NFL Training Camps 2014: Updates, Rumors & Analysis for August 14
Go time is almost here.
On Thursday night, the Jacksonville Jaguars and Chicago Bears kicked off the second full week of preseason action. In three short weeks, the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers will get the 2014 season underway in earnest.
Many NFL teams have already called it quits on training camp this year, while a few teams are wrapping things up by holding joint practices with other squads.
While camps may be winding down, there's no shortage of scuttlebutt bubbling to the surface around the league.
Here's a look at the latest.
JohnnyWatch 2014: Brian Hoyer to Start for Browns Monday Night
Ever since Johnny Manziel made his NFL debut for the Cleveland Browns this week, the topic du jour on the shores of Lake Erie has been who will start under center for the Browns when they travel to Washington Monday night.
Well, word has come down, although Manziel's maniacs aren't going to be happy about it.
As John Breech of CBS Sports reports, head coach Mike Pettine indicated Thursday that Brian Hoyer, not Manziel, will start against the Redskins:
It's just something right now where we are comfortable with Brian going out there to start the game. I think it's a little overblown as to who the starter is going to be. The key component, as I've stated earlier this week, is that we are going to balance the reps. We will play it a little by ear as it goes on, we haven't truly decided as far as the rotation but the goal is, for when we look at the stat sheet at halftime, that they both have the same amount of repetitions and hopefully they both get a good amount of work.
For all the talk about Manziel's performance against the Detroit Lions, Hoyer wasn't exactly chopped liver. He completed six of 14 passes for 92 yards and was more effective throwing the ball than Manziel.
Still, Pettine said he's pleased with Manziel's progress, and "Johnny Football" will once again see plenty of time with the starters in D.C.:
He's been impressive. He's probably slightly ahead of the learning curve where we figured he would've been. I think a big part of it for him is it's essentially him getting the playbook and it has been for a while. And I think he's finally starting to settle down with it.
In other words, this battle is far from decided one way or the other.
Chiefs SS Eric Berry to Miss Game vs. Panthers
The Kansas City Chiefs made the playoffs last year in large part due to a defense that played as well as any in the National Football League over the first half of the season.
Strong safety Eric Berry is one of the cornerstones of that defense, but the 25-year-old has been battling tendinitis in his heel in recent weeks.
It kept Berry on the sidelines during the Chiefs' preseason opener, and Terez Paylor of The Kansas City Star reports that Berry will miss Sunday's tilt in Carolina as well.
Head coach Andy Reid told reporters that he's not concerned about Berry's availability for Week 1:
We are going to let it calm down. He’s been battling this thing, so we will let it get settled down before we bring him back. I’m not (worried). It will calm down. He wants to be out there every day...We put him out (Tuesday), and it came back. So now we are going to get it where it needs to be, and then we go from there.
With that said, Berry's attempt to practice earlier this week shows just what a pain (so to speak) these sorts of minor, nagging injuries can be. It's a safe bet that Reid and the Chiefs are a bit more concerned about Berry's foot than the walrus is letting on.
Buccaneers RB Charles Sims Injures Ankle
After a miserable second season from running back Doug Martin, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers looked to bolster the backfield early in the 2014 NFL draft, adding West Virginia's Charles Sims in the third round.
Sims drew the praise of head coach Lovie Smith earlier in camp, according to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times:
I think you can tell, especially at skill positions, does a guy have it? Charles Sims, I would say, has it. He hasn't played a game and right now we're not live an awful lot. But you can see enough in him to like his future with us. Just talking about it, that's the last thing. He can carry the ball or he can catch the ball. Protections for any young back, that's the thing that they will have the most trouble with early on. But he's picked things up fairly well quickly.
Sims' performance in camp led to speculation that he could eat into Martin's workload as a rookie, but it appears that ascension has been put on hold.
Auman doesn't think the injury is overly serious, tweeting that a "walking boot is often precautionary, doesn't mean longterm." However, Auman also remarked that he "can't imagine (Sims) playing vs. Dolphins in two days."
Jenna Laine of Fox Sports 1 later confirmed that Sims won't be playing against Miami this weekend.
Matt Cassel Plans to Start Week 1 for Vikings
The quarterback battle in Cleveland may be getting all the headlines, but it's hardly the only one going on across the NFL.
In the case of the one in Minnesota, it appears that the incumbent has surged ahead.
That's the latest from Ben Goessling of ESPN.com, who reports that veteran Matt Cassel has developed a clear edge over rookie Teddy Bridgewater:
Matt Cassel, who appears to be in firm command of the team's quarterback race, was preparing to play as much as two quarters in the Vikings' second preseason game on Saturday night, saying, 'I have to go out and perform, and if I do that, I plan on being the Week 1 starter.'
Bridgewater, on the other hand, admitted that his first NFL action could have gone better. "I haven't been pressing, but I have been overthinking things," the rookie signal-caller said. "A lot has been thrown at me so far, but I just have to continue to put the time in with studying, and eventually things will start unfolding."
He'll see plenty of action with the reserves against the Arizona Cardinals, but as things stand today, the Week 1 starting job appears to be Cassel's to lose.
Quarterback Controversy in Houston?
Speaking of quarterback controversies, there just may be one brewing in Houston, even if it's quite possibly the least exciting one in NFL history.
As Tania Ganguli of ESPN.com reports, when the Texans took the field for practice Thursday, there was change afoot under center:
During a scrimmage-like team drill in today's practice, Texans quarterback Case Keenum got a few reps with the first team. It was significant for this reason: Today was the first time in training camp that Keenum took first-team reps in a team drill.
After veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick (and the Texans as a whole) looked horrible in a 32-0 shellacking at the hands of the Arizona Cardinals last week, some took this development as an indication that Fitzpatrick's hold on the starting job may not be as secure as many believed.
Not so, according to what head coach Bill O' Brien told reporters (via Ganguli):
What does it mean in the grander scheme of things? That's more unclear. Texans coach Bill O'Brien said Keenum will not get any first-team reps on Saturday against the Atlanta Falcons. Those will all go to starter Ryan Fitzpatrick.
We'll see how O'Brien feels if Fitzpatrick stinks up the joint again against Atlanta.
Cardinals' OLB John Abraham Reports to Camp
Arizona Cardinals outside linebacker John Abraham turned back the clock (again) in 2013, logging 11.5 sacks in his 14th NFL season and first in the desert.
However, Abraham's 2014 campaign got off to a rocky start. The 36-year-old was arrested for DUI back in June, and the veteran had yet to report to camp while he sought treatment for alcoholism.
That's changed. According to Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com, Abraham reported to camp Thursday, with head coach Bruce Arians saying, "He's here and ready to roll."
Arians told Weinfuss he has no concerns about Abraham's age, conditioning or offseason issues:
We know he had to go through what he did to get back to here. We're all behind him. Right now it's just physical and getting in shape and getting ready to go. He showed up last year [on] the first day of training camp and he got himself ready to play. So I have all the confidence in the world he'll get himself ready to play.
Given the loss of inside linebacker Karlos Dansby to free agency and batterymate Daryl Washington to a suspension, the arrival of Abraham in camp is the first good news the Redbirds have received at the linebacker spot in quite some time.
Eagles WR Jeremy Maclin Sidelined by Hamstring Injury
The 26-year-old missed the entire 2013 season after tearing his ACL in camp last year. To the Eagles' chagrin, Maclin is on the shelf once again.
As Zach Berman of the Philadelphia Daily News reports, Maclin injured his hamstring in Wednesday's joint practice with the New England Patriots. At the time, Maclin didn't sound the least bit concerned about the injury.
"It shouldn't be a big deal," Maclin said after practice. "Go back, treat it, and come back tomorrow."
However, Maclin was nowhere to be found on the practice field Thursday, and according to Jeff McLane of The Philadelphia Inquirer, Maclin is unlikely to play in Friday's preseason game.
It's nothing for Eagles fans to freak out about, but given that Maclin is being counted on to play a huge role in 2014 and hasn't made it through a 16-game slate since 2010...
OK, maybe they can freak out a little.
Marshawn Lynch Cleared of Assault Allegations
Earlier this week, a rocky offseason for Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch got even bumpier, as the 28-year-old was implicated in an assault in a Seattle suburb.
However, it looks like the Seahawks' statement earlier this week that the charges were "bogus" (really—that's the word they used) turned out to be spot on.
As John Breech of CBS Sports reported, the Bellevue police released a statement on Thursday, completely clearing the eighth-year veteran of any wrongdoing:
The Bellevue Police Department has determined that Marshawn Lynch was not involved in this incident in any way. This case remains an open and active investigation. We appreciate the cooperation we have received from Mr. Lynch and the Seahawks organization during this investigation.
Now that this (and Lynch's aborted contract holdout) are behind him, it's finally time to concentrate on football.
Lynch sat out the team's preseason opener, but head coach Pete Carroll indicated he could see some work this week against the San Diego Chargers.
"You may see a little bit of Marshawn in this game," Carroll told KJR-AM. "We'll see how this week wraps up."
Update on Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski
If you're looking for an honest and frank assessment of New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski's rehab from the ACL tear that ended his 2013 season, there are many places to turn for information.
Of course, the Patriots themselves aren't one of them. You'd have better luck obtaining the top secret recipe for the special sauce they put on Big Mac than getting injury info from Darth Hoodie and the Blowfish.
It's Thousand Island salad dressing and pickle relish, by the way.
Still, Greg Bedard of The MMQB was in attendance at Patriots' camp this week, and according to Bedard, it seems Gronk still has a ways to go to get back to pre-injury form:
When players come back from ACL/MCL surgery (just seven months ago) like TE Rob Gronkowski is, there are going to be days of gains, and some not-so-good days. Maybe I caught Gronk on a bad day, but the player I saw running routes seemed far from a lock to play Week 1 against the Dolphins. He was favoring his right knee, and ran with a decent but not terrible limp. Still, 75% Gronk is better than most tight ends, especially in the red zone.
One practice doesn't offer a definitive look into Gronkowski's recovery, but Bedard's observations are something to keep in mind if your fantasy football draft is this weekend.