The pads are on, whistles are blowing, and preseason football is less than two weeks away from beginning. My friends, the start of the NFL is just over the horizon.
While preseason games start next month, there is still much to be decided around the league with position battles, injuries and suspensions leaving rosters in flux.
Recent rumors about some of the biggest stars in the league might completely change the outlook of this season. Whether it's Josh Gordon looking to appeal his suspension or Mike Pouncey possibly missing half of the season, multiple teams are awaiting the latest news.
As training camp battles still rage on prior to the preseason, here's a look at the latest buzz from around the league.
Josh Gordon Plans to Appeal Suspension in August
On the heels of a breakout season last year with the Cleveland Browns, Gordon is facing a yearlong suspension for a failed drug test during the offseason. Apparently, the receiver is now planning to appeal that suspension.
Adam Schefter of ESPN provides the latest on the fallen receiver, per an ESPN.com report:
Cleveland Browns star wide receiver Josh Gordon will appeal his one-year suspension in a meeting with NFL officials on Aug. 1, a league source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.
Gordon, who is facing a yearlong ban after a failed drug test earlier this offseason, will file the appeal in New York, the source told Schefter.
Last season Gordon collected 87 catches for 1,646 yards and nine touchdowns in 14 games. His explosive athleticism and consistency were bright spots during an otherwise horrid season for the Browns.
Mike Pettine, the Browns' first-year coach, also addressed the ongoing situation, via ESPN:
It is concerning and you want to address it, but until we know where he stands with the league we don't know really where he stands with us. I've stated before that we've had the meetings, we've discussed all the options, from the best case to the worst case. And we're still in that mode of waiting.
Of course, the Browns would love to have Gordon back on the field to help the offense, but nothing is certain for now. Pettine said he plans to give Gordon some reps in training camp but is unsure if he'll be on the field during the regular season.
There is the potential that the pending suspension might be reduced, which would give Gordon some optimism about the future. With Pettine also noting he won't cut the troublesome star, the coach has proved he won't give up on Gordon.
As the Browns usher in a new era with Pettine, Ben Tate and a quarterback battle between Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel, having a dynamic receiver like Gordon would make the transition easier. It remains to be seen what will happen with the appeal, but Cleveland can continue to hold out hope for now.
Dolphins Might Be Without Mike Pouncey for Half of 2014 Season
A trying situation on the Dolphins offensive line is looking more daunting.
On June 23, Pouncey underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his hip and was expected to miss three months. Now, the timetable has reportedly been extended, as Armando Salquero of the Miami Herald notes:
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.
Salguero goes on to point out that the Dolphins will play seven contests in the first eight weeks of the season. If that's the case, the struggling O-line from last season might be without its most consistent player for that length of time.
All of this comes just a year after Miami's biggest weakness was in the trenches. The Dolphins led the NFL with 58 sacks allowed, eight more than the porous Jacksonville Jaguars line. Miami attempted to address that by adding Ja'Wuan James in the 2014 NFL draft, but the team still has issues in the blocking game.
The line's improvement is especially prominent because of the offense that it's protecting, with Ryan Tannehill emerging last season, Knowshon Moreno being added and the wide receiver duo of Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline being expected to excel.
As for replacements on the line, the next player up is Sam Brenner, who has a total of four starts in his career. James Walker of ESPN.com also believes the versatile Nate Garner has a chance to fill in at center as he did at times last season.
With training camp kicking off on Friday, there will be plenty of questions about the position. If Pouncey isn't able to return until midway through the season, this might be a rough start for the offensive line.
Vikings QB Battle Heating Up
Several rookie quarterbacks are looking to take over to start the season, but one might already be down on the depth chart.
Teddy Bridgewater, who was taken with the last pick in the first round by the Minnesota Vikings, is hoping to start right away with the team. But as Tom Pelissero of USA Today notes, the job might be Matt Cassel's to lose:
Cassel, a 10th-year veteran with 68 NFL starts, is the heavy favorite to start entering camp after re-signing on a two-year, $10.5 million contract in March. But Bridgewater, the final first-round pick (32nd overall) of May's draft, got some first-team reps during offseason practices and acquitted himself well.
The last part of that is encouraging for Bridgewater, but it appears Cassel has the job for now.
While Cassel was far from perfect during his time as the Vikings starter last year, he put up decent numbers. During his nine games on the field, he compiled 1,807 passing yards with 11 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
Let's also not forget that Christian Ponder is working to secure the position as well, but he also appears to be back on the depth chart.
Bridgewater might not be the favorite for now, but one of his coaches believes he has the talent to be an NFL quarterback. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner spoke about Bridgewater, per Chris Wesseling of NFL.com. "I think he probably should've gone in the first 10 picks," Turner said. "He probably should've gone at least in the first half of the first round, and then we're sitting there with an opportunity to get him when we did, it was a bonus to me."
Whoever takes the position, he will have a plethora of weapons to utilize. Adrian Peterson is still in the backfield, with Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson at receiver and Kyle Rudolph at tight end, making this a potentially dynamic offense.
All the Vikings need is the right quarterback behind center. Though Cassel apparently holds the cards for now, expect Bridgewater to turn this into a true battle during the preseason and continue pressing throughout the regular season.
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