NFL Training Camps 2021: Schedule and Top Storylines to Watch
For many sports fans, the NFL remains king—even in the offseason. Major League Baseball is hitting its homestretch, the NBA Finals are deadlocked and the Stanley Cup Final just wrapped. Some, though, simply can't wait for football to arrive.
Well, fans won't have to wait long, as most teams will start training camp on July 27. The Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers—who will play in the annual Hall of Fame Game—are eligible to report on July 21. While training camps don't offer meaningful games, they do provide developments worth following.
Here we'll run down the training camp schedule and examine some of the latest storylines heading into the preseason.
Training Camp and Preseason Schedule
July 21: Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys report
July 25: Tampa Bay Buccaneers report
July 27: Other 29 NFL teams report
August 5: Hall of Fame Game between Pittsburgh and Dallas
August 12: Preseason Week 1 begins
August 19: Preseason Week 2 begins
August 27: Preseason Week 3 begins
Will Aaron Rodgers Report?
The uncertain future of Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rogers has dominated the offseason, and that's unlikely to change until he reports to training camp.
Fans got an up-close look at Rodgers during Capital One's The Match and during the American Century Championship. They didn't, however, get much clarity on Rodgers' plans for the 2021 season.
"I'm going to enjoy the hell out of this week," Rodgers told NBC Sports during the American Century Championship. "And then I'm going to get back to working out and figure things out in a couple weeks."
Former Packer A.J. Hawk doesn't believe that sitting out the season will be an option for the future Hall of Famer.
"He likes to compete. Does that look like a guy who’s going to sit out and retire to you?" Hawk told The Pat McAfee Show. "Aaron looks great. He seems mentally in a good spot."
Green Bay used a 2020 first-round pick on quarterback Jordan Love and will likely turn to him if Rodgers decides not to show. Green Bay also has veteran Blake Bortles on its roster. While Bortles didn't didn't pan out as a former first-round pick, he has 73 regular-season starts and an appearance in the AFC title game on his resume.
Of course Rodgers is the reigning MVP, and the Packers' championship chances will be much greater if he returns.
Tom Brady's Knee
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady is one of the greatest players of his generation, possibly of all time. While some fans may be sick of watching him win Super Bowls—he won his seventh in February—he is a central figure in the league.
After Tampa won Super Bowl LV, Brady underwent knee surgery to fix an issue he said had bothered him all season. New details have emerged about just how serious the issue was. According to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, Brady suffered a partially torn MCL during his final season with the New England Patriots.
"The injury gradually worsened during his first year with the Bucs, and he finally had surgery to repair it in late February after winning his seventh Super Bowl," Stroud wrote.
According to NFL Media's Ian Rapoport, Brady's MCL was fully torn by the time of surgery.
This storyline is worth following for a couple of reasons. Obviously, Brady's recovery from surgery could have an adverse effect on the champions. While knee surgery seems to be increasingly routine, Brady will turn 44 in August. At some point, he has to be unable to outpace Father Time.
Also, the possibility remains that Tampa could be disciplined for not disclosing the injury during the regular season. According to Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk, the league has declined to comment on the situation at this time.
Quarterback competitions always make for good training-camp fodder. Thankfully, fans will have several to follow.
The Denver Broncos are holding an open competition between Drew Lock and offseason trade addition Teddy Bridgewater. Ideally, a quality starter will emerge from the battle.
"I feel like they're two great quarterbacks who are out here competing," wide receiver Jerry Jeudy said on the Jim Rome Show. "Having them compete against each other, you can see both of them are improving in their game."
The New Orleans Saints are also holding an open competition between Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston. Whoever wins will face the challenge of trying to replace future Hall of Famer Drew Brees.
The New England Patriots (Cam Newton, Mac Jones), Chicago Bears (Andy Dalton, Justin Fields) and San Francisco 49ers (Jimmy Garoppolo, Trey Lance) will also have camp battles between veteran signal-callers and quarterbacks taken in the first round of the draft—though none of them appear in a rush to put the rookies on the field.
The Bears, for example, head into camp with Dalton as the No. 1, with Nick Foles and rookie Fields behind him.
"Promises can get pretty crazy, but what we told Andy is that he's our starter, and he knows that and that's what Justin knows, that's what Nick knows," head coach Matt Nagy said, per ESPN's Jeff Dickerson.
The New York Jets and Jacksonville Jaguars are widely expected to start rookies Zach Wilson and Trevor Lawrence, respectively.
Another competition could be brewing for the Houston Texans, who aren't expected to have Deshaun Watson this season. There have been 22 lawsuits filed against Watson by women alleging sexual assault or misconduct, and Watson has requested a trade out of Houston. Tyrod Taylor, Jeff Driskel and rookie Davis Mills could all compete for the Texans job.
A slew of teams will have new quarterbacks in 2021, and watching the battles unfold should be fun for even the most casual of fans.