Speros: Big bucks the likely fisticuffs motivator

August 2, 2017

In the original “Independence Day,” Will Smith’s character cold-cocked an alien after a supersonic, high-speed air chase and subsequent crash.

“Welcome to Earth,” Smith’s character deadpanned.

Well, “Welcome to New England, Stephon Gilmore.”

The former Buffalo Bill got his unofficial Patriots greeting from wide receiver Julian Edelman on the practice field in Foxboro yesterday. The two were matched up in an 11-on-11 drill in the red zone. QB Jacoby Brissett threw an incomplete pass.

Then things got hot. The ever-fervent Edelman did not appreciate Gilmore’s hands-on approach to defense. He yanked Gilmore down to the ground and a scuffle ensued. It lasted all of 15 seconds. By the time the two teammates were separated by players and coaches, both helmets were off and the 2017 season was definitely on.

Gilmore, a 6-1, 190-pound cornerback, carries a reputation for speed and physical play. Edelman, 5-10, 198 pounds, carries a reputation for fearlessness bordering on insanity.

Ah, men will be men.

Edelman and Gilmore were summarily and immediately ejected from practice as Bill Belichick enforced his “you fight, you gone, no excuses, do your job” policy. By the way, Belichick has VII rings.

Meanwhile, the pusillanimous David Price is bragging about how he’s responsible for Dennis Eckersley tamping down his on-air criticism of the Red Sox after the team ambushed the Hall of Famer on a team flight.

Players coming to blows — or whatever this was — during NFL training camp is as old as concussions and the three-point stance. Normally, this is no big deal.

But these are the Patriots. Everything is a big deal with this team. Even LaVar Ball can’t ignore the Patriots. The NBA dad/publicity parasite said yesterday he was a better tight end than Rob Gronkowski “back in my heyday.”

Back on Earth, there is plenty of room for speculation as to why Edelman opted to take a swing or two at Gilmore. It probably had little to do with this particular drill.

For the record, we will mention race. By the time you read this, ESPN and half the internet will have likely spun this into a re-enactment of Boston’s mid-1970s busing crisis. Race had zero to do to with this. You know it. I know it. Edelman knows it. Gilmore knows it.

Gilmore signed a five-year, $65 million deal with the Patriots. Now, we’re on to something. That deal flew in direct contradiction to The (so-called) Patriot Way. The Patriot Way here means playing for less-than-market value, winning a Super Bowl or two, and then following the exit signs out of Foxboro when it’s time to earn the big bucks.

Not with Gilmore. The Patriots brought him in from division rival/doormat Buffalo. They gave him a 5-year, $65 million deal with $40 million guaranteed. Gilmore’s getting $23 million of that this year.

The Patriots, meanwhile, left Malcolm “He won you Super Bowl XLIX” Butler hanging in the lurch financially. Butler eventually signed a first-round tender with New England and will make $3.91 million. Edelman, meanwhile, signed a 2-year, $11 million deal. Math tells us that Edelman and Butler, four Super Bowl rings combined for New England, together will make less than half of what Gilmore will earn this year.

Combine those numbers with loyalty to an existing teammate, financial envy, the intensity of practice and the testosterone generated on the practice field — and you get what happened yesterday.

“It’s football, it never carries over to the locker room. We understand we’re out here to get better and those two guys will come back out here tomorrow and compete at a high level again,” cornerback and co-captain Devin McCourty said after the skirmish.

In other words, we’re on to Wednesday.

Bill Speros (aka Obnoxious Boston Fan) tweets @RealOBF and can be reached at bsperos1@gmail.com.