12 Top Rumors Swirling Around NFL Training Camps

Vincent Frank@VincentFrankNFLCorrespondent IJuly 30, 2012

12 Top Rumors Swirling Around NFL Training Camps

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    Training camps around the National Football League are filled with press clippings that seem to make no impact once the regular season starts in September.

    We will hear about the certain standout player on a team and how he is going to make waves come preseason. Then, in an instant, that unnamed player is quickly forgotten about when he goes up against actual competition in games.

    This story has been repeated over and over again.

    By no means am I saying that all news coming out of training camp isn't newsworthy. That couldn't be further from the truth.

    Mike Wallace and Maurice Jones-Drew are currently in contract stalemates with their current teams. Andre Johnson seems to have been hit with the injury plague again, and Eric Decker seems to have found a new bestie in the form of Peyton Manning.

    This article is going to focus on the 12 rumors swirling around NFL training camps as they start to get going at full speed.

Josh Gordon Could Start for the Cleveland Browns at Wide Receiver

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    This could be a sign that Josh Gordon is ready to make an immediate impact after being selected in the second round of the 2012 NFL Supplemental Draft earlier this month by the Cleveland Browns.

    The talented young Baylor product seems to possess first-round skills, but a handful of off-field issues forced him to enter this the NFL early.

    It could also be a sign that the Cleveland Browns are just without the talent necessary to succeed at the wide receiver position.

    I will go with a combination of the two.

    Browns wide receiver coach Mike Wilson had the following to say about the rookie wide receiver (h/t ESPN Cleveland).

    I’ve been down this road before... I coached Tim Brown with the Raiders. I had Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin in Arizona three years. I played with Jerry Rice. Talent is talent. He has unlimited potential. It will come out in due time. He’s not going to master it in one day.

    While I highly doubt Wilson was comparing the rookie receiver to those four impact players, it has become clear that Cleveland values the talent that Gordon brings to the table, even as an inexperienced rookie.

    In short, there is a possibility that Gordon starts opposite another youngster, Greg Little, at wide receiver in 2012.

    Gordon would join Brandon Weeden and Trent Richardson as rookie starters along a revamped offense that struggled through a disastrous 2011 season.

Doug Martin Looks Like He Is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Starter

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    Who didn't see this coming? Doug Martin, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' first-round pick in April, is apparently one of the brightest stars of their camp so far.

    The following from The Pewter Report indicates as much.

    Doug Martin continues his apparent march up the depth chart, taking most of the first team reps on both running and passing plays. LeGarrette Blount was used sparingly and there was no indication of any injury that may have prevented him from participating. No one is revealing a early camp depth chart, but it is becoming clear the Buccaneers are liking what Martin brings.

    As one of my favorite offensive players in the draft, this doesn't surprise me in the slightest. First of all, teams don't select a running back in the initial round if they're planning on sitting him on the pine. They definitely don't trade back up into the first round in order to select a player that will be a backup out of the gate.

    With all due respect to LeGarrette Blount, this job appears to be Martin's to lose, and for good reason.

    The Boise State product possesses everything you look for in a star at running back. He is already an above-average blocker, which speaks volumes to his ability to play three downs. Martin has soft hands out of the backfield and can hit the hole as quick as anyone in the league. He has great field vision, can get to the outside in a heartbeat and is pretty damn strong at the point of contact.

    Look for Martin to eclipse 1,500 total yards and double-digit scores as a rookie. Mark that down, take it to the bank and run with it.

Eric Decker Could Be Looking at a Huge Season for the Denver Broncos

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    Peyton Manning has made a career out of helping wide receivers reach their full potential and then some. The success that Pierre Garcon, Austin Collie and Brandon Stokley, among others, have had is a testament to how Manning makes everyone around him better.

    This is why Eric Decker probably couldn't ask for a better situation entering his third NFL season.

    The former third-round pick from Minnesota surprised a great deal of people with a breakout 2011 campaign that saw him accumulate over 600 yards and eight touchdowns.

    Now, Decker is going to have a reliably good passing quarterback under center to get him the ball.

    Needless to say, expectations are high in Denver.

    According to Mike Klis of The Denver Post, Manning and Decker look like they are in regular-season form.

    Too bad for Peyton Manning and Eric Decker the regular season is still six weeks away. The quarterback and receiver are working together like they were ready yesterday. On a one-on-one red zone drill, Manning threw a well-timed back-shoulder pass with zip. Decker was blanketed by rookie corner Omar Bolden but the receiver turned as the ball was at his head, fell back and made a terrific catch as he landed on his backside. Score!

    Okay, I understand it is the early stages of training camp. That being said, it is hard to question what Manning can do on the football field when healthy. Couple that with the fact that Decker produced solid statistics with Tim Tebow at quarterback in 2011, and you have the makings for something special here.

    A 1,000-yard, double-digit touchdown season from Decker definitely isn't out of the realm of possibility in 2012.

Cleveland Browns Fans Can Rejoice: Randy Lerner to Sell Team

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    Randy Lerner gained control of the Cleveland Browns when his father passed away during the 2002 season. What has followed in Cleveland is a smorgasbord of ineptitude within the front office.

    The Browns have had just one winning season since 2002 and are consistently among the worst run teams in the entire National Football League. Over the course of the last decade, Cleveland has finished with five wins or fewer a total of seven times.

    Free agents do not want to join this organization. Some potential draft picks have even come out stating they would rather Cleveland not select them.

    One of the most historic franchises in the league has turned into quite the laughing stock. Their fans—some of the most loyal in the sports world—deserve better.

    Well, they might be getting it sooner rather than later.

    According to various reports, notably this one by the Associated Press, Lerner is currently engaging in talks to sell the Browns to Jimmy Haslem, a self-described Pittsburgh Steelers fan. While this might reek of rotten eggs to some Cleveland sports fans, it is a much better alternative than what we have seen within the Browns front office over the course of the last decade.

    At some point, a franchise just needs to start over and hit the rewind button. For Cleveland, that time might as well start in 2012.

Mark Herzlich Could Get Some Play as Starter for the New York Giants

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    Tom Coughlin had the following to say about the performance of the former Boston College star.

    He's moving well, he's focused and physical.... He doesn't appear to have any issue other than wanting to have more time on the field . . . He's seeing more. He's got a better feel for the ball and how to react and what he's supposed to be doing. He can relate to it.

    That is pretty mighty praise by a coach that is as tough as nails on his players.

    Herzlich will compete with Chase Blackburn for the starting middle linebacker position. Prior to an unfortunate bout with cancer, Herzlich was considered a first-round prospect.

    If Herzlich can regain pre-cancer form, he will be a standout for the Giants, who are definitely looking to upgrade this position in 2012.

Right Guard Looks to Be the Sole Camp Battle for the San Francisco 49ers

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    The San Francisco 49ers recently signed former Dallas Cowboys Pro Bowl guard Leonard Davis to a one-year contract. The massive offensive lineman will compete with talented youngster Alex Boone, who is making the transition from tackle to the interior of the offensive line.

    Also in the mix is 2012 fourth-round pick Joe Looney, who is coming off a serious injury.

    This seems to be the only battle for a starting spot for the defending NFC West champions. San Francisco returns all 11 starters from one of the top-ranked defenses last season. They gave Alex Smith a myriad of different weapons in the passing game.

    That being said, right guard is an extremely important position for the 49ers offense and will go a long way in determining if they improve as a unit this season. Smith was sacked a league-high 44 times in 2011 as Adam Snyder and Chilo Rachal, both free-agent departures, struggled alongside Anthony Davis on the right side of the line.

    The elder Davis is just two years removed from three consecutive Pro Bowl appearances with the Cowboys. It remains to be seen how much the 33-year-old has left in that massive 375-pound frame.

2012 Could Be Wes Welker's Swan Song with the New England Patriots

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    On the surface, it seems that a contract extension between Wes Welker and the New England Patriots is nothing more than a forgone conclusion.

    That is just on the surface. While Welker did report to Patriots camp and is going to play the 2012 season under the franchise tag, it might be his last year with the defending AFC champions.

    Greg Badard of The Boston Globe made a great point in his recent article over the weekend.

    Provided he’s healthy and is around 100 catches, I don’t see how Welker returns. If the Patriots were going to use the tag ($11.4 million) again, they would have saved money by signing him for cheaper money now.

    This makes a whole lot of sense for a myriad of different reasons. The Patriots could have signed Welker to a long-term extension this offseason, which would have spread that guaranteed money out over the course of a few seasons.

    In short, by franchising him next season, New England would be putting themselves in a rough salary cap situation. This is a team that continues to do great things when it comes to the financial aspect of football, and that isn't going to change on a whim in March of 2013.

    Patriots fans should probably be bracing for Welker's final season in New England.

Taking a Look at the Philadelphia Eagles' Depth at Defensive End

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    2010 first-round pick Brandon Graham was said to be "among the most impressive players during Saturday's full contact scrimmage," as this report by David Weinberg of Press of Atlantic City indicates. 

    This is extremely interesting, considering that Graham has been a complete bust in his first two NFL seasons and will be battling with both Darryl Tapp and Phillip Hunt for a roster spot behind Jason Babin, Trent Cole and rookie Vinny Curry.

    The Philadelphia Eagles are stacked in the front four of their defense, so one of these players who misses out on a roster spot should find themselves with a new team relatively quickly.

    Pure conjecture here, but I believe Tapp will be the odd man out, not Graham.

Andre Johnson Just Cannot Stay Healthy

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    It appears that former Pro Bowl receiver Andre Johnson has been struck with the injury bug once more. John McClain of the Houston Chronicle is reporting that Johnson will miss about a week with a "mild groin sprain."

    The Houston Texans would be wise to take it slow, because this type of injury can dog a player throughout the duration of a season. Better to have him sit early in training camp than have this issue come to the forefront once again during the season.

    Johnson missed nine games in 2011 and has seen three of his last five seasons cut short due to injures. The Texans need their No. 1 receiver on the football field all season if they're going to make a run at the AFC Championship.

St. Louis Rams Give Chris Long a Huge Extension

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    While the numbers have not been reported, Jay Glazer over at Fox Sports indicates that Chris Long's extension with the St. Louis Rams is "huge."

    Needless to say, Long will probably make more money in the first year of that contract than his Hall of Fame father, Howie, made throughout his entire NFL career.

    Such is the story with the ridiculous amount of money thrown towards professional athletes these days.

    Is Long worth "huge" money? Of course he is.

    The Rams defensive end recorded a team-high 13 sacks in 2011 and is well on his way to becoming one of the best pure pass-rushers in the National Football League.

Maurice Jones-Drew: A Jaguar in Hibernation

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    The situation between Maurice Jones-Drew and the Jacksonville Jaguars couldn't be more clear-cut. The talented running back wants an extension, but the team is unwilling to even sit down with him.

    Florida Times-Union, Jaguars owner Shad Khan "has no plans for new deal with Maurice Jones-Drew." This pretty much follows a PR pattern by Jacksonville's front office that indicates they're just not interested in sitting down and talking with the reigning NFL rushing champion.

    I do understand the Jaguars stance here. They believe that giving in to one player, who is under contract, could open up the floodgates for other players do demand that their contract is restructured. Jones-Drew signed a $30.9 million extension just over three years ago. Common sense would seem to indicate that he plays out that string and attempts to get one more huge contract following the 2013 season.

    That being said, Jones-Drew does have one huge bargaining chip. He is, by far, the Jaguars' best player on either side of the field. In fact, the Jaguars offense without the Pro Bowl running back would have to be considered one of the worst in the entire National Football League.

    As is the case with most contract disputes, the end result could be money. Jones-Drew could be fined $30,000 for each day of training camp he misses. For those of us who are not mathematicians, that is $630,000 for the first three weeks of camp.

Mike Wallace and the Pittsburgh Steelers Saga

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    This Mike Wallace situation with the Pittsburgh Steelers has gotten extremely interesting. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is reporting that "it would take one big change of heart" for the young receiver to report to Steelers camp within the next three weeks.

    Of course, there is a slim possibility that Wallace sits out the first 10 games of the season and reports only in order to collect his $2.7 million. This report also indicates that Pittsburgh might be willing to trade Wallace during the preseason.

    Ed Werder over at ESPN has indicated that Wallace has not been put on the trade block by Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert.

    That being said, there is a ton of interest in his services. For example, The Miami Herald fully expects the Dolphins to at least make a call in regards to Wallace. Whether that call is actually answered is a completely different story.

    Wallace, who has yet to sign his restricted free agent tender, is said to be looking for Vincent Jackson money. Complicating things further for the talented young receiver is the fact that Pittsburgh signed Antonio Brown to a five-year, $42.5 million contract.

    At this point, it is more likely that the Steelers would trade Wallace than give in to his contract demands. In the end, you can expect the two-time reigning 1,000-yard receiver to report at some point prior to the start of the season.

    Of course, that is all pure conjecture on my part.