn Martin, Donald Brown, Bryce Williams and DJ Foster -- to do some conditioning for the majority of the afternoon.
* Shea McClellin and Jabaal Sheard were not spotted at Monday's practice. It's the second consecutive practice Sheard has missed since preseason game No. 1 against the Saints when he appeared to suffer a right leg injury. McClellin did not finish Sunday's practice.
* Reserve defensive back Brock Vereen, former Patriots running back Shane Vereen's younger brother, was not at practice. Later in the day it was announced that he has decided to retire. He was a fourth-round pick of the Bears in 2014.
* Julian Edelman participated on a limited basis against the Bears. He did not take part in team drills and was seen running sprints on an adjacent field during one 11-on-11 period.
LONG vs. LONG
* The Long brothers matched up on a handful of occasions in 11-on-11 work late in practice. Patriots defensive end Chris Long appeared to get the better of his younger brother, Bears guard Kyle Long, as he recorded one pressure on a stunt and one would-be sack. Both spoke to reporters after practice about what it was like to compete. Because they are four years apart, it's something they didn't have a chance to do much of growing up.
* Patriots owner Robert Kraft took a minute to chat with former Patriots backup quarterback Brian Hoyer during the practice. Hoyer was Brady's backup from 2009-11.
* Former Patriots defensive lineman Akiem Hicks took a few moments to yuck it up with his old teammates Alan Branch and Brandon Bolden. They appeared to play peacemaker to some extent following Bennett's dust-up with Bears defenders. Once the disagreement was physically broken up, it continued verbally for a minute or two.
* Guard Shaq Mason and center David Andrews were consistently with the first offensive line grouping. It appears as though Mason, now in his second season out of Georgia Tech, is the front-runner for the right guard job. Offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia said before camp practices began that he'd like to find his best five linemen as quickly as possible and get them to work together on a regular basis. The others in that group have been left tackle Nate Solder, left guard Joe Thuney and right tackle Marcus Cannon.
BRADY GOES 7-FOR-14
* Brady went 7-for-14 in 11-on-11 work, while Garoppolo was 9-for-12. Neither quarterback was particularly sharp -- there were passes completed that would have been broken up in a game situation with full contact -- but neither was intercepted.
* The Patriots defense had a strong day in 11-on-11 periods in terms of getting after the passer. Chris Long was effective as a fill-in for Sheard and Ninkovich with the first group. He had two pressures and two would-be sacks. Hightower also got behind the line of scrimmage for what would have been a sack, as did Collins. Both Hightower and Flowers drew obvious holds.
* The Patriots defense also put in some good work in coverage. Safety Jordan Richards and linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill intercepted a pass each. Devin McCourty, Justin Coleman, Cre'Von LeBlanc and Logan Ryan had pass breakups. Coleman had his hands on the football on multiple occasions, including one pass that should have been intercepted.
RUNNING THE HILLS
* The one-on-one period of practice was entertaining as the two sides showed a good level of competition. Here were some quick notes from that period: Gronkowski dropped a catchable pass, which was a continuation of a trend we've seen from him over the course of the last few weeks; James White ran option routes that gave him several yards of separation on his defender; Jeffery beat Butler easily in one rep, but on the next one Butler jammed him at the line and forced an incompletion; Duron Harmon, LeBlanc and Coleman all had impressive pass breakups during the period; after Garoppolo's group was finished with the period, they performed push-ups, which may have been an indicator that things hadn't gone as smoothly as they would've liked.
* After practice, both teams ran The Hills. Many from the Patriots defense pushed a blocking sled from one end of one practice field to the other with defensive coordinator Matt Patricia barking words of encouragement nearby. Safeties coach Steve Belichick was one of the people standing on the sled to help weight it down, and he appeared to be urging the players forward as well.