FOXBOROUGH — After banging into each other for five consecutive days, it was not entirely unexpected that there would be a dust-up at some point during Patriots training camp.
That moment came Tuesday when tempers flared between cornerback Kyle Arrington and running back Stevan Ridley. Arrington, a 5-foot-10-inch, 190-pounder in his fifth year with the team, lit up the 5-11, 220-pound Ridley after the third-year back came running out of the backfield on the right side during a goal-line drill at the end of practice.
Ridley, who had a pair of fumbles on the first day of full pads Sunday, held onto the ball after getting hit, sprang to his feet, and flung the ball at Arrington, who retaliated by shoving Ridley.
“Obviously, it’s camp,’’ said Matthew Slater. “You get tired and you get hot and you’re working hard and things happen.’’
The jousting match between Arrington and Ridley never got beyond an on-field skirmish.
With ESPN’s cameras on hand and a remote studio set up in a nearby corner of the upper practice field at Gillette Stadium, coach Bill Belichick made certain the shoving match did not escalate into a full-scale brawl when he quickly blew his whistle signaling an end to practice.
“It’s just camp, man,’’ Ridley said, when asked about his altercation. “That’s all I can say about it. We’re competitors out here and we’re working hard out here and the days are getting long and that’s part of it.’’
As Ridley walked off the upper practice field, he was spotted debating with Aqib Talib over the necessity of Arrington’s hit, especially as the Patriots were getting ready to wind down practice before a crowd of about 7,000.
With the team scheduled to be off Wednesday, perhaps a timeout was in order.
Arrington said he didn’t think there would be any lingering issues once the team resumed practice Thursday.
“It’s all love, you know,’’ Arrington said. “Whatever happens on the field, stays on the field. It’s an emotional game that’s played between emotional people and it’s all good. It’s all love, though, it’s all love at the end of the day.’’
Asked if he felt the need to address the matter with Ridley, Arrington replied, “At this point of camp, you’re tired of going up against the same guys in camp every day. So tempers flare, but like I said, it stays on the field.’’
Wendell gets a start
Ryan Wendell became a starter for the first time last season, after Brian Waters’s disappearing act forced the Patriots to shuffle the offensive line. Dan Connolly, the presumed starter at center heading into 2012, was bumped to right guard and Wendell, a career reserve, became the top center.
Wendell essentially had been groomed for the job since being signed by New England as an undrafted rookie out of Fresno State in 2008, and played very well when he got his chance.
The metrics website ProFootballFocus graded Wendell the NFL’s fourth-best center last season. He played in a league-high 1,249 snaps, missing just six of the Patriots’ offensive plays in the regular season.
But the upgrade doesn’t mean he’s approaching this season any differently.
“I’ve tried to do the same things that I’ve always done, which is go out there, listen to the coaching, try to get better every day,” Wendell said.
He acknowledged that there are several things he’s focused on improving for 2013, though he wouldn’t offer any specifics. Allowing quarterback hurries could be one area, as he gave up 18 last season.
“There’s always room for improvement,” Wendell said. “Nobody’s pitched a perfect game in football.”
If the first handful of practices are an indication, Wendell could have a different face to his right when the season starts: 2011 fifth-round pick Marcus Cannon has been taking the reps at right guard with Wendell, Nate Solder, Logan Mankins, and Sebastian Vollmer. Connolly had shoulder surgery in the offseason.
“So far so good,” Wendell said of working with Cannon. “I’ve got a lot of confidence in the guys that are coming in, you know, even the new guys. Tyronne Green stepped up today and played a little in there, Will Svitek has played some at guard. You know how it is, we’ve always got moving parts in there, trying to get as much flexibility as we can, and I’ve got a lot of confidence in the guys playing around me.”
Blount steps up
LeGarrette Blount, who was acquired in a trade with Tampa Bay April 27 in exchange for Jeff Demps and a 2013 seventh-round draft pick, seemed to emerge as a possible candidate as a short-yardage specialist with his fumble-free carries between the tackles on goal-line situations.
“He’s a hard worker,’’ Ridley said of Blount. “He’s a 250-pound back and was a 1,000-yard rusher down at Tampa Bay. I watched him when he was at Oregon. He came out the year before me and he’s also a special player.’’
Signed by the Titans as a rookie free agent in 2010, Blount was released and claimed off waivers by the Buccaneers. He led all rookie running backs with 1,007 yards in 2010 and became only the second undrafted rookie running back in league history to rush for more than 1,000 yards.
“This running back group is young,’’ Ridley said. “We have every different style of runner in the room. We have pretty much every runner we need. We have guys who can be receivers out of the backfield, we have power runners, we have slashers, we have fullbacks who are coming in and making an impression.
“We’re a group that’s working as one unit and we have to get it done if we have to get it done on the ground.”
On the sideline
Rookie receiver Aaron Dobson, who has gotten off to a strong start, was on the sidelines Tuesday. He walked onto the field in shorts and a T-shirt a little more than an hour into the practice session, and was moving gingerly, though there was not a brace or wrap readily visible on either leg.
A league source said Dobson took a cleat to the leg, but he was fine and is expected to be at Thursday’s practice.
Fellow rookie wideout Mark Harrison, who is on the non-football injury list and has yet to take part in camp, was also a spectator.
Dobson’s absence meant more chances for yet another rookie, Kenbrell Thompkins. Thompkins, undrafted out of Louisville, had a solid outing Tuesday after a rough practice Monday night, when he had a couple of drops.
Asked about the opportunity he has to earn a roster spot and playing time with the Patriots’ receiver competition fairly open, Thompkins said, “I leave that up to the coaches; that’s something you have to ask coach Belichick.
“I’m just out here, all the receivers, we’re all just out here trying to compete every day, work hard, and push each other. But as far as coming out here, playing and everything, I’ll leave that up to the coaches.”
Thompkins had 34 catches for 541 yards and two touchdowns as a senior last fall.Michael Vega can be reached at email@example.com. Shalise Manza Young can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.