NFL Training Camps 2014: Updates, Rumors and Analysis for July 28
Now we're talking!
Over this past weekend, we passed a very important milestone. It was the last weekend without an NFL game of some sort until next February.
Just let that soak in for a second.
Feels good, doesn't it?
All across the National Football League—from Arizona to Washington—pads are on, coaches are yelling, players are sweating (literally and figuratively) and training camp is underway.
As we bask in the warming glow of that most lovely of thoughts, here's a look at the latest scuttlebutt from around the league Monday.
Teddy Bridgewater Making a Charge
Teddy Bridgewater of the Minnesota Vikings may not have been the first quarterback taken in May's NFL draft, but he is making his case to be the first rookie signal-caller to start a game that counts this coming season.
That's the latest from Vikings camp, where NFL.com's Ian Rapoport reports (via colleague Mike Coppinger) that the three-man race to start for the Vikings is down to two:
These first four days, we've worked three groups," offensive coordinator Norv Turner explained. "Matt's gotten a little bit more, Teddy's gotten about a third and Ponder's gotten about a third. We have the day off (Tuesday), and we'll adjust that, probably getting more half and half.
Rapoport's report (say that three times fast) jibes with one from Jay Glazer of Fox Sports. Glazer tweeted there was "Hugeeee optimism here for Bridgewaters future," in Minnesota, and that Bridgewater has "definitely been more impressive than they expected."
As Bomani Jones pointed out, it's a decidedly different tone than surrounds another rookie passer a bit south of the Twin Cities.
That sigh you just heard came from the general direction of Northern Ohio.
Kelvin Benjamin Sidelined
The absolute last thing the Carolina Panthers needed was for an injury to strike an already-shaky wideout corps.
So, in an offseason where very little has gone right, that's, of course, exactly what happened.
Luckily, it appears the knee injury that forced rookie first-round pick Kelvin Benjamin from the practice field isn't believed to be serious. Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer reports that Benjamin has a bone bruise. The Panthers' Twitter account added that the wide receiver had a precautionary MRI.
Although Benjamin will be OK, it's not good for him to be missing valuable camp reps this early on, as he was already considered to be a "raw" prospect.
Lions Are Done Talking to DT Ndamukong Suh...for Now
Now for some veteran news.
With star defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh entering the final year of a contract that carries a ridiculous cap number of more than $22 million in 2014, the Detroit Lions were hopeful that an extension could be worked out with the 27-year-old before the season started.
However, those hopes waned in recent weeks, and according to Tim Twentyman of the Detroit Free Press, they're now gone altogether.
It's going to put the Lions in quite a pickle a year from now, as using the franchise tag on Suh would be prohibitively expensive (to the tune of more than $26 million).
If there's a bright side to all of this, then it's that Kyle Meinke of MLive reports that "Suh, known throughout the league for his tremendous conditioning, appears to have whipped himself into even better shape for this season."
A hungry Suh playing for a contract could be very bad news for NFC North quarterbacks in 2014.
Bills OT Cordy Glenn Should Be Ready for Week 1
The Buffalo Bills surprisingly began camp without their starting left tackle, and with precious little information available about why Cordy Glenn was sidelined, unease began to grow regarding the third-year pro.
It appears that fans can exhale a little. According to Tim Graham of The Buffalo News, a team source "would be 'shocked' if Glenn didn't play in at least one preseason game and start at left tackle when the Bills begin the regular season Sept. 7 at the Chicago Bears."
However, that source wouldn't tell Graham why Glenn was placed on the non-football injury list. Neither would head coach Doug Marrone or general manager Doug Whaley, calling it "a personal matter."
With Glenn, who allowed two sacks in 16 starts last year, on the shelf, rookie seventh-round pick Seantrel Henderson has been running with the starters in camp.
John Brown Going to Town for Cardinals
It's important not to get too caught up in the ranting and raving of training camp. Every year there are players who look great in practice but fizzle in games.
However, when the positive news just keeps coming through OTAs and minicamps right into training camp, it's a good idea to at least see what the hubbub's about.
In Arizona, it's been rookie speedster John Brown who's been drawing the "oohs" and "aahs" so far. General manager Steve Keim kept piling on the praise Monday, telling Josh Weinfuss of ESPN, "I can tell you so far we haven't been able to cover him."
The small-school standout, who ran a blistering 4.34-second 40-yard dash at February's scouting combine, has a chance to carve out a significant role in the slot as a rookie.
However, as Darren Urban of the team's website reported, cornerback Patrick Peterson let the youngster know he still has a ways to go.
"I told him he’s not going to be that much faster than me when he’s got those shoulder pads on," Peterson said.
'All Day' to Sit out Preseason
It's back to Minnesota for Monday's edition of "well, duh."
According to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, fans who want to see Vikings running back Adrian Peterson in action during the preseason should cast their eyes toward the sideline. Because the only action Peterson is likely to get is holding a helmet.
It's common sense, but if there's a (slight) downside, Peterson won't be able to get any game work in Norv Turner's new offense before the season opener.
It's an offense that Peterson told Ben Goessling of ESPN he can't wait to unleash on opponents:
Let's call it what it is: I thought in the past, we've been predictable. I'm sure you guys wrote stories about us being predictable the past seven years. You won't be able to write that story this year. That's pretty much all I'm saying. You won't be able to do that, because this offense is so versatile.
Now you're just teasing, Adrian.
Steven Jackson Looking 'Rejuvenated' for Falcons
From 2005-2012, there weren't many running backs in the NFL more productive than Steven Jackson. Eight straight years Jackson topped the 1,000-yard mark while with the St. Louis Rams.
However, Jackson's first season with the Atlanta Falcons in 2013 was an injury-filled mess. He looked every bit like a 30-year-old running back, and his 543 yards on the ground was the lowest total of Jackson's career.
Jackson himself admitted "buying his own hype" last year, according to Jeff Schultz of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
There were quite a few of the years in St. Louis when I shouldered a large burden, and I knew going into every season what I was going into. When I came here last year, I kind of believed my own hype. The team was so close to going to the Super Bowl, and I thought I was going to be the missing link. Then reality slaps you. It’s still a team sport.
This year I know I don’t have to shoulder the burden of carrying the franchise. I’m not the missing piece, I’m just one piece. I feel comfortable knowing that I can still compete at a high level. But all of the unnecessary stress is gone.
With that said, head coach Mike Smith predicted a bounce-back season, telling Schultz, "We saw in the last couple of games the kind of running back Steven is before he got injured."
That jibes with the latest from the Falcons training camp, where ESPN's Vaughn McClure writes Jackson has looked "rejuvenated" in workouts.
Seahawks Sign Terrell Thomas
With the departures of cornerbacks Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond in free agency, the Seattle Seahawks' vaunted "Legion of Boom" secondary was a little lighter on depth this year than in 2013.
As the Seahawks always seem to do, the team has dug through the scrap heap and found a player who may well end up making a real contribution for the defending champs this year.
According to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Caplan, the Seahawks have agreed to terms with veteran defensive back Terrell Thomas. Thomas, who made 67 tackles playing mostly as a reserve safety for the New York Giants in 2013, was once considered a rising young cornerback, but a pair of ACL tears completely wiped out both his 2011 and 2012 seasons.
Thomas told Connor Orr of The Star-Ledger last month he was just looking for a chance to play:
I’m a plug-in starter. I don’t need to go through OTAs, through minicamps to get reps. . . . I can go in and play right now. So I’ll be ready whenever my number’s called, whenever the right team picks me. All I need is one team to love me. All I need is one team to give me an opportunity. My play speaks for itself.
Well, Thomas got his chance. And while a roster spot in Seattle isn't assured, this feels an awful lot like one of those signings we'll be patting general manager John Schneider on the back for in October.
The 'Next Step' for Matthew Stafford?
At the end of the day, the Detroit Lions can add players left and right, but the team is going to go as far in 2014 as the right arm of quarterback Matthew Stafford takes it.
The 26-year-old has regressed the past two seasons after topping 5,000 passing yards in 2011, but new head coach Jim Caldwell insists he's seen improvement from Stafford.
Caldwell told Josh Katzenstein of The Detroit News that Stafford is "getting better," pointing out that the sixth-year veteran has taken well to the new offense in Motown:
I was impressed when he came back that first of all he did not miss a beat. He’s a very, very smart guy. You could tell he’s worked at it even during the summer.
In every facet when he came back, I could see improvement — footwork, accuracy, timing, command of the offense, all of those things. Now we get a chance to see if we can put it together a little bit more, add a few more things, keep progressing and then get some real challenges from our opposition as we start preseason.
Veteran center Dominic Raiola echoed Caldwell's sentiments.
“The guy’s the franchise,” Raiola said. “He knows what he has to do, he knows what he has to do better and he knows he has to do it for us to be successful.”