RENTON – The Seahawks like to talk about how competitive their practices are. That got taken to a different level during Wednesday’s minicamp, when a fight broke out between cornerback Richard Sherman and receiver Phil Bates.
The stage for the fight was set when receivers took exception at safety Earl Thomas going to the ground with receiver Bryan Walters along the sideline after Walters made a catch the play before.
Walters stayed down and eventually had his arm in a sling as he walked off the field.
That led to jawing between the receivers and the secondary, particularly between receiver Doug Baldwin and Sherman. On the next play, Bates and Sherman locked up while Bates was blocking Sherman down the field. Bates’ helmet eventually came off and punches were thrown as teammates rushed in to break it up.
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“Guys here are different,” Thomas said. “We’re never satisfied. We’re always trying to prove who we are, and it always gets heated like this. And you love it because the whole competition of everybody is raised.”
He added, “We’re all so competitive, if you press one wrong button, everybody will clear the benches.”
The tension didn’t end there. Baldwin and receiver Percy Harvin, who stopped practicing a few plays before the fight, kept yelling at Sherman and Thomas as practice resumed.
The Seahawks had a team meeting in the middle of the field before returning to practice. Coach Pete Carroll didn’t talk to the media, as was planned before practice.
“It was just to keep focused,” linebacker Bobby Wagner said. “We let little things get out of hand a little bit, but it was just to remain focused and understand why we’re out here. We’re out here to get better. We did that. I feel like we got better.”
Later in the practice, Sherman picked off Russell Wilson deep down the sideline. He ran the ball back down the field and flipped it underhand to Wilson while yelling at him. An offensive player then tossed the ball at Sherman’s head as the two sides kept yelling.
By the end of practice, most of the players involved in the fight had talked to each other and were joking, and Bates and Sherman patted each other on the head. Harvin came over and spent the last part of practice standing along the sideline with the defensive backs.
“Really they are such a tight group of guys that they don’t want to give an inch sometimes, both offensively and defensively,” defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said. “Most good teams are close and tight where they can practice like that. They were just having fun.”
Said cornerback Byron Maxwell, “That’s a beautiful thing right there, man. That’s just fun. That’s just us playing ball right there. Sometimes it goes and it gets physical, but we’re all brothers. We understand it’s just like that for that moment. It’s not really like that.”
Carpenter feeling fitter, better
One player who has solidified his role heading into the summer is fourth-year offensive lineman James Carpenter, starting at left guard. Carpenter rotated at that spot last season with Paul McQuistan, who signed as a free agent with the Browns. Carpenter has been with the number one unit throughout OTAs and minicamp, drawing raves from coaches for his conditioning.
Carpenter said he’s down to 327 pounds after playing at more than 340 last season when he was coming off offseason knee surgery. Healthy when last season ended, Carpenter said he was able to immediately begin a running program, which allowed him to lose weight and stay in shape.
“I’m feeling a lot better,’’ he said. “This is my first offseason where I could run.’’
This is a big year for Carpenter, the team’s first-round pick out of Alabama in 2011. Seattle could have exercised an option to secure Carpenter for the 2015 season for more than $7 million. Instead, he can now be a free agent after this season, though the Seahawks could still extend his deal at any time.
Carpenter, though, said he was not bothered the Seahawks did not pick up his option. “I kind of figured that because I’ve been hurt a lot,’’ he said. “I kind of understood why they did it.’’
• Seattle will hold one last minicamp practice Thursday and then take an extended break until training camp begins in late July.
Jayson Jenks: 206-464-8277 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Staff reporter Bob Condotta contributed to this article.