10 NFL Veterans Who Could Be Fighting in Their Last Training Camp Battles
Every year as NFL training camps approach, the harsh reality of the league is that there are a plethora of veterans fighting one last battle before being overtaken by younger talent.
The 2012 NFL training camp period is no different in this regard. Veterans are being phased out of all 32 rosters by younger players who have more upside and talent. Losing a final training camp battle is a sign for veterans to hang up the cleats and move on to life after football.
While some veterans will quietly fade into retirement after losing a training camp battle this offseason, there are some big names that could suffer the same fate, albeit in front of a much bigger audience.
Here are 10 NFL veterans who could be fighting in their last training camp battles.
Rashean Mathis, Cornerback, Jacksonville Jaguars
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Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Rashean Mathis is entering the final stages of his recovery after suffering an ACL injury a year ago. He is now entering a battle for playing time with Aaron Ross while Derek Cox is all but guaranteed the other starting spot.
At 31 years old and coming off a devastating injury, it is not unreasonable to assume Mathis could lose his battle for playing time. Mathis has been a foundation of the Jaguars' defense for the past nine seasons, but his time is running out.
Should Mathis lose and be stuck playing the nickel corner position, this could very well be his last training camp battle in the NFL.
Matt Hasselbeck, Quarterback, Tennessee Titans
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The Tennessee Titans have two players vying for the starting quarterback gig at training camp this offseason. The veteran, Matt Hasselbeck, is going against the promising youngster, Jake Locker.
Unfortunately for Hasselbeck, should he lose this battle it is likely the last one he participates in as an NFL quarterback. He is 36 years old, and his days as a starting quarterback are numbered as it is, thanks to his age.
This is not to say Hasselbeck will have to retire right away, but he certainly will not be in a training camp battle for a starting position ever again after this year.
David Garrard, Quarterback, Miami Dolphins
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After missing an entire season of football, Miami Dolphins quarterback David Garrard is back, and according to Darin Gantt of Pro Football Talk, he was taking first-team reps at OTAs recently, which is a good sign for the veteran heading into training camp.
Garrard's competition is last year's starter, Matt Moore, and the surprise No. 8 overall selection in the 2012 NFL draft, Ryan Tannehill.
Moore is, for lack of better words, more than capable of winning the battle. So is Tannehill, if the organization is truly in love with his upside and wants to get him as much starting experience as possible.
If Garrard ends up losing out on the starting gig, it is a safe bet he will not have another golden opportunity such as this one ever again.
Donald Driver, Wide Receiver, Green Bay Packers
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For the past 13 seasons, Donald Driver has called Lambeau Field home as a wide receiver for the Green Bay Packers. He was recently re-signed by the team despite being 37 years old.
Driver will see less playing time as younger talent begins to take over the position, but he certainly still has something to offer on the field. He will enter camp battling with other receivers for game action.
Driver refined the wide receiver position over the course of his NFL career, which is slowly coming to an end. This is likely the last offseason battle Driver will encounter.
Tarvaris Jackson, Quarterback, Seattle Seahawks
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Six seasons into his NFL career, quarterback Tarvaris Jackson has proven to be nothing more than an adequate backup at the position.
This led the Seattle Seahawks to bring in free agent Matt Flynn and rookie Russell Wilson to provide competition for Jackson. The three-way battle will likely end up with anyone but Jackson being the starter.
Jackson is only 29 years old, but he has had more than his share of fair chances to win and keep a starting NFL gig. He might make the final roster this season, but he will be nothing more than a backup, which could be where he stays for the remainder of his career.
Lofa Tatupu, Linebacker, Atlanta Falcons
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Atlanta Falcons middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu missed all of last season thanks to injuries, but he now has a shot at a starting position again courtesy of a two-year deal with the Falcons this offseason.
Tatupu has never been overly impressive as a starter, but accumulated a few solid seasons with the Seattle Seahawks before dropping off the map entirely. He now enters Falcons training camp with his job on the line against the up-and-coming Akeem Dent.
Overcoming injuries and having a chance to start is a nice story for Tatupu, but should he lose the battle, it is likely going to be his last. He is going on 30 years old and could be better suited as a backup in the NFL at this point.
Deion Branch, Wide Receiver, New England Patriots
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Deion Branch is heading into what will be an emotional training camp with the New England Patriots this year. Six of his total 11 seasons in the NFL have been with the Patriots, but now he is on the outside looking in when it comes to playing time.
Branch is slowly being brushed aside by players like Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd and Jabar Gaffney. He is now in a head-to-head battle with Donte' Stallworth for a roster spot.
Regardless of whether Branch wins the spot or not, this is his last training camp battle of any relevancy. His skills are declining along with his age (32) as his career wraps up.
Randy Moss, Wide Receiver, San Francisco 49ers
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Despite being 35 years old, playing for three different teams in 2010 and missing the entire 2011 season, the San Francisco 49ers are gushing about the veteran wideout.
Moss is likely high on the depth chart as of now, but he has a lot of competition to fight off when training camp rolls around. Michael Crabtree, Mario Manningham, Ted Ginn, A.J. Jenkins and Kyle Williams will all have something to say about the veteran starting next season.
Moss looks good now playing in shorts, but it will be a different story when training camp hits. He has the ability to be a contributor next season, but his time fighting battles is about up.
Bart Scott, Linebacker, New York Jets
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Bart Scott was once one of the most ferocious middle linebackers in all of football, but now he is lucky to have a contributing role with the New York Jets at all next season.
Scott's skills have declined to the point where the Jets were trying to trade him this offseason, according to Rich Cimini of ESPNNewYork.com. So that does not bode well for him heading into training camp.
Scott is 31 years old and his skills are rapidly in decline. It is clear the Jets were comfortable moving on this offseason, so his days of competing for a starting role are numbered.
Chad Ochocinco, Wide Receiver, Miami Dolphins
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According to the Sun-Sentinel, Chad Ochocinco claims he wants to play until he is 40 years old, which means he would have to play another six seasons at a high level. That isn't happening.
Ocho is a receiver who caught only 15 passes last year in as many games for 276 yards and one touchdown. His quarterback threw for over 5,200 yards, 39 touchdowns and had a 105.6 rating when the season concluded.
Something isn't right about that picture.
Ocho failed to learn the playbook in New England, and most certainly does not have a Tom Brady throwing him passes. He is fighting for playing time right now, but the Miami Dolphins will be the last team to make the mistake of bringing him in to play football.