FOXBOROUGH – It took exactly seven days for tempers to finally flare up at Patriots training camp.
Wednesday morning’s practice, the team’s fourth in full pads, was a little chippy and heated at times. The main combatants were receiver Kenbrell Thompkins and cornerback Brandon Browner, who got tangled up together on several snaps. Thompkins threw Browner to the ground on one play, Browner returned the favor on the next snap, and then Browner exploded when receivers coach Chad O’Shea called him for pass interference on another play.
Browner got in O’Shea’s face and had to be restrained by cornerback Justin Green. Browner said he and O’Shea “hugged it out” later in practice.
Things also got a little feisty between Julian Edelman and safety Duron Harmon at the end of practice, and they also had to be separated by teammates.
This is why Bill Belichick likes to schedule joint practices during training camp – his own players get tired of beating each other up day after day.
“I’m ready to get down to Washington, see what I can do against those guys,” Browner said after practice.
In addition to being chippy, Wednesday’s practice was a little sloppy for the offense, with a lot of dropped balls and passes that hit the ground. Let’s get into it with Wednesday’s practice report:
Physically unable to perform: WR Aaron Dobson, WR Jeremy Gallon, WR Matthew Slater
Non-football injury: DL Dominique Easley, OL Chris Martin, LB Deontae Skinner
Returned to practice: G Dan Connolly
Missing: TE Michael Hoomanawanui, WR Josh Boyce, C Bryan Stork, LB Chris White
Still not fully cleared: CB Alfonzo Dennard
Removed from PUP: DT Tommy Kelly
Non-contact: TE Rob Gronkowski
The Patriots did not appear to suffer any new injuries on Wednesday, but the status of Hooman, Stork and White is still unknown.
Full pads and full contact.
■ Tom Brady finally got the better of Darrelle Revis, dropping a corner fade perfectly over Revis and into Brandon LaFell’s outstretched arms for a touchdown.
■ Another perfect touch pass from Brady, this one a lob pass to Shane Vereen on a wheel route that he caught in stride, just over the long arms of Jamie Collins in coverage.
■ Nice job by Danny Amendola to hold onto the football for a touchdown on a slant pass from Ryan Mallett. Amendola was absolutely clocked by CB Logan Ryan after making the catch, but held onto the ball.
■ Browner let his play do the talking at the end of practice, jumping a slant route intended for Thompkins in full team drills and intercepting Brady.
■ CB Malcolm Butler: Another strong day in coverage for the undrafted rookie from West Alabama. Getting a lot of action with the defense, and looking like the early leader to make the team as a special teams contributor.
■ Connolly: Returning to practice a day after sitting out is a good sign, and he reminded everyone of his versatility when he worked at center in Stork’s absence.
■ WR Brian Tyms: New addition got a lot of work in Boyce’s absence, made a couple of nice catches the last two days and has intriguing size and length (6-3, 204 pounds with really long arms).
■ Thompkins: After a strong start to camp, Thompkins has been inconsistent the last few days. Had a really bad drop in full team drills on Wednesday, running wide open across the middle.
■ Boyce: No way he’s going to win the fifth receiver spot if he’s not healthy and practicing.
■ DE Will Smith: Got completely stonewalled by Nate Solder in pass-rush drills, and hasn’t shown much explosiveness through the first week of camp.
Rob Gronkowski was once again limited in practice. He worked with Brady and Revis off to the side, and took mental reps in practice. Interesting that Gronk observed the inside running game drills and not the 1-on-1 WR-CB drills taking place at the same time.
Odds and ends
■ Perhaps one reason that Edelman was so frustrated at the end of practice was that he spent most of the day battling Revis 1-on-1, with both players earning their share of victories. Revis still lined up mostly on the left side, but Wednesday was the first time during camp that I saw him shadowing one receiver – in this case, Edelman.
■ Vereen finally caught a wheel route on Wednesday, which is a good sign. He dropped several last season and has been inconsistent during camp. One thing to watch with Vereen is that he still wears extra tape on his left wrist, which he broke last season. The injury forced him out of the lineup for two months and limited him even when he returned.
■ Not a good day at all for Brady and his receivers. He went 0-for-7 in one team drill, and threw interceptions to Browner and Justin Green. Brady is still having communication issues with Thompkins.
■ DJ Williams got a lot more action with Hooman out, and is looking like a decent bet to stick around as the “move” tight end (a do-it-all role).
■ DE Jake Bequette was forced to run a penalty lap around the field, although his transgression was not apparent.
■ The offensive line spent one period working on communication issues and picking up stunting defensive linemen. Marcus Cannon and Sebastian Vollmer did a really nice job handling Rob Ninkovich and Sealver Siliga.
■ Harmon still looks to be the leading candidate to win the strong safety job, but the coaching staff is giving Patrick Chung and Tavon Wilson every opportunity to display their skills. Wednesday was Chung’s turn to get a lot of work with the defense.
■ Practice ended with the Patriots practicing hurry-up field goals, with Stephen Gostkowski nailing all six kicks from about 43 yards. The entire team was then forced to run hill sprints to wrap up the day.
Thursday: Practice, 9:15 a.m.
Friday: Ty Law Patriots Hall of Fame induction ceremony, 4:30 p.m.; practice inside Gillette Stadium for season ticket holders, 7 p.m.
Saturday: Off day
Sunday: Travel to Richmond, Va. for joint practices with the Redskins.Follow Ben Volin on Twitter at @BenVolin.