NFL Training Camps 2014: Updates, Rumors and Analysis for August 4
Football is here!
On Sunday night, the New York Giants downed the Buffalo Bills 17-13 in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game. It was a thrilling, nail-biting affair that had fans on the edge of their seats.
OK, so the second half was essentially unwatchable.
OK, so 3.5 quarters were essentially unwatchable, but still...
Football is here!
As fans everywhere ready for this week's full slate of exhibition action, here's a look at the latest news across the league, beginning with one very happy young redhead.
Bengals QB Andy Dalton Signs $115 Million Contract Extension
That redhead is Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, who is laughing all the way to the bank Monday—literally.
The fourth-year pro, who led the Bengals to the postseason in each of his first three NFL seasons, signed a six-year, $115 million contract extension with the team, according to Ryan Wilson of CBS Sports.
At first glance, it seems like a titanic amount of money to invest in a quarterback with an 0-3 career mark in the postseason, but Wilson's colleague Jason La Canfora pointed out that the deal is structured similarly to the extension signed recently by Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers:
La Canfora reports that all of the fully guaranteed money comes in the first year of the deal. Dalton will make $18 million guaranteed this season and will make $22 million by next February.
Beyond that, the contract is essentially pay as you go. The team will have protections from a cap and cash standpoint should they choose to move on after a few years. In the meantime, Dalton gets a life-altering chunk of money within the first 6-7 months of signing the deal.
As ESPN's Adam Schefter and Adam Caplan reported (via ESPN.com's Cole Harvey), Dalton has drawn the praise of new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson throughout training camp:
I've been very pleased with where he is and where he's headed. It's our whole football team. I've been impressed with him since I've gotten to be the coordinator, but I've been really impressed with him over the last couple of days, because I think he's really starting to buy in to the urgency, getting the ball out of his hands and making great decisions.
As Doug Farrar of Sports Illustrated reports, Dalton released a statement through the team. “It’s great that the Bengals have shown this confidence in me,” Dalton said. "This is only a beginning. We have higher goals than just making the playoffs, and it’s my job to lead us there.”
Giants RB David Wilson's Career Over
When the Giants took the field on Sunday night, it was without running back David Wilson on the field.
Sadly, it appears it's going to be that way forever.
As ESPN reports, the third-year running back, who aggravated his injured neck in practice last week, will be placed on injured reserve after team doctors advised him to quit football altogether:
"David has diffuse cervical stenosis. He had a disk removed and a fusion in January," team physician Russell Warren said in a statement. "In light of last week's episode of symptoms, sensory and motor, [Dr.] Frank [Cammisa Jr., who performed Wilson's surgery] and I both told David he should not play football anymore. We let David know that by playing, he would be putting himself at risk for more episodes like last week or perhaps something more serious."
It sounds like Wilson is taking their advice to heart. In a statement released by the team Wilson said he was "thankful that I can literally walk away from the game and that I am healthy and capable of doing the same things I have done all my life, except play football."
It's a sad end to a once-promising career for the former first-round pick.
Arian Foster Still Out, Considered Retirement
The Houston Texans haven't even had their first preseason game yet, and already dark clouds are gathering around running back Arian Foster.
The soon-to-be 28-year-old tailback, who missed half of the 2013 season with an assortment of injuries, has been sidelined the past several days in training camp with what is believed to be a hamstring injury.
The wear and tear of being a running back in the NFL has taken a toll on Foster. So much so, in fact, that he told ESPN.com's Tania Ganguli he considered retiring after undergoing back surgery last year:
Any time an athlete goes through an injury like that -- a back, a neck, even knees or hips, something that puts you out for the entire season -- you kind of re-evaluate your life. You see what's really important. Is getting paralyzed more important than playing with your grand kids when you’re 50, 60 years old. People die on the football field. This is a really brutal sport. Going through an injury like that, being 27 years old, I’m young, still I’m at the prime of my career. Is it worth it to try to come back?
Head coach Bill O' Brien has been coy when discussing Foster's absence from practice, telling Aaron Wilson of the National Football Post, “He’s doing OK. It’s kind of a day-to-day thing. It’s nothing serious. I would assume — [but] guess you can’t assume anything — he’d be back pretty soon.”
Thanks for clearing that up, Bill.
Broncos RB Montee Ball to Undergo Appendectomy
Playing running back in the NFL is a brutal way to make a living. Knees, hips, shoulders and ribs all take a pounding.
Never mind the appendix.
It's that vestigial organ that felled the starting running back for the defending AFC champions. As Jeff Legwold of ESPN.com reports, Denver Broncos tailback Montee Ball will be sidelined indefinitely as he recovers from an appendectomy.
However, Ball is expected to recover in time for the Sunday night season opener against the Indianapolis Colts, and head coach John Fox didn't appear overly concerned about the second-year pro:
He started feeling the effects, not feeling really good yesterday and then of course came in today not feeling very good, which is typical of that prognosis. Our medical people got him to the doctor and determined that's what it was. It didn't explode or anything, the bad end of that, it's really a blessing we caught it now.
No word on if ice cream will be involved in Ball's recuperation. (Oh wait, that's tonsils.)
Bears WR Marquess Wilson Fractures Clavicle
Chicago Bears wide receiver Marquess Wilson was making significant strides in his second NFL training camp, so much so that Wilson was considered the favorite to start the regular season as the Bears' No. 3 receiver.
Those plans were dealt a major blow on Monday.
As Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune reported, Wilson will be sidelined indefinitely after breaking his collarbone diving for a ball in practice.
Head coach Marc Trestman understandably wasn't happy with the turn of events. “I’m extremely disappointed,” Trestman said. “He was continuing to ascend. That’s football, unfortunately.”
The injury is a big blow to a Bears team light on depth at receiver behind stars Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall, and Trestman indicated the pressure will be ratcheted up now when the Bears open the preseason Friday against the Philadelphia Eagles:
I think we have to see more before we start putting together an analysis of where they are right now. I think they’ve done a great job of digesting the offense. They’re getting lined up right. They’re running the right routes. They’re catching the ball pretty darn good. The ball was spread around pretty good (in practice Saturday) night. We have to continue to watch.
At least those players will be auditioning against the NFL's worst pass defense in 2013.
JohnnyWatch 2014: First-Team Reps OMG! OMG!
It had to happen sooner or later. Eventually, the tempest around rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel of the Cleveland Browns was going to reach Sharknado proportions.
August 4 may well be the day it started.
"Browns rookie QB Johnny Manziel taking reps now with first-team offense in team drills for first time," Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal tweeted.
In fact, not only did Manziel get some first-team reps on Monday, but he got them all.
As head coaches often do, Mike Pettine downplayed the switch, according to Mary Kay Cabot of The Northeast Ohio Media Group:
It was just part of the plan that we've had. We said we were going to allow the quarterbacks to compete. At some point you've got to mix up the supporting cast a little bit. It's all part of it.
That may well be true, especially with Brian Hoyer recovering from an ACL tear, and Pettine indicated it will likely be Hoyer who starts the preseason opener against the Detroit Lions.
However, on the heels of a report from Ulrich that Manziel has "narrowed the gap" with Hoyer, Manziel Madness just jumped about three slots on the hype-o-meter.
Hype Growing Around Giants RB Andre Williams
With David Wilson's career over, there's more pressure than ever on New York Giants running back Andre Williams to perform as a rookie.
Williams was one of the stars of Sunday night's Hall of Fame Game. Fresh off carrying the ball seven times for 45 yards and a score, the hype around the NCAA's leading rusher last year is building.
Teammate Rashad Jennings told Dan Graziano of ESPN Williams' performance didn't surprise him in the least. "He did exactly what we thought," Jennings said. "He's a physical guy, a downhill runner. He's a talented guy who wants to play, wants to learn and wants to be great."
It was a performance that also drew rave reviews from the media, including Ralph Vacchiano of Daily News, New York.
"Rookie RB Andre Williams is looking like the draft-day steal the Giants thought he was when they took him in the fourth round," Vacchiano tweeted.
And fantasy football enthusiasts? Forget about it. I'd wager that the number of leagues in which Williams will be drafted this year just jumped about 9 million percent.
Still, before we anoint Williams the second coming of Earl Campbell, it's worth pointing out that Williams had 10 career catches at Boston College and has been sketchy in pass protection in training camp.
Yes, Williams looked good. On one drive of a preseason game against a second-team defense.
Deep breaths, people.
Eagles' WR Riley Cooper in Walking Boot
With DeSean Jackson now in Washington and Jeremy Maclin attempting to come back after missing the entire 2013 season with a torn ACL, the last thing the Philadelphia Eagles needed was for wideout Riley Cooper to get hurt in camp coming off a breakout 2013.
You know what comes next, right?
Cooper, who caught 47 passes for 835 yards and eight scores in 2013, signed a five-year, $25 million contract extension earlier this offseason.
WR Jon Baldwin Waived by 49ers, Claimed by Lions
At this rate, wide receiver Jon Baldwin is racking up the frequent-flyer miles.
A year ago, Baldwin was in Kansas City, a disappointing former first-round pick languishing on the depth chart.
Then Baldwin was dealt to the San Francisco 49ers in a swap of first-round busts.
That didn't work out any better. As Josh Katzowitz of CBS Sports reported, after one season, three catches and a disappointing start to training camp, the 49ers waived Baldwin on Sunday.
Well, Baldwin wasn't out of work for long.
"Lions claimed WR Jon Baldwin off waivers after he was released by 49ers on Sunday," the San Francisco Chronicle's Eric Branch tweeted. "Baldwin was No. 26 pick in 2011."
And so it's back east for Baldwin, who played collegiately at Pittsburgh.
Maybe the third team will be the charm.