NFL Training Camps 2014: Updates, Rumors and Analysis for July 23
The floodgates have officially opened.
On Wednesday, veterans from no fewer than 11 NFL teams will report to training camps from Foxborough, Massachusetts, to San Diego, California.
Whether it's the Dallas Cowboys trying shake their mantle of mediocrity or the San Francisco 49ers preparing to try to knock their rivals in Seattle down a peg, there are individual and team storylines galore.
With that said, here's a look at the latest updates regarding some of them.
Pat Bowlen Relinquishes Control of the Denver Broncos
We'll kick things off with some sad news from the Mile High City.
When the Denver Broncos began camp on Wednesday, it was without the man who has guided arguably the most successful three-decade stretch in NFL history at the helm.
As Ken Belson of The New York Times reports, Broncos owner Pat Bowlen has ceded control of the team to team president Joe Ellis while he continues to battle Alzheimer's disease.
The team issued a statement, via The Denver Post:
The Broncos are very saddened that Mr. Bowlen is no longer able to be part of the team's daily operations due to his condition. We continue to offer our full support, compassion and respect to 'Mr. B,' who has faced Alzheimer's disease with such dignity and strength.
Since Bowlen purchased the team in 1984, the Broncos have made it to six Super Bowls, winning two.
It's the most appearances by any team in the NFL over that stretch.
The news hit the best player in team history especially hard, according to Kevin Patra of NFL.com:
"What a sad day it is around here," John Elway said rawly. "This place will never be the same. I can say at least from the inside out, it will never be the same.
"It's going to be very hard to not see him walk through those front door every day," Elway said breaking up. "He's given me so much, as a player, to be able to play for him...now having worked for him for three years he's given us every opportunity, every resource that he has to be able to put the best football team on the football field and compete for world championships and that is what Pat's all about."
Our thoughts and prayers are with Bowlen and his family, and we wish him nothing but the best in his fight against Alzheimer's.
Contract Crisis Averted in Kansas City
As the Kansas City Chiefs try to build on last year's surprising 11-win season and playoff appearance, there appeared to be trouble afoot.
It just didn't come from the foot that many expected.
With outside linebacker Justin Houston coming off a career year and entering the final year of his contract, there was more than a little speculation in recent weeks that the 25-year-old would hold out after skipping minicamp.
However, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, that isn't the case:
Unfortunately, where star running back Jamaal Charles was concerned it's another story:
Breaking #Chiefs news. KCTV5's Brad Fanning reports Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles is not reporting to training camp.. holding out for $
The 27-year-old Charles, who has topped 1,700 total yards in each of the past two seasons, was set to make just under $4 million in 2014. That may not sound like chicken feed, but consider this snippet:
Jamaal Charles is scheduled to earn $3.9M this year, less than 13 other NFL RBs & about 1/3 of what Adrian Peterson ($12M) will make.
The Chiefs apparently considered both it and Charles' value to the team, because his "holdout" had to be the shortest in recent memory.
Jamaal Charles made as much as any RB not named Adrian Peterson over the last 5 years. Now will make $8.3M this year instead of $3.9M
It’s a 2-year extension for #Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles worth $18.1M in new money, source says. Extra $5M over the next 2 years. Top 5 RB $$$
Well, that didn't take long.
Sidney Rice Retires
The Super Bowl champion Seahawks don't open camp until Thursday, but when they do, Seattle will be one player short at wide receiver.
As Clare Farnsworth of the Seahawks' website reports, Sidney Rice surprisingly announced his retirement from the NFL on Wednesday:
I was just thinking about things I've been through in the last few years. I've hit the ground a number of times. I have quite a few injuries. It's something I've always battled through and came back from. But I just figure at this point I have the rest of my life ahead of me and I want to be able to function and do things later down the road.
The 27-year-old Rice exploded for over 1,300 receiving yards back in 2009 with the Minnesota Vikings, parlaying that big year into a fat free-agent deal with the Seahawks.
However, Rice was never able to live up to that contract. Rice played in all 16 games only once in his four years in Seattle; he missed 25 games over that span and never topped 750 receiving yards in a season.
Von Miller Cleared for Limited Contact
The 2013 season went well for the Denver Broncos, but for outside linebacker Von Miller, it was a mess.
The season began with a six-game suspension and ended with a torn ACL in Week 16. As the Broncos prepare to the defend their AFC title, there's been some good news in regard to the latter.
As Lindsay Jones of USA Today reports, Miller has been medically cleared to practice, meaning that the 25-year-old will not begin camp on the physically unable to perform list.
It's good news for the Broncos, but Mike Klis of The Denver Post cautioned that enthusiasm should be tempered where Miller is concerned:
Von Miller wont have contact until third preseason game at earliest.
With that said, though, the odds of both Miller and free-agent acquisition DeMarcus Ware being on the field when the Broncos open the season against the Indianapolis Colts appear to be increasing.
Much to Andrew Luck's chagrin.
Browns Sign 1st-Round Pick Justin Gilbert
And then there was one.
As John Breech of CBS Sports reports, the Cleveland Browns have agreed to terms with cornerback Justin Gilbert on a four-year rookie contract (with a fifth-year team option) that includes about $13 million in guaranteed money.
Gilbert, whom the Browns selected with the eighth overall pick in May's NFL draft, was at an impasse with the team over so-called offset language.
Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk translates to English:
It's a simple concept. The contracts at the top of the draft are fully guaranteed. With offset language, a team that cuts a player taken at the top of the draft within the four years of his contract receives a dollar-for-dollar credit if/when he lands with a new team. With no offset language, the player gets to double dip, keeping the money he gets under his rookie contract and pocketing whatever he makes elsewhere.
Now, with the matter resolved and Gilbert set to join his new teammates for training camp in Berea, Ohio, Cleveland general manager Ray Farmer told Breech he's excited about his new secondary:
Joe Haden, Justin Gilbert, (free agent addition) Donte Whitner -- I'm getting excited. I probably shouldn't go there. We're excited about having corners that we think can go out, play press, get after people and give us a chance to turn the ball over. We've improved our defense.
Now if they could only get one of those cornerbacks to play wide receiver.
Mike Pouncey Could Miss Half of 2014 Season
In 2013, the Miami Dolphins had the worst offensive line in the NFL, allowing a staggering 58 sacks.
The Dolphins took big steps to address that line in both free agency and in the 2014 NFL draft, but just when it appeared things were turning the corner, center Mike Pouncey suffered a hip injury that required surgery.
Now, it appears that things may be even worse than originally imagined.
That's the latest from Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald, who passes along word that Pouncey's original recovery timetable may have been overly optimistic:
When Dolphins center Mike Pouncey went in for surgery to repair a torn labrum in his hip, the best-case scenario for getting him back on the field was three months. In other words, he was likely to miss all the games in September.
Well, a source familiar with the center's surgery and recovery says it's more likely he will miss four months (from the time of surgery June 23). That would carry the rehab process through September and into late October.
"Eight weeks is probably what we're looking at," the source said today.
Given that Pouncey was easily the Dolphins' best offensive lineman in 2013 and that the Dolphins will now be starting five new linemen in Week 1 as opposed to last year, this news is not good at all.
Vernon Davis Reports
Coming off a career-high 13 touchdown catches in 2013, San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis made it clear his was displeased with his current contract.
So much so, in fact, that Davis skipped the team's offseason program, forfeiting nearly $300,000 in bonuses in the process.
In light of Jimmy Graham's four-year, $40 million contract extension with the New Orleans Saints, there was some speculation Davis' absence would extend into training camp.
Well, 49ers fans can rest easy, according to Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area:
Vernon Davis has reported to #49ers training camp, as pictures on C.J. Spillman's Instagram account confirm.
The 30-year-old Davis is set to make $4.7 million this year off the front-loaded contract extension he signed back in 2010, per Spotrac.com.
Reggie Wayne Cleared to Practice
The Indianapolis Colts have been pegged by many as a legitimate Super Bowl contender in Andrew Luck's third NFL season.
However, if Luck is going to lead the Colts past the likes of the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos and on to Glendale, Arizona, and Super Bowl XLIX, he'll need his full complement of options in the passing game.
According to Kevin Bowen of the team's website, things are trending in that direction:
Reggie Wayne says he has been cleared. Just like Vick Ballard said earlier today.
The 35-year-old Wayne had 1,355 receiving yards in his first season with Luck in 2012, but a torn ACL against the Denver Broncos last year ended Wayne's season before the midway point.
Reports regarding Wayne's rehab have been universally positive throughout the spring and into the summer, and the 13-year veteran confirmed to Mike Wells of ESPN.com that he's all systems go for training camp.
"I've been cleared, yes I have, I'm ready to go," Wayne said. "Hopefully if things stay the course, I'll be out there [Thursday for the first day of training camp practice]."
"JohnnyWatch 2014": Training Camp Edition Gets Underway
We'll wrap up Wednesday's look around the league with the first of what will likely be approximately 9,317 training camp updates regarding Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel.
Manziel and the other Browns' rookies reported to camp on Wednesday, but when the veterans report on Friday, it will be Brian Hoyer (and not Manziel) who will open camp as the starter.
According to Tom Withers of The Associated Press, head coach Mike Pettine indicated that if Manziel has any chance of unseating Hoyer, it's going to take more time in the film room and less time at the craps table:
Pettine on Manziel: "I think he knows that in order for him to compete well, he's going to have to probably be more dedicated than ever."
However, Pettine also told Pat McManamon of ESPN.com that he thinks the whole "Manziel is in place A doing thing B" stories have been blown wildly out of proportion:
It's something that was a hot topic for the offseason just because of who he is. It's a very unique thing. I don't think he can get a handle on the why. Is his behavior that much different from the average NFL player? ...
I just think to overreact to stuff that's occurred before he's even taken a snap in training camp, we weren't going to do that. And it's been such a small sample of him being here. While he's been here, he's been great.
He's been very humble. He's been great in the meeting rooms. Worked hard. Worked hard in the weight room; one of the best guys in the weight room. Asked the right questions. I think he's ahead of the learning curve. We always say, if we see it start to affect his job, then I think there would be much more of a cause for concern.
Fans in Cleveland may want to pull up a comfortable seat, because "JohnnyWatch 2014" is sure to be the dominant storyline of the Browns' time in Berea.