About five minutes into their second joint practice session Thursday, three skirmishes already had broken out between Green Bay’s offense and New England’s defense. The coaching staffs gathered the teams in separate circles at one point to try to calm things down.
“We’re competitive,” Patriots defensive back Jalen Mills said. “They’re competitive. It’s going to get chippy. It’s a joint practice. Guys out here trying to win jobs and show what they’ve got to the coaching staff. You know that. Coaches know that. That’s why (Patriots coach) Bill (Belichick) is who he is. He brought us together, calmed us down and we got back to work.”
First, a couple of more fights broke out.
One scuffle caused Patriots linebacker Anfernee Jennings and Packers linebacker Keshawn Banks to get removed from practice. Another confrontation resulted in someone tossing the helmet of Packers linebacker Isaiah McDuffie.
This represented a major contrast from Wednesday’s joint practice, which had no major incidents. Packers cornerback Rasul Douglas was asked whether perhaps it’s better for two teams to have just one joint practice to avoid the risk of multiple fights the second day.
“It could be two as long as the rules are the rules and everybody’s on the same page,” Douglas said. “But one team can’t be on something and the other team can’t be on something else. We’re not no pushovers.”
The incident that led to the two ejections came on a punt drill. Jennings delivered a vicious hit on Banks that resulted in Jennings' removal. Banks also was taken out of practice after he revealed to Packers coach Matt LaFleur that he’d taken a swing at someone.
“Matt came up to me and said, ‘Did you throw a punch?’" Banks said. “And I’m just an honest, truthful person. That’s the way I was raised. And I said, ‘Yes sir.’ Sure enough, I left practice shortly after.”
Although the scuffles started virtually as soon as the two teams were on the same field, Patriots linebacker Matthew Judon said he didn’t know beforehand this practice would have so much pushing and shoving.
“We don’t put gloves on for a living,” Judon said. “We’re no boxers. We’re no fighters. We came out here to get better and improve in our craft.
“If any of that would’ve happened during a game, we all would’ve been kicked out. We’d been playing with like 17 players. That stuff can’t happen. You’ve got to be a professional about it.”
The two teams will be seeing each other one more time this week. The Packers host the Patriots in a preseason game Saturday night.
DOUBLING UP ON JOINT PRACTICES
The Packers and Patriots both are having joint practices against multiple opponents this preseason. The Packers had one practice with the Cincinnati Bengals last week. The Patriots will have joint practices with the Tennessee Titans on Tuesday and Wednesday in Nashville.
LaFleur said before Wednesday’s practice that he “most likely” would pursue joint practices against two different opponents again next year.
“I just think there’s so much to get out of it, especially when you’re going against people that you know or respect how they go about their business and how they run their operation,” LaFleur said.
SEEKING HELP FOR HAWAII
Patriots linebacker Jahlani Tavai, who played collegiately at Hawaii, has set up a list of sites on his Instagram account to help fans contribute to those impacted by the wildfires in Maui that have killed more than 100 people.
"They show nothing but love and gratitude for anyone who visits,” Tavai said. “I just ask that somebody just returns that aloha. They’re doing their best to survive.”
Tavai said several teammates gave him clothes that he sent to Hawaii. He singled out defensive lineman Deatrich Wise Jr. for being the first player to ask how he could help.
“There’s going to be a lot of Patriot gear out there in Hawaii hopefully soon,” Tavai said.
CHREST’S BIG MOMENT
While the Patriots generally got the better of things Thursday, Packers wide receiver Cody Chrest delivered one of the day's biggest plays by catching a touchdown pass off a deflection in a two-minute drill.
Chrest is a 25-year-old rookie seeking to earn a roster spot after dealing with a serious knee injury during a seven-year college career at Harvard and Sam Houston State.
Although he's from a family of Packers shareholders, Chrest has never watched a game at Lambeau Field before. He’ll get a chance to play there Saturday with plenty of relatives watching from the stands.
“So many people, if they were in my position, they probably would’ve given up,” Chrest said. “They probably would’ve thought it was a far-fetched goal. That’s just part of my conviction, where I really believe in myself. I really believe I belong here and I really trust my talents.”
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