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July 31, 2013

Patriots feature varied group of running backs

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Practice was ending for the Patriots when running back Stevan Ridley got into a shoving match with cornerback Kyle Arrington.

“It’s camp, man, it’s camp,” New England’s top rusher said. “We’re competitive out here.”

Arrington knocked Ridley to the ground following a pass completion on the final play of Tuesday’s session, the fifth straight day of training camp practice. Then came the shoves, a minor incident lasting just seconds.

“At this point of camp, we’re tired of going up against the same guys every day,” Arrington said. “Tempers flare, but it stays on the field.”

The Patriots practice for two days in Philadelphia next week before Friday night’s exhibition opener against the Eagles.

It will be New England’s first chance to see how its group of young running backs does in game action. Ridley and Shane Vereen are entering their third pro seasons, while LaGarrette Blount, obtained in April in a trade with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, heads into his fourth.

“This running back group is very young,” said Ridley, who rushed for 1,263 yards and 12 touchdowns last season. “It’s a bunch of different style runners ... but I think that we have pretty much every runner that we need. We have receivers out of the backfield. We have power runners. We have slashers.

“We’re going to work as one unit and we’re going to get it done, however we have to get it done, on the ground.”

The Patriots may rely more on the rushing game this year after their massive turnover in receiving personnel.

Six of their 12 wide receivers are rookies. Their top two from last year — Wes Welker with 118 catches and Brandon Lloyd with 74 — are gone. Julian Edelman was third among the wide receivers with 21 catches but could start the season on the physically unable to perform list, requiring him to miss the first six games.

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