NFL Training Camps 2014: Updates, Rumors and Analysis for July 24
The champions have arrived.
Among the 11 NFL teams whose veterans reported to training camp on Thursday were the Seattle Seahawks, who kicked off the defense of their win in Super Bowl XLVIII in Renton, Washington.
With three-quarters of the league's teams in camp, there's sure to be no shortage of news, updates, rumors and musings from across the NFL.
With that in mind, here's a look at Thursday's latest.
Ray Rice Suspended 2 Games
We'll get things rolling with a trip to the NFL offices in New York City.
There are a number of players still waiting to see how long they will be sitting to start the season, but for Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, the waiting is over.
As ESPN reported, the NFL has suspended Rice for the first two games of the 2014 season for violating the league's personal conduct policy. The suspension stems from a March incident in an Atlantic City casino where Rice was videotaped dragging his unconscious fiancee from an elevator.
The 27-year-old released a statement:
It is disappointing that I will not be with my teammates for the first two games of the season, but that's my fault. As I said earlier, I failed in many ways. But, Janay and I have learned from this. We have become better as a couple and as parents. I am better because of everything we have experienced since that night. The counseling has helped tremendously. My goal is to earn back the trust of the people, especially the children, I let down because of this incident. I am a role model and I take that responsibility seriously. My actions going forward will show that.
If Rice thinks he's disappointed, he should check out the reaction of the media and fans (at least those outside Baltimore) to what's viewed by many as a ridiculously lenient ruling.
ESPN's Jane McManus called the suspension a "joke:"
This offseason Rice was reportedly caught on an elevator surveillance camera punching his then-girlfriend in the face. A few minutes later, in a video that went viral, Rice was seen pulling her apparently unconscious body out of the elevator.
And now ... two games? Commissioner Roger Goodell has issued longer suspensions for pot smoking, taking Adderall, DUI, illegal tattoos, dogfighting and eating a protein bar thought to be on the NFL's approved list.
Two games. It's a joke, and a bad one. Worse, it leaves the door open for people to think that Janay Rice bears a lot of the responsibility for eliciting the punch that seemingly knocked her out.
Bleacher Report NFL National Lead Writer Mike Freeman agrees, writing that "This is yet another signal that the NFL doesn't care nearly enough about domestic violence."
Josh Gordon's Appeal Date Set
Next up in our double-standard double feature, Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon.
The 23-year-old Gordon, who led the NFL in receiving yards in 2013, is staring at at least a one-year suspension after failing yet another drug test prior to the 2014 NFL draft.
Now, after months of twisting in the wind, it looks like Gordon will finally get his day in Roger Goodell's kangaroo court.
According to ESPN, Gordon's appeal will be heard in New York in August 1.
Cleveland head coach Mike Pettine recently expressed frustration about how long the situation has dragged on without resolution:
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.
However, odds are the appeal isn't going to go well. Since word broke of Gordon's suspension, he was pulled over in a car where marijuana was found and was arrested for DUI in North Carolina.
Justin Blackmon Arrested
If you want to see the worst-case scenario for Josh Gordon's future you need look no farther than Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Justin Blackmon.
Blackmon, who was suspended indefinitely last November for repeated violations of the NFL's substance abuse policy, was arrested Wednesday night in Oklahoma for possession of marijuana, according to Gary Mihoces of USA Today.
According to Jenny Monroe, public information officer for the Edmond police, after being pulled over for a traffic violation, "He did go ahead and admit that there was marijuana in the vehicle. Mr. Blackmon said he had been smoking a blunt marijuana (marijuana cigar) while he was driving and that there was another full blunt within the car in a box, and that's exactly what our officer's found in the vehicle."
Blackmon, who was the fifth overall pick in the 2012 draft, was already expected to miss the entire 2014 season before potentially applying for reinstatement in 2015.
Now, the odds that Blackmon ever plays in the NFL again appear to be rapidly dwindling.
Jonathan Stewart Hurt...Again
From the "Groundhog Day" files.
Given all the issues swirling around their passing game in 2014, it would appear that if the Carolina Panthers are going to get back to the playoffs, they will need to rely heavily on the ground game.
Unfortunately, all Jonathan Stewart will be leaning on for the next couple of weeks is a pair of crutches.
The oft-injured 27-year-old, who missed 10 games and gained a career-low 180 yards in 2013, will be sidelined for "a week or two" after pulling his hamstring, according to Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk.
Carolina general manager Dave Gettleman indicated that the injury "isn't overly serious," but given that Stewart has missed 17 games over the past two years with an assortment of injuries, it's kind of hard to believe him.
G-E-N-O Jets Jets Jets!
When the New York Jets opened training camp on Wednesday, the hot topic of conversation was the potential for a battle at quarterback between 2013 starter Geno Smith and free-agent acquisition Michael Vick.
Head coach Rex Ryan told Dan Hanzus of NFL.com that not only has no decision been made as to who will start under center in Gang Green in 2014, but there wasn't even necessarily a timetable for making that decision:
I love the fact that we have a competition. I want to have competition at every position. And for us to say, 'You know, this guy is specifically going to be the quarterback or you want to have it at a certain date. I don't know if that is really appropriate. I think you let this competition play out. I am excited about our competition at all positions and at the appropriate time, that we think is the appropriate time to name a starting quarterback, we certainly will.
However, as Manish Mehta of The New York Daily News reports, if there's really a quarterback competition in New York, someone forgot to tell Vick.
“I think that’s already been addressed as far as who the starter is,” Vick said Wednesday. “There’s no more speculation about that.”
If the division of first-team reps in the portion of Thursday's practice that was open to the media is any indication, Vick may well be right. Per Brian Costello of the New York Post, Smith got 13 reps with the first team, while Vick took four.
Granted, it's still early, but a 75/25 split in Smith's favor would certainly seem to indicate that the Jets are hopeful Smith will make a second-year leap for the team.
Kevin Burnett Released
The Oakland Raiders may well be one of the NFL's most talent-deficient teams, but after adding Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack in the first round of May's draft, the Raiders actually had something of a logjam at that position.
The team cleared that jam a bit on Thursday, as Kevin Burnett was cut, according to the San Francisco Chronicle's Vic Tafur.
The 31-year-old Burnett, who had 105 tackles in 16 starts for the Raiders last year, reportedly failed to receive medical clearance for training camp after injuring his ankle in OTAs.
The nine-year veteran is hardly a world-beater, but Burnett ranked a respectable 23rd among 4-3 outside linebackers last year at Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
With teams like the Dallas Cowboys absolutely desperate for linebacker help, Burnett likely won't be out of work long assuming the ankle injury isn't serious.
Falcons Sign WR Roddy White to Extension
With White well past 30 and entering the last year of his contract, there was some speculation that 2014 could be his last season with the team.
That speculation can now be put to rest.
As Vaughn McClure of ESPN reports, the Falcons and White have agreed to a four-year, $30 million contract extension. The deal includes $10 million in guaranteed money and will pay the 32-year-old $18 million over the next two seasons.
White told McClure he's glad to have the opportunity to finish his career with the only team for whom he's ever played:
I always wanted to be back in Atlanta. Once we got to the guaranteed money that I wanted to get to that I felt would secure my future as a football player, then I could sign a contract. When we got it done, I was happy, because I don't want to go anywhere. I love this place. I wanted to be here. And I'm going to be here for the next four years.
On many levels, it isn't hard to see why the Falcons locked White up. Last year's 711 receiving yards were his fewest since 2006, but prior to that the 10th-year veteran posted six straight seasons with over 80 catches and 1,000 yards.