NFL Training Camps 2014: Updates, Rumors and Analysis for July 31
It's almost here!
This weekend, the National Football League will welcome the 2014 class to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. The event will be capped this year by the Hall of Fame Game between the New York Giants and Buffalo Bills.
Sure, it's only a preseason game, but for the first time after months of signings, suspensions and shenanigans, football will be played.
And it will be glorious.
OK, so it will be mostly awful, but awful in the most glorious way imaginable.
With those teams preparing for their first preseason contest and a full slate of exhibition action only a week away, here's a look at the latest buzz from training camps around the NFL.
49ers OLB Aldon Smith to Meet with NFL on August 8
When it comes to offseason shenanigans, San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker Aldon Smith has done his share and then some.
Now, it's time for Smith to answer for them, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. Smith is scheduled to meet with Roger Goodell about a possible significant suspension.
The incidents that have Smith in hot water are three gun charges and the DUI that led to his in-season rehab stint last year, both of which led to 12 days in jail.
Add in an April arrest for allegedly yelling "bomb!" at Los Angeles International Airport (for which no charges were filed), and the general consensus appears to be that Smith is looking at about a four to six-game suspension.
However, there's a possibility that Smith's time away from the team last year may help his cause. As Schefter reports, "In October in London, Goodell told reporters that the league might consider Smith's aggressive approach to his problem when potential discipline would be addressed."
One thing is for sure: If this transcript of a conversation between head coach Jim Harbaugh and a reporter regarding Smith is accurate, per by Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk, the Niners coach is officially sick of talking about the pass-rusher:
Is LB Aldon Smith here today?
He’s in Los Angeles?
He’s in Los Angeles for his meeting there?
“He’s not here today.”
You can’t say where he is?
“No. Is that my responsibility to tell you where he is?”
You’re the head coach of the football team.
“Yeah, OK. Well you seem to already know. He’s going through a process.”
Then there’s a couple of places he could be. New York being one of them, Los Angeles being the other. He’s in the latter.
“OK. I don’t know if that was a question or a statement?”
That Harbaugh. Such a ray of sunshine.
Hanging Judge for Josh Gordon
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon, on the other hand, will meet with the league Friday in New York. With commissioner Roger Goodell in Ohio for the festivities at the Hall of Fame, he will not be in attendance.
This is apparently a bad thing, according to Mary Kay Cabot of the Northeast Ohio Media Group. Gordon will be in front of Harold Henderson, the NFL's executive vice president of labor relations, and Henderson does not like excuses.
According to Cabot, Gordon's advisers "feel their "second-hand smoke'' argument is stronger than other NFL players who have lost their appeals on that basis:"
That's because as far as they can tell, Gordon is the only player citing second-hand smoke who had a confirmation test below the NFL's threshold of 15 nanograms per milliliter of the banned substance in marijuana.
NFL records on such matters are sealed, but the source said there's no evidence that any of the other players had a "B'' test -- the one used to confirm the positive "A'' sample -- below the threshold.
Of course, Cabot then goes then on to say that a league source told her "you would have a better chance of convincing your teacher your dog ate your homework" than successfully using the secondhand smoke defense with Henderson.
But wait, there's more bad news! As Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reports, Gordon's appeal is all or nothing. NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy explains:
The disciplinary penalties were negotiated by the NFLPA and NFL more than 20 years ago and there has never been a proposal to change them. When they were first established, the union expressed the strong view that they needed to be stated and mandatory to ensure that all players be treated the same regardless of position, experience, level of ability, or competitive considerations. On appeal, the hearing officer’s responsibility is to determine whether the violation was established and, if so, he is bound by the agreed-upon sanctions.
In other words, Gordon will either be playing in Week 1 or missing the entire season.
JohnnyWatch 2014: The Latest Scoop
Since we're already in Cleveland, we might as well knock out Thursday's obligatory look at the latest scoop on rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel.
Early in camp it's been abundantly clear that veteran Brian Hoyer has the edge in the quarterback competition, but Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal passed along word that Manziel is going to start getting chances to direct the first-team offense.
Manziel, for his part, told Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk he expects to close the gap with the Hoyer once the preseason starts:
Always, for me, I’ve been better in a game situation than I feel I have in practice. But I have to come out here and get better with the reps that I’m getting. That’s the main thing, keep getting better, and then when it’s time to go out and play football, it’s time to play football. There will be times in games, situations in games when things break down, and obviously it’s not practice, there are not coaches on the field, and it will be a little bit — it will be a lot different. But practice is what it is, and we have to get better.
Pettine may be set to give Manziel first-team reps, but the picture Tony Grossi of ESPN Cleveland paints of Manziel's camp so far isn't pretty even a little bit:
Coach Mike Pettine told me before training camp started that coaches would evaluate Johnny Manziel through the first four days and decide whether he earned first-team reps. The numbers tabulated each day by ESPNCleveland’s Jason Gibbs have not been pretty. Gibbs has charted all plays in 7 on 7 and team drills. Unofficially, Manziel has completed 42 of 85 passes (49.4 percent). He has been “sacked” two times officially. Two other obvious sacks were waved off and resulted in Manziel interceptions. There has been one other interception, four keeper runs by Manziel and three plays aborted by general confusion. Manziel’s only touchdown pass came on a little flip to fullback Ray Agnew off a bootleg. It’s too early to draw conclusions. But it’s nearly impossible to make the case that Manziel has earned first-team reps.
Ouch. That's Tebow-esque.
Former Jets Coach Rips CB Dee Milliner
Earlier this week, New York Jets cornerback Dee Milliner raised more than a few eyebrows when he proclaimed himself the best player at his position in the NFL.
As Seth Walder of The New York Daily News reports, it also inspired eye rolls, guffaws and at least a little derision.
Those came from former special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff, who told ESPN Radio, "I’m not sure he’s the best cornerback up here in Cortland. And I might include the University.”
Granted, those could be sour grapes from a fired coach, and Milliner was a first-round pick. As Manish Mehta of The Daily News points out, corner is a position that requires the proverbial "closer's mentality."
However, for a player who ranked 68th at his position last year, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), perhaps quiet confidence would be best.
Ravens Rookie DE Brett Urban Tears ACL
Fourth-round pick Brent Urban is a classic 5-technique defensive end, a 295-pound beef-eater capable of holding the edge in the Baltimore Ravens' 3-4 front.
Unfortunately, according to Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun, Urban's rookie season is over before it started. As Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com adds, head coach John Harbaugh confirmed that Urban tore his ACL and will miss the entire 2014 season.
RBBC Looming for G-Men?
New York Giants running back David Wilson suffered a setback to his recovery from neck surgery earlier this week, suffering a "stinger" that necessitated a trip to the hospital.
Now, it appears that the third-year pro's career may be over.
That's the latest from Jordan Ranaan and Conor Orr of NJ.com, who report that "one person with knowledge of the running back's medical condition told NJ.com that Wilson 'needs a miracle' to return to the field."
Wilson, for his part, remains upbeat, tweeting Wednesday that "everything turned out to be fine" when he saw the doctor.
However, Ranaan and Orr write that "the Giants, however, don't feel the same way, another source -- who requested anonymity to speak freely -- told NJ.com."
With Wilson now on the shelf indefinitely (if not for good), head coach Tom Coughlin told Dave Hutchinson of The Star-Ledger the team will turn to a committee backfield:
I think we have some talented guys at that spot. I think Rashad (Jennings) has done well. I think the young kid (Andre Williams) has come along the more we have given him to do. Michael Cox has had his spots. (First-year pro Kendall) Gaskins did some pretty good things today. We’ll let this thing play out. It’ll be some kind of combination of people involved. They’ll have plenty of opportunities in the preseason to show us what they can do and where they fit.
Of Wilson, Coughlin said, "Until we hear what the doctor brings I’m just praying that the kid is okay. We’re obviously concerned. We’re going to wait to see what the doctors say.”
Tony Romo Hopes to See Some Preseason Action
Given their legion of issues on defense, the Dallas Cowboys are going to go as far in 2014 as quarterback Tony Romo takes them.
That groan you just heard came from the vicinity of Texas.
The 34-year-old missed the season finale last year with a back injury that required offseason surgery, but Romo's rehab has reportedly progressed smoothly.
So smoothly, in fact, that Romo told Rainer Sabin of The Dallas Morning News that he plans to take the field at some point during the preseason:
You just want to take every rep and do everything. and you feel good. And you’re like, ‘I feel good. Let’s go.’ But at the same time you feel good until you don’t. There’s not a lot of history doing this over and over and over again. It’s a little different than most injuries because we don’t have ten other guys who have gone through this in the last three years. We’ve just kind of got to be real smart. We’ve just got to be smart with it.
However, Romo wouldn't go so far as to say he'll play in the August 7 preseason opener against the San Diego Chargers.
“They’re going to try and have me sit out more than I want to," Romo said. "But that’s also because they’re smart and they know what they’re doing.”
Marshawn Lynch Reports to Training Camp
A game of chicken has been going on in the land of the Super Bowl champs over the past week or so.
Obviously, to have a guy like Marshawn back with us, a man who has been to four Pro Bowls, is something we definitely want. Marshawn is one of those guys who has a knack for playing football. His running ability is unique and one of a kind. He brings whole other level of experience. He's an elite football player.
Sources told Caplan and Schefter that "Seattle is expected to add some financial concessions to his contract," which could mean anything from a little more guaranteed money to (more likely) forgiving the hefty fines Lynch had racked up by holding out.
Those concessions, as it turned out, meant a nice little raise, according to PFT.
I guess the squeaky wheel really does get the grease.
Jets QB Update: Smith Is the Guy
Now, for an update from the quarterback battle that isn't.
Head coach Rex Ryan can keep calling it a competition, and general manager John Idzik can say all he wants that the situation isn't "tilted" toward Geno Smith, but the reality is obvious: Smith has the advantage over Michael Vick. It's Smith's job to lose, and it's been that way since organized team activities and minicamp. Vick, of all people, has had no problem making that clear.
According to Cosentino, Vick had the better day in practice Wednesday, but there have been grumblings that being relegated to a reserve role has led to him looking unimpressive and disinterested in training camp.
Not true, according to what offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg told Rich Cimini of ESPN. Mornhinweg states that Vick "is all in."
On a more positive note, Mornhinweg told Manish Mehta of The New York Daily News that Smith's ball security has improved heading into his second NFL season.
That's very good news after Smith turned the ball over an eye-popping 25 times in his rookie year.
Reggie Wayne Continues to Impress
We'll wrap Thursday's look around the league with some more good news.
Well, at least it's good news for the Indianapolis Colts.
The Colts are viewed as a legitimate Super Bowl contender in many circles, but if the team is going to make it to Arizona in February, it will need all hands on deck. That most definitely includes wide receiver Reggie Wayne, who missed nearly half the 2013 season with a torn ACL.
Like I've been saying, so far, so good. I haven't had any problems, nothing out of the norm. I haven't had any pain. Nothing has set me back. Just go out there and be the Reggie of old.
Head coach Chuck Pagano wasn't about to argue with him:
That's the way it looked to me. When you go back, you watch it live and then you go back and watch it on film. It's really incredible. But again, it probably doesn't shock anybody here. It certainly doesn't shock me. We all know his mindset, his work ethic and his determination, and how bad he wanted to get back.
In NFL history, only three wide receivers (Jerry Rice (three times), Jimmy Smith and Joey Galloway) have topped 1,000 yards in a season after turning 36.
Wayne celebrates that birthday in November.
What? Are you going to bet against him?