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Blogservations: Gronk limps off, Butler scraps with Bears WR Jeffery

New England’s joint practice with the Bears leads to eventful day in Foxborough.

View a collection of the best images from Patriots Training Camp practice in Foxborough on Monday, August 15, 2016.

Malcolm Butler earned the nickname "scrap" when the undrafted rookie arrived in New England for a tryout in the spring of 2014.

Monday afternoon on the practice field, now a Pro Bowl cornerback matched up with Bear big-bodied No. 1 receiver Alshon Jeffery, Butler lived up to his nickname.

Butler and Jeffery locked up on the outside at the goal line on a run play in 11-on-11 red zone action. As the play ended the two remained entangled, with Jeffery's hand grasping at Butler's facemask. The two continued to dance, with Butler swinging at Jeffery and attempting to free himself before he took hold of the receivers' own facemask. It seemed the fight was about the fade out, when other players, notably Bears tight end Greg Scruggs, got into the mix and it turned into a pretty widespread brawl (as far as sports fights go) not too far from the media tent.

When the dozens of players were finally untangled, Butler was immediately sent to the locker room as Bill Belichick has a strict rule that any player that's involved in a fight is kicked out of practice.

Jeffery did not leave the field, but he did not take another rep on the day. At one point he seemed to try to sneak into an offensive huddle but was sent back to his sideline.

After practice, Bears coach John Fox downplayed the issue and noted that he was playing by Belichick's rules as the visitor to the joint sessions.

"That's football, and they were (kicked) out," Fox said.

The Butler battle wasn't the only time the practice action seemed to cross normal competitive lines. Later, in a field goal/field goal block segment, tight end Martellus Bennett was pushed to the ground by his former teammates. That got a few players involved again, with Nate Solder coming to Bennett's defense.

Though it was short-lived, Bennett seemed to continue to jaw on the sidelines with Bears players who weren't in the drill. As he was walking toward the group of players, Belichick actually stepped in and physically directed his first-year veteran tight end addition in another direction.

The fighting will draw the headlines, but the real news of the day that could have longer lasting ramifications is the fact that All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski pulled up lame while running a route in 7-on-7 action and left the practice early.

In the midst of running a sideline route down the field, Gronkowski actually yelled out as he seemed to feel something in his leg as he reached up for the pass. He awkwardly stopped running and then walked down the sideline with minimal limp. Soon after he sought out Patriots trainer Jim Whalen. After a short discussion, Gronkowski walked of the field under his own power, taking the back way to retreat to Gillette Stadium.

Beyond the flair up of fighting and the Gronkowski apparent injury, here are one man's blogservations from another hot practice session in sunny Foxborough:


--The Patriots on PUP remain unchanged: Dion Lewis (knee), Tre' Jackson (knee), Sebastian Vollmer and Danny Amendola (knee/ankle). Jackson and Amendola were on the field wearing their jerseys. Amendola went to the Revs practice field with some of the other rehabbing players and actually threw passes to a number of them as they ran routes.

--Those players not taking part in the practice included Malcolm Mitchell (elbow), D.J. Foster, Donald Brown (hamstring), Brock Vereen, Nate Ebner, Bryce Williams, Rob Ninkovich (triceps), Shea McClellin, Jonathan Cooper (foot), Keshawn Martin and Jabaal Sheard.

--According to the NFL transaction wire, Vereen has retired from football.

--Mitchell was on the field wearing a black brace on his left arm. He and Ninkovich retreated to the Revs field and ran together. Foster, Brown and Martin also worked on the Revs field, catching passes thrown by Amendola.

--Also, Ebner was officially activated from reserve/did not report on Monday.

--Logan Ryan continues to wear a red, non-contact jersey.

--All Patriots players wore white jerseys for the practice (aside from the quarterbacks and Ryan), with the Bears wearing their dark blue jerseys. This is a little different from a week earlier when New England wore its usual split of white/blue while the Saints (black/white) also wore differing jerseys for offense and defense.

--Always fun to see the extra equipment that visiting teams bring to the practice field. Last week the Saints had traffic barrels. The Bears have large tackling dummies with arms on them.

--Former Patriots special teams coach Scott O'Brien was on the field for the second straight day. This time he was more comfortably dressed, wearing shorts, sneakers and a tropical-style shirt. He spent a lot of time focusing on the kicking game in pre-practice work and then chatted with current special teams coach Joe Judge. Fox also spent time with O'Brien, his assistant head coach and special teams coach for a few seasons with the Panthers.

--After stretching/form running, the Bears came together as a group clapping/yelling almost like it was a pregame situation.

--During that pre-practice special teams work some of the guys who work as blockers took reps fielding kickoffs from the JUGS machine. The group included Geneo Grissom, Clay Harbor and Josh Kline.

--Regular kickoff returners also took reps from the JUGS machine, including Cyrus Jones, DeAndre Carter and V'Angelo Bentley.

--Prior to the official start of practice, Dont'a Hightower walked off the field and inside to Gillette. But he returned to the practice field a few minutes later and took part fully in the practice.

--The cornerbacks did a drill in group work in which they ran directly away from the line of scrimmage toward a big tackling dummy. When they got just a step past the dummy they cut back in front of the "intended target" for the would-be interception. They struggled to catch the ball for the most part, with Ryan and Darryl Roberts among those with bad drops.

--Prior to leaving the field, Gronkowski had another bad drop on a crossing pattern in group work. His hands are nowhere near the sure-thing at this point that we've become accustomed to.

--The teams got together for four different groups of 1-on1 coverage drills with the pass defenders and the pass catchers. Chris Harper got things going beating Bears DB Jacoby Glenn. Chris Hogan beat Taveze Calhoun, while Bennett got the best of Harold Jones-Quartey. Butler got the better of Kevin White on one rep.

--Harbor had a bad drop in the 1-on-1 action. In "opportunity" work late in practice he failed to catch up to a seemingly well-thrown corner ball from Jacoby Brissett. The veteran tight end addition hasn't had the best summer, especially considering the time he missed to an unknown injury. His hands have been inconsistent and his role seems dubious right now.

--Edelman took part in the 1-on-1s but did not take part in 11-on-11 action in practice. He actually did sprints by himself at one point on the side field late in practice. During his 1-on-1 work he had some miscommunication in his route running with Garoppolo.

--In the battle between linebackers and running backs, Tyler Gaffney did a nice job shaking John Timu.

--Well before their fight, Jeffery outjumped and fought Butler for a catch down the left sideline for the reception despite tight coverage from the feisty corner.

--Nate Washington was viciously held by De'Vante Bausby in 1-on-1 work, clearly annoying New England's veteran receiver.

--Cameron Meredith beat Cyrus Jones at one point, so much so the rookie cornerback just seemed to give up on the long developing route.

--After the 1-on-1 work the entire group of New England receiver and quarterbacks on the near end of the field did punishment push-ups, apparently for the lack of consistent success in the drill.

--The first kickoff team to take reps, from left to right, was Patrick Chung, Brandon Bolden, Ramon Humber, Matthew Slater, Jonathan Freeny, Jordan Richards, Duron Harmon, Grissom, Brandon King and Devin McCourty.

--Anthony Johnson took a penalty lap.

--Chris Hogan had a bad drop on a short crossing route in team action.

--Patriots owner Robert Kraft was on the field to watch the second half of the joint practice action. As he crossed the field he said hello to Bears backup quarterback and former Patriot Brian Hoyer.

--The first group to take reps on the kickoff return unit included a front line of blockers from left to right of Harmon, Freeny, Humber, Bolden, Richards and Kamu Grugier-Hill. The next line of blockers was Kline, King and Grissom, with Harbor and Markus Kuhn getting reps at the outside spots as well.

--The first unit of offensive linemen throughout the day, working mostly with Tom Brady, included from left to right, Nate Solder, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Shaq Mason and Marcus Cannon.

--In team action, Brady looked deep down the right sideline, throwing to AJ Derby despite the fact that the second-year tight end was pretty well covered. He may have been filling in for Gronkowski in the personnel group and seemed surprised that Brady threw his way in that situation.

--Some running game work was sprinkled into the offense during the second half of practice with Tyler Gaffney and LeGarrette Blount getting their chances.

--Garoppolo completed a crossing throw to Bennett, the tight end having to make a nice catch reaching back for the ball that was thrown well behind him.

--The second group of linemen through most drills was, from left to right, LaAdrian Waddle, Kline, Bryan Stork, Ted Karras and Cameron Fleming. Karras seemed to limp off after finishing his reps in one drill and still appeared to be walking a bit gingerly as he walked off the field after practice.

--Cyrus Jones got some group reps at right cornerback opposite Butler. After Butler was kicked off the field, Justin Coleman took over the left cornerback reps. After the fight, the New England secondary seemed to ramp it up a bit and got the better of the Bears passing game on most plays. Really, the fight ignited more energy throughout the end of the practice.

--With the depth on the edge being tested as Ninkovich, Sheard and McClellin sat out the session, Trey Flowers continued to get reps on the right side opposite Chris Long.

--Garoppolo had a number of times he held the ball too long, including a play in 7-on-7 in which coaches simply blew the play dead with him still holding the ball. Later he made a couple completions on what clearly would have been sack situations in a game.

--Even though he practices in a red jersey, Ryan threw a shoulder into Rob Housler that knocked the tight end to the turf.

--Cyrus Jones saw some time in the slot, at one point he was beaten badly by Marc Mariani.

--Garoppolo hit Bennett for a touchdown in the left corner in red zone action, at least that was the result based on the crowd reaction as the play went out of view from the media tent.

--Kuhn was back getting some reps on the defensive line next to Malcom Brown, a spot that's been mostly filled by Terrance Knighton and Alan Branch of late.

--At the end of the fight, one funny sight had Bears linebacker Lamarr Houston holding both Ryan and Cyrus Jones by the backs of their shoulder pads as players from both teams tried to restore the peace.

--Watching Jay Cutler on the practice fields, two things become quite evident. He has a really strong arm and makes some really bad throws. Each becomes even more obvious in the intimate setting of training camp action.

--One Bears ball boy or assistant coach wore a referee shirt standing deep on the defensive side behind the action in team work.

--Cutler threw to Meredith on the sideline on a couple throws in a row. On the first Ryan had a nice pass defense on the sideline. On the next the wide receiver made a nice sideline grab in which he was pushed out of bounds into the Patriots sideline. When he came back on the field he made a point to place the ball ahead of the first down marker.

--Hoyer threw a bad interception right into the chest of Grugier-Hill in the middle of the field.

--LeBlanc and E.J. Biggers each had pass defenses for the defense late in practice.

--Belichick and Fox were having a long conversation during the field goal work before the Patriots coach left to attend to the Bennett issue on the side field.

--Interesting that both Derby and Gaffney took "opportunity" reps late in practice after getting very early reps on offense with some of their more established teammates throughout the session.

--Brissett hit Devin Lucien for a touchdown crossing the back of the end zone in "opportunity" work.

--All the players on both teams did conditioning work after practice. While most of the players did sprints on The Hill on the far corner of the field, the New England defense took reps pushing the 7-man sled down the field.

--Players talking to the media after practice included Long, Garoppolo, James Develin, Matthew Slater and others.

--The Patriots and Bears will return to the practice field Tuesday morning at 10 a.m. for a session that's open to the public.

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