By: Steve Balestrieri
The New England Patriots practice last night showcased the intense competition on-going in training camp by having multiple “fracases” between offensive and defensive players.
Perhaps the biggest melee, started with T Nate Solder and LB Brandon Spikes and caused a baseball-like benches clearing brawl as the field became filled with players, with most just trying to break up the melee.
Apparently Solder hit Spikes long after the whistle and tempers flared, Solder was forced to run a penalty lap and Spikes after returning to the locker room briefly, returned with a knee brace on and still continued to give Solder an earful.
Most fans are asking the question, is this bad for the team? Well certainly you don’t want to see players taking liberties with one another or cheap shots at teammates. But the bottom line is, Brandon Spikes, who although in attendance every day has been limited in his participation in drills has that edge, that physical presence and intimidation factor that this defense sorely needs.
The team has eased him back into action after off-season knee surgery but he returned last night with a vengeance. It sends a message to teammates and opponents that the defense is going to be different this year. When Spikes and Pat Chung returned down the stretch, the defense was much better. Chung also possesses that kind of physical play as well as rookie Dont’a Hightower who can set the tone of intimidation on the field.
With nearly 23,000 people in the stands at Foxboro last night, it wouldn’t surprise me that the melee was scripted in a manner by Spikes and the defense. They’re sending a message, and don’t be surprised to see more of it in the coming days.
The Patriots have…on paper, perhaps their most gifted group of linebackers in a number of years, it will be interesting to see how they mix and match, but the trio of Spikes, Hightower and Jerod Mayo with Bobby Carpenter coming in for sub-packages seems to be the unit we’ll see most of.
So the “Dog Days” of training camp as Bill Belichick said yesterday showcased some short tempers and extracurricular activities….I love it. This isn’t 2010 or 2011. No one’s job is safe and the competition is getting fierce and the business-like approach takes a back seat for a spell as the players want to hit someone hard.
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