GREEN BAY, Wis. — If the events of Thursday’s practice with the Packers took place in Week 1, Patriots outside linebacker Matthew Judon thinks several players would have gotten ejected.
“If any of that would have happened during a game, we all would have been kicked out,” Judon said. “We would be playing with, like, 17 players, right? That stuff can’t happen. You’ve got to be professional about it. We came here to play football, and that’s what we eventually got to.”
After a relatively tame but lengthy practice Wednesday, the Patriots and Packers ratcheted up the intensity Thursday. The teams had a morning of trash talk and scuffles.
The lone Patriot to get thrown out of practice was Anfernee Jennings, who leveled the Packers’ Keshawn Banks during a punt coverage drill. Banks had swung at the Patriots’ Keion White on the play, so Jennings appeared to be coming to the rookie’s defense when he ran over to push Banks to the ground.
Later, also during punt coverage, players piled up in a scrum that ended with the Packers’ Isaiah McDuffie’s helmet coming off. White then tossed it high, causing the crowd at the Don Hutson Center to gasp.
In total, at least eight scraps broke out, with a variety of players serving as antagonizers. The vast majority of the chippiness took place between New England’s defense and Green Bay’s offense.
At one point, Patriots coach Bill Belichick gathered his defensive players to remind them to keep their focus.
“Two competitive teams going at it,” defensive back Jalen Mills said. “We’re competitive, they’re competitive. It’s going to get chippy. I mean, it’s a joint practice. Guys are out here trying to win jobs and show what they’ve got to the coaching staff.”
Even when players weren’t getting physical, they found ways to get under each other’s skin. There was plenty of jawing, taunting, and showboating.
After Patriots rookie wide receiver Demario Douglas caught a touchdown pass, he spun the football on the turf, before a Packers player arrived to kick the ball away. Then, after the Packers managed to score a touchdown on a tipped Hail Mary pass during a two-minute drill, Patriots cornerback Jack Jones kicked the ball onto the other field.
Amid all the clashing, however, the Patriots clearly won the day on both fields. The offense looked sharp (minus a few sacks), while the defense reigned dominant.
“We came out here to get better,” Judon said. “I believe Green Bay wanted to get better, and I believe the Patriots wanted to get better. We don’t put gloves on for a living. We’re not boxers; we’re not fighters. We came out here to get better and improve in our craft.”
Other observations from Day 2 of Patriots-Packers joint practice . . .
▪ New Patriots running back Ezekiel Elliott upped his workload on his second day with the team.
Elliott looked as advertised, working out of the backfield, helping in blitz pickup, and sometimes lining up out wide. It certainly appears the Patriots have plans to use Elliott as a pass catcher, an aspect of his game the Cowboys reduced last season.
Even when he was not on the field, however, Elliott made his presence known.
When J.J. Taylor juked a Packers defender along the sideline, Elliott was his loudest cheerleader. When Tre Nixon caught a long touchdown pass in the corner of the end zone, Elliott was one of the first ones to greet him after the play. When Kayshon Boutte caught a touchdown pass at the pylon at the end of a two-minute drill, Elliott was in the middle of the celebration.
“He’s going to bring energy, he’s going to bring excitement to the game, and he’s going to buy in,” Judon said of Elliott. “That little bit of excitement for a second day and for somebody he really doesn’t know in Boutte, it just means he loves his team.”
▪ Patriots wide receiver Tyquan Thornton recorded his best reception of training camp, outrunning Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander and diving to make a 40-yard grab from quarterback Mac Jones. The play showcased Thornton’s biggest strength — downfield speed — but also highlighted one of his biggest weaknesses — durability.
In order to make the catch, Thornton laid out and impressively hung on. He landed hard on his upper body, though, appearing to suffer an injury. After trainers checked out his shoulder, Thornton left practice and did not return.
If Thornton is sidelined for an extended period, it will continue an inauspicious trend in his young career. Thornton also suffered a collarbone injury during a preseason game last year, causing him to miss the first four games of the season.
▪ The play of the day was a close-to-50-yard touchdown from Jones to DeVante Parker during a two-minute drill. Jones threw the perfect pass, and Parker hauled it in against Alexander.
Nearly the entire Patriots team ran onto the field to celebrate. Even director of player personnel Matt Groh, watching from the sideline, put his hands in the air to signal the touchdown and yelled, “Woo!”
Moments earlier, Alexander had been heckling New England’s sideline, particularly safety Jabrill Peppers, who was one of the more vocal players throughout practice. After the score, Peppers shouted, “That’s what I’m talking about, McCorkle!” — using Jones’s middle name.
▪ A scary moment happened during a two-minute drill, as White laid on the field for a bit after a play. The training staff attended to him, while some players took a knee. White eventually stood up and walked off the field gingerly. He later appeared to be moving better on the sideline but did not return to practice.
▪ The offensive line injuries continued to pile up. Tackle Conor McDermott did not practice, joining the long list of absences that includes with right guard Mike Onwenu (physically unable to perform list), left guard Cole Strange (knee), tackle Calvin Anderson (non-football injury list), and interior lineman Kody Russey (undisclosed).
Later, rookie interior lineman Jake Andrews left practice with a trainer. Rookie guard Atonio Mafi spent part of practice throwing up.
New England’s offense is trending upward, but the uncertainty on the line could derail the progress. The team once again stuck to its lineup of Trent Brown at left tackle, Mafi at left guard, David Andrews at center, Riley Reiff at right guard, and Sidy Sow at right tackle.
Onwenu, who was present in sweats for the second straight day, spent some time running on the field, so perhaps his return is near.
Other notable absences: cornerback Jonathan Jones (undisclosed), running back Pierre Strong (undisclosed), running back/wide receiver Ty Montgomery (leg), and tight end Mike Gesicki (shoulder).