NFL Training Camp Buzz Roundup: Carson Wentz Out Indefinitely Due to Injury
"The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry."
Robert Burns wrote his famous poem "To a Mouse" well over 200 years ago, albeit in Scots language. The poet couldn't have imagined his work applied to NFL football, which didn't even emerge until 1920.
Yet here we are. Today's gladiators are on the field for training camp and practicing for the upcoming campaign.
The Indianapolis Colts, Cleveland Browns and New York Jets find themselves in positions where Burns' quote applies to their situations, though at different stages of each team's development.
The Colts traded for Carson Wentz this offseason only to see him suffer another injury. The Browns are two years removed from the blockbuster Odell Beckham Jr. trade yet are just now seeing progressive returns. The Jets found their franchise quarterback, but his maturation will take time.
Each team mentioned and those around the league know things won't work out exactly as planned. That's OK. It's how each individual and respective organization reacts to those unforeseen instances that matters.
With those thoughts in mind, the following notable tidbits emerged from Friday's training camp coverage.
Carson Wentz Deals with Foot Injury
The Indianapolis Colts enjoyed seeing new quarterback Carson Wentz on the field for two days before an injury struck.
According to the Indianapolis Star's Jim Ayello, Wentz didn't practice Friday because of a foot injury.
Normally, a ding during the early portions of training camp isn't concerning. In this case, though, Wentz has a long injury history dating back to his high school days. Plus, he's entering a new situation and trying to assert himself as the team's quarterback and offensive leader.
ESPN's Adam Schefter and Mike Wells reported Wentz is "out indefinitely as he undergoes further testing on a foot injury that he suffered at the end of Thursday's practice."
NFL Network's Michael Silver added: "I'm told the Wentz foot injury involves a bone and a ligament. Colts had been hoping for better news, are bracing for possible surgery."
Issues will emerge from any missed time. The Colts made a significant investment in the quarterback to replace Philip Rivers. A potential first-round pick hangs in the balance, as long as Wentz is on the field. And the Colts want him on the field.
Indianapolis is the ideal place for Wentz to revive his career. His 2020 performance proved to be a disaster as the Philadelphia Eagles imploded.
The Colts were a soft landing spot because of the quarterback's history with head coach Frank Reich, wide receivers coach Mike Groh and senior offensive assistant Press Taylor since all of them previously coached Wentz in Philadelphia.
Wentz has either missed games or had his season ended by injury in all but one year since his senior season at North Dakota State. Another injury is no small thing.
Furthermore, repercussions extend beyond the Colts organization. The Eagles have a close eye on the situation. Indianapolis sent a conditional 2022 second-round draft pick to Philadelphia in exchange for the quarterback's services. The selection turns into a first-round pick if Wentz plays 75 percent of the Colts' regular-season snaps this fall or 70 percent with a playoff appearance.
Until Wentz returns, the Colts will rely on second-year quarterback Jacob Eason, whom the team selected in last year's fourth round.
Colts Lose Center to Injury Too
The hits keep on coming for the Colts.
As if news about Wentz's ailing foot wasn't bad enough, the team has lost the quarterback's batterymate for some time as well.
Center Ryan Kelly didn't practice Friday because he hyperextended his left elbow during practice Thursday.
"I believe Marlon [Mack] ran into him at practice, just accidentally," offensive coordinator Marcus Brady told reporters Friday. "[He will] be out for probably a couple weeks, but he'll be OK."
With Wentz's lingering status, Kelly's injury hurts even more.
The center calls the protections up front. He sets blocking schemes and communicates with the quarterback. Whoever replaces Wentz won't have the luxury of leaning on Kelly, at least for the next few weeks.
The Colts offensive line should be fine because it's one of the league's best units and Kelly is expected back for the regular season. However, the absence of a two-time Pro Bowl snapper when the organization is in upheaval because of an unknown quarterback situation only makes matters worse.
Baker Mayfield, OBJ Finally on Same Page
The Cleveland Browns, particularly quarterback Baker Mayfield, played well down the stretch last season on their way to a playoff appearance for the first time in 18 years. The team won seven of its last 10 games.
Mayfield's improved performance came after standout wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. suffered a season-ending torn ACL in a Week 7 contest against the Cincinnati Bengals. The third-year quarterback earned the second-highest grade in the NFL from Pro Football Focus from Week 7 through the playoffs.
As such, questions about his play separate from Beckham bubbled to the surface. Was Mayfield a better quarterback without a superstar target?
Some will argue a new system and yet another coaching staff were partially to blame for early-season struggles. At the same time, Mayfield all but admitted the two weren't on the same page the last two seasons by acknowledging the two made "huge strides" in their chemistry this offseason.
"When it comes down to the chemistry stuff, it's every rep matters for us, but then, just the terminology and speaking outside the building, not just about football, that goes such a long way when it comes to chemistry, that trust factor," Mayfield told reporters. "And I know he feels the same way."
The 26-year-old quarterback hadn't clicked with Beckham since the Browns acquired the three-time Pro Bowl receiver prior to the 2019 campaign. Too often, Mayfield looked to be force-feeding the team's supposed WR1 and couldn't establish a rhythm. After Beckham's injury, Cleveland's offensive flow hit its stride. Mayfield became the distributor everyone saw during his collegiate career and rookie campaign. However, he knows he still has room for growth:
"I can play a whole lot better than last year, I know that. ... When it comes to looking at other guys in third to fourth years, I do not compare myself to anybody. I try and be the best version of me. That is what we try and stress in this building is it matters what goes on if you are getting better, the team is getting better, we are pushing each other and you do your job first and foremost."
The Browns are counted among the NFL's most talented squads. An improved Mayfield in sync with OBJ could make Cleveland deadly.
Zach Wilson Signs, Immediately Struggles
Second overall pick Zach Wilson was the last holdout among first-round rookies to sign his contract. Wilson and the Jets agreed on a fully guaranteed four-year, $35.1 million deal Thursday. The holdup centered on the contract's language.
According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the quarterback won't have his signing bonus deferred, while the Jets included offset language to recoup money if the relationship doesn't work out in the team's favor.
The 21-year-old signal-caller took the field for the first time Friday with mixed results.
His first pass in Jets training camp resulted in a long completion to fellow rookie Elijah Moore, per The Athletic's Connor Hughes.
"We got our quarterback," the second-round wide receiver told reporters.
The excitement of a new franchise quarterback won't wear off for some time. However, the Jets will need to see incremental growth throughout training camp, preseason and the regular season to know they made the right decision in the draft.
One practice won't dampen anyone's spirit. However, Wilson looked like a rookie as he led the Jets offense.
SNY's Ralph Vacchiano noted the quarterback's growing pains through the practice, including an interception and a few near-picks.
It's just one day. The first day. The Jets are relying on Wilson, though. Head coach Robert Saleh wouldn't name the rookie a starter, but he did so without saying it.
"Call it the inside lane. It's his to lose," Saleh said.
'No Separation' in Denver Broncos' QB Competition
A few days into training camp isn't enough to declare a winner in a quarterback competition. A leader could emerge after a few practices, though.
The Denver Broncos are stuck in neutral. Head coach Vic Fangio provided an update Friday on the competition between Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock, telling reporters he's seen "no separation" between the two through three practices.
Denver's first preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings is two weeks away. By that time, some movement should occur. If it doesn't, the Broncos coaching staff should be concerned since Fangio has said he'd rather have a starter emerge early:
"Ideally you'd like to come to that decision sooner rather than later. But we're going to let the decision be made for us, hopefully. And whenever that happens, it happens. If it's so close that we can't make a call and it stretches into the first week of preparation, then I'll probably be playing games with you [in the media] all week that first game week as to who the starter is. But we're like everybody else—we want it to define itself quickly, sooner rather than later. But we're going to let the process play itself out."
The ebb and flow of a position battle can be overwhelming. One day, a certain individual shines. The next, the other bounces back. On Friday, Lock performed better, per DNVR Sports' Zac Stevens.
The decision will likely come down to Fangio's preference.
Bridgewater shows up every day and plays efficient and effective football. Lock, on the other hand, has much higher peaks based on his natural arm talent, but he'll struggle at times. If the latter can show consistency throughout camp, his upside should give him an edge.
Right now? That's not the case.
Brandon Scherff Addresses Contract Status
The Washington Football Team's Brandon Scherff will play under the franchise tag for the second consecutive season.
Typically, a player's contract status doesn't dominate coverage unless the individual in question is holding out, unhappy with his current deal or demanding a trade. None of these apply to Scherff.
However, his status as a two-time franchisee is unique for an interior lineman.
Scherff could be upset with his standing, as quarterback Kirk Cousins once was. But the 29-year-old blocker intends to stay with Washington if the team is interested.
"I'm here for another year and hopefully I'll be here for the future. That's my goal," the four-time Pro Bowl selection said Friday, adding, "I've said I want to finish my career here."
Scherff said he's "very confident" the two sides will get a long-term deal done.
He'll play under the franchise tag this season, which makes him the game's highest-paid guard at $18 million. Most players want long-term security, though.
Washington has the makings of an excellent front five with Scherff, center Chase Roullier, left guard Wes Schweitzer, new left tackle Charles Leno Jr. and rookie right tackle Sam Cosmi. Scherff is the glue. The six-year veteran graded as the game's fourth-best guard last season, per Pro Football Focus.
He's a keeper, and Washington should eventually extend a long-term deal worthy of his performance.
D'Andre Swift Won't Be Featured Back in Detroit
Detroit Lions running back D'Andre Swift looked like a breakout candidate ahead of his second season. The Lions coaching staff may have different plans.
Swift will share time with Jamaal Williams, and the staff will go with whoever is more effective in each game.
"It's a one-two punch," head coach Dan Campbell told reporters. “We're going to use both of those guys, they know that. A guy gets a hot hand, he's rolling. If Jamaal is in there, we're rolling. Jamaal is going to be rolling, and we'll use Swift for other things. Which is fine. That's a good problem to have."
Both Swift and Williams are talented backs, and no team (besides the Tennessee Titans) moves forward with a true workhorse. However, Swift played well as a rookie and looked like he would turn that into a featured role this fall. Campbell has a different usage plan.
"I have been fortunate to be around some good ones," Campbell said. "The place I just came from, obviously with [Alvin Kamara], and to have Mark Ingram when I first got there ... that's my vision of this one-two punch."
Campbell compared Swift to Kamara. If he's used in such a manner, the Lions could have a dynamic weapon as a runner and receiver. However, those are large expectations, especially since Ingram took a significant number of touches from Kamara.
Plus, the Lions' passing game can't compare to what the Saints once had with Sean Payton and Drew Brees to pull the strings, which will cause defenses to condense the field and limit opportunities.
Swift should still have an excellent season, but the idea that he'll be a breakout star might be an overreach.
Update on Dak Prescott's Status
The Dallas Cowboys have no intention of rushing quarterback Dak Prescott back onto the field.
Prescott left practice Wednesday with shoulder soreness. Head coach Mike McCarthy told reporters the team plans to take a "later than sooner" mindset with the quarterback's recovery.
The 28-year-old passer described what he thinks caused the malady.
"I don't necessarily know if I warmed up properly before I made a certain [long] throw on one of the days," he told reporters. "I wasn't as warm as I probably needed to be when I threw that."
The Cowboys coaching staff isn't in a hurry to get Prescott back onto the field. After last year's season-ending ankle injury, who can blame them?
McCarthy remained noncommittal when asked when the quarterback will resume throwing.
Each team's primary goal going into the regular season is the same: Everyone wants to be as healthy and prepared as possible once games mean something.
Would the Cowboys be better off if Prescott was on the field taking reps with the first-team offense? Sure. But the organization doesn't want to experience what it went through a year ago when his absence derailed the season. Dallas has no reason to rush Prescott until he's healthy and ready to resume normal activities.