Lions Camp Report: Day 1

July, 28, 2014
Jul 28
8:30
PM ET
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Detroit Lions training camp:
  • The most important and interesting item to come out of the first day of Lions training camp had nothing to do with anything the team did on the field. Instead, it had everything to do with Detroit's decision to table contract talks with Ndamukong Suh until after the season. The Lions said they decided to do this to make sure the focus remained solely on the season ahead, but they also took attention away from the first day of training camp with an off-the-field issue. At least for Detroit, it can avoid daily questions about it from now on.
  • Rookie linebacker Kyle Van Noy had a bit of a rough day. He injured his thumb during the first half of practice, ending the second round pick's participation in the first training camp practice of his career. He didn't seem too bothered by it, though. “I should be out there (Tuesday),” Van Noy said. Lions coach Jim Caldwell seemed a bit less optimistic, saying “we'll see how he goes the rest of the week.” Caldwell said the team wouldn't be able to determine the extent of the injury until Tuesday.
  • The Lions' secondary had a pretty decent first day in 11-on-11 work. Both Darius Slay and Rashean Mathis broke up passes intended for receiver Golden Tate, and the secondary covered well enough on other plays in the full-team periods to force Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford to have to throw dump-off passes to running backs Joique Bell and Reggie Bush instead. It's only one day and they are not in pads yet, but a decent sign for a Lions secondary that needs to put together a few good days early.
  • One of two Lions players who did not practice -- as expected -- was defensive end Ezekiel Ansah. Caldwell said Sunday he did not have a timetable for his return. Ansah spent most of Monday's practice off on the side chatting with folks. When asked about his return, he said he had no idea when he would come back. Another defensive end, Kalonji Kashama, was released by the team Monday.
  • In the battle for receivers not named Tate or Calvin Johnson, both Kris Durham and Kevin Ogletree had nice catches Monday. Ogletree had an impressive catch over the middle -- although he probably would have been drilled by a defensive back had it been a real game. Durham made a nice catch running an out on the sideline as well. In what is expected to be an extremely tight battle, plays like that are going to be noticed every practice.
  • This will be worth paying attention to throughout the first week: Corey Hilliard took snaps at right tackle ahead of LaAdrian Waddle during 11-on-11 periods Monday. Hilliard is more of a veteran than Waddle and Waddle is still expected to win the job, but an interesting small side note on the first day.
BALTIMORE -- Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice has received a negative backlash from national media and fans since his altercation with then-fiancée Janay Palmer in February.

Rice
Rice
But, in his home stadium, Rice apparently remains one of the most popular players on the team.

On two separate instances, fans gave loud cheers when Rice was shown on the big screen at M&T Bank Stadium, where the Ravens held their first open practice of training camp.

The first time was when Rice had a playful race with a small child along the sidelines. By the time Rice reached the end, which was a few feet from the stands, many fans gave him a standing ovation.

A few minutes later, Rice was again shown on the large video board. When fans cheered him, Rice tapped his chest.

There were many fans wearing Rice's No. 27 jersey, including several children.

Rice was suspended two games by the NFL on Thursday, and he didn't appeal the decision. He will miss the season opener against the AFC North defending champion Cincinnati Bengals and a Thursday night game against the rival Pittsburgh Steelers.

“It is disappointing that I will not be with my teammates for the first two games of the season, but that’s my fault," Rice said in a statement released by the team on Thursday. "As I said earlier, I failed in many ways. But, Janay and I have learned from this. We have become better as a couple and as parents. I am better because of everything we have experienced since that night. The counseling has helped tremendously.

“My goal is to earn back the trust of the people, especially the children, I let down because of this incident. I am a role model and I take that responsibility seriously. My actions going forward will show that.”

Rice is scheduled to speak to reporters on Thursday.

Giants Camp Report: Day 6

July, 28, 2014
Jul 28
8:00
PM ET
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of New York Giants training camp:
  • Another short practice for the Giants, who cut it off after about an hour and 15 minutes and headed inside for another recovery stretch. The longer training camp this year gives them a chance to build in rest breaks as dictated by the GPS technology the players are wearing during practice, and they're taking advantage of it. The hamstring injuries to wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and Xavier Grimble are the only injuries that are holding people out of practices so far, and Beckham's was apparently a holdover from the spring. So I guess you could say it's working.
  • One interesting thing I saw in the 11-on-11 period: There was a play on which wide receiver Marcus Harris was lined up out wide to the right, and just before the snap he motioned a few steps to his left into a three-man "bunch" formation with fellow wide receivers Julian Talley and Jerrel Jernigan. Bunch formations are one possible technique the Giants could use to help offset the fact that their wide receiver group is made up of relative small players. Instead of asking a small wideout to beat a defender off the line, you bunch them up in order to try and create confusion at the snap in the hope that one or more of them gets loose.
  • For the second day in a row, Ryan Nassib completed a downfield seam throw to a tight end. Monday it was Larry Donnell, who had to go high in the air to catch the ball and then somersaulted foward in the air as he fell to the ground with it. Earlier in the practice, Daniel Fells caught a touchdown pass from Eli Manning. It was Kellen Davis who caught the seam pass from Nassib on Sunday. The tight ends continue to rotate in and out of the practice reps as the coaches hope one or two of them start to distinguish themselves. It has not yet happened.
  • It was the second straight day in full pads, and there were some incidents. Fullback Henry Hynoski got into a very brief post-play scuffle with a defensive player. We couldn't see exactly who it was -- could have been Johnathan Hankins or Jameel McClain. But Hynoski's helmet went flying off, and the crowd got a kick out of it. Right at the end of practice, defensive tackle Jay Bromley made a big hit and full tackle on running back Kendall Gaskins, drawing a scolding from coach Tom Coughlin, who doesn't want his players tackling each other to the ground in practice.
  • The Giants mixed-and-matched some interesting defensive line looks, moving ends Jason Pierre-Paul and Mathias Kiwanuka inside on a couple of plays. And their NASCAR showed up, with pass-rushers Pierre-Paul, Kiwanuka, Robert Ayers and Damontre Moore all on the field at the same time.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- C.J. Mosley was standing there late Monday afternoon, almost marveling at what his teammate, Ndamukong Suh, had accomplished during the offseason. It had nothing to do with his contract with the Detroit Lions, but the way Suh takes care of himself.

Then, a massive arm wrapped around Mosley. It was Suh, giving his fellow defensive tackle a hug, asking what he was doing and then telling him he loved him. On a day when Suh's stalled and tabled contract talks overshadowed the start of the team's training camp, Suh seemed unbothered by it.

He practiced as usual. He hugged his teammates. When a spectator asked if he could take a picture of him, Suh instead asked if he wanted to be in the picture with him. This is all part of a day for Suh, who was all business when he practiced on the field and didn't want to talk about any of his business off of it.

[+] EnlargeDetroit's Ndamukong Suh
Photo by Leon Halip/Getty ImagesNdamukong Suh went home to Oregon during the offseason, where he put his "mad scientist hat on" to make himself better physically.
What Suh didn't know, though, was Mosley was in the midst of praising his teammate for what he had managed to do in the offseason.

"The man really worked this offseason," Mosley said. "Really worked. Gained 10 pounds of muscle and body fat went down. That's something you should ask him about. The reason it was surprising to me is I've played with great D-tackles.

"Kevin Williams. Pat Williams. Shaun Rogers. I played with a lot of great D-tackles and nobody that I know has worked that hard. I don't know what he did to do that, but nobody has. He was already in great shape."

What did Suh do? He insists it is nothing more than normal. He returned to Oregon for his typical offseason workouts as he does every year and tinkered with his body. He said he found his best masseuse while he was filming the reality television show "American Muscle" with Mike Barwis, an unexpected change to his typical workout regimen.

But this is what Suh does in the offseason and how he trains so he can try to ensure he will not miss a game due to injury for the fifth straight season.

"I feel like there's always a margin for increasing and getting better," Suh said. "I am always going to strive to be the best that I can. That's what I do in the offseason.

"That's why I go home and go in there with a mad scientist hat on and figure out what I can do to better myself physically."

While he is the defensive tackle who receives the majority of the attention, he is one of multiple tackles now in a contract year, joining Nick Fairley and Mosley. Mosley said that shouldn't change anything with how they play or what they do. Suh's contract was not going to distract them anyway, and he expected Suh to be motivated no matter what was going on there.

"We're motivating each other just by playing beside each other," Fairley said. "That's how we motivate each other. I see him make a play, I want to make a play. He sees me make a play, I know he wants to make a play. So, we just feed off each other."

It is a feeding that could turn into an unintentional frenzy on the field for the Lions. While the defensive tackles shouldn't be motivated by contract years, human nature would suggest they can't help but not be. It plays out like that time and time again.

From the way Suh was acting Monday, though, it doesn't seem like he is going to be bothered by it one bit.
CINCINNATI -- Late in Monday afternoon's practice, on one goal-line exercise, quarterback Andy Dalton stepped up in the pocket, then stepped back, rolled to his right away from more pressure, and threw the ball to an empty space well beyond the back corner of the end zone.

The play resulted in an incompletion. And his offensive coordinator couldn't have been happier.

[+] EnlargeAndy Dalton
AP PhotoAndy Dalton has worked on becoming a smarter quarterback during the offseason.
"Good, Andy. Good job," Hue Jackson shouted as Dalton jogged back to the huddle.

Indeed, it was good recognition by the Cincinnati Bengals' long-embattled quarterback who has struggled in the past with deciding in similar scenarios of good defensive coverage and pressure whether he wants to tuck the ball and run, take a sack, throw it away or still try to complete the pass.

More often than not, his instinct in the past was to make the play work anyway. The end result of those decisions? Typically wobbly passes that fluttered into the hands of a defensive back who greedily picked off the pass that shouldn't have been attempted. A number of Dalton's 20 interceptions last season came when he tried to force a pass.

So for much of the offseason, Jackson made sure Dalton understood his decision-making had to improve.

"It was a huge emphasis," Jackson said. "First, one, it's what I believe in. It's what our staff believes in. But two, it's truly what the essence of playing quarterback is about: making sure you don't have negative plays for your team. You've got to do a great job of carrying everybody under your hand. When you've got the ball in your hand, it's just about making a good decision. He's worked his tail off at doing that."

One of the more telling comments Jackson made during a post-practice huddle with reporters was that he wanted Dalton to realize that his decision-making doesn't only impact the offense. It can impact the entire team.

"You've got to protect the offensive football team and our entire football team with the ball," Jackson said. "He's starting to understand that. The guy had 33 touchdowns last year. But if we can get him to where when those opportunities come that are not there, to get him to be good with the ball, then great things can happen with this football team."

On the first day of training camp Dalton accepted responsibility for what he felt was his role in the Bengals' 27-10 loss to the Chargers in January's wild-card playoff loss. He was right to do that, just as he was at other times the past seven months. He had three costly turnovers in the game. All in the second half, he lost a fumble and threw a pair of interceptions. The Bengals' four-point halftime deficit ballooned after the turnovers, and eventually the game was out of hand.

It's film of that game that has Jackson wanting to see more of the heady Dalton who threw that pass away Monday.

"That was outstanding," Jackson said. "That's what I'm looking for. My goal, my thing with him, is to get us to the next down with the ball. It's not always about throwing a touchdown pass.

"Sometimes we're going to play good defenses and they're going to do things that stop us. And when they do, we have to be a smart football unit to make sure we're making proper decisions. Which sometimes, you've just got to say, 'Uncle,' and throw it away. It might mean taking a sack. It might mean whatever those things are. But just get us to the next down with the ball and we'll have a chance."

Steelers Camp Report: Day 3

July, 28, 2014
Jul 28
7:15
PM ET
LATROBE, Pa. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of the Pittsburgh Steelers training camp:
  • What a difference the popping of pads makes. The Steelers held their first padded practice of training camp between the rain drops produced Monday by a sobbing sky and everyone, it seemed, turned the intensity up. Way up. You expected to hear new defensive assistant Joey Porter early and often during practice. It was a surprise to see even-keeled defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau also yelling as he did several times during an 11-on-11 drill. Running backs and linebackers collided ferociously during the popular backs on 'backers drill and there was tackling as coach Mike Tomlin had promised. The practice looked totally different from the non-contact drills that the players had taken part in May and June and for the first two days of camp.
  • Rookie Ryan Shazier stood out during the backs on backers drill, showcasing the speed that helped convince the Steelers to take the inside linebacker with the 15th overall pick of the 2014 NFL draft. Everyone was anxious to see Shazier in full pads, and he made a strong first impression, especially when he twice blew past LeGarrette Blount. "He did some nice things," Tomlin said of Shazier. "He was elusive. He was playing to his assets with his speed and agility."
  • Outside linebacker Jason Worilds turned in the play of the day when he intercepted a pass thrown to rookie running back Dri Archer on a wheel route. When asked what was more impressive, Worilds making a play on the ball down the field or his running with the ultra-fast Archer, Tomlin said the interception and laughed. "That's the first time Jason Worilds has caught a ball in any fashion out here in practice. I know he can run. I'm going to paint that ball and give it to him."
  • Rookie cornerback Shaquille Richardson made a diving interception of a Bruce Gradkowski and the defense seemed to be ahead of the offense on the first day of pads and contact. Not that Tomlin saw it that way. "Battles were fought and won on both sides of the ball," he said.
  • Starting running back Le'Veon Bell (hamstring) didn't practice, and Blount, his backup, didn't have his best day. Blount struggled in backs on 'backers and also dropped a pass. Bell is "day-to-day," Tomlin said, after experiencing hamstring tightness on Sunday.
  • In other injury news, rookie linebacker Jordan Zumwalt left practice with groin tightness and wide receiver C.J. Goodwin was held out of drills after landing on his shoulder during practice on Sunday. Ramon Foster will not in camp due to the death of his mother, so Chris Hubbard played left guard with the first-team offense for the second consecutive practice. The players are off on Tuesday and resume practice on Wednesday.

Redskins Camp Report: Day 5

July, 28, 2014
Jul 28
7:00
PM ET
RICHMOND, Va. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of the Washington Redskins training camp:
  • The Redskins needed to be a more physical team overall after finishing last in three of the last four years. They need a mindset and an identity, something I don’t think they always had under Mike Shanahan. I’ve seen it under other coaches: Marty Schottenheimer and Joe Gibbs’ teams in particular. They were tough and hard-nosed. To play that way you need players who fit that description. One way to weed them out is to have more physical practices, something the Redskins are doing – especially Monday. Coach Jay Gruden wants a tough-minded team and days like this helps mold that identity.
  • One of the funny sights occurred because of the physical nature of practice. But it involved two players whose dads went at it back in the day (competing, not fighting): receiver Jerry Rice, Jr. and corner Chase Minnifield. Easy to tell who is Rice’s dad; Minnifield’s father, Frank, played for the Cleveland Browns and against Rice on occasion. Anyway, Rice and Minnifield had a brief scuffle after one play. It was noteworthy because of their last names. Receiver Andre Roberts had a bigger near-fight with corner Peyton Thompson after they engaged on a run play. Roberts’ helmet came off and, yes, he threw a punch. But they were quickly separated. Receiver DeSean Jackson and quarterback Robert Griffin III went and talked to Thompson for a couple seconds afterward.
  • Receiver Pierre Garcon had soreness in his hamstring and didn’t participate in most of practice. It did not sound serious and he stayed on the field with his pads on and walked fine to the locker room after practice. Undrafted free-agent corner Courtney Bridget injured his right shoulder and Gruden said he will undergo an MRI.
  • The Redskins will switch rookie Morgan Moses to the right side next week after having him work on the left side. He initially practiced at right tackle in the spring, but was not as comfortable as he was on the left side (he played both spots in college). Moses has to learn how to play lower and use better angles and move his feet. But how he handles the backup role could determine Tom Compton’s fate. He’s been working as the primary backup at right tackle in camp. But if Moses shows he can handle life as the main backup, then Compton would have a harder time making the roster (teams don’t always keep four tackles).
  • Have I told you lately how much I enjoy watching outside linebackers coach Brian Baker conduct a drill session? He focuses hard on the details and it doesn’t matter if you’re a starter or not; if you mess up you do it again. I’ve seen him praise the no-names and make guys such as Ryan Kerrigan and Trent Murphy do a second rep because the first wasn’t good enough. He chastised both players Monday, first having Murphy do a second rep after not getting low enough after shedding the blocker. He had Kerrigan go a second time on a drill in which Baker wanted him to be “low and tight.” The goal was to turn the corner against one dummy, then touch the bottom of another dummy, simulating a pass-rush angle. Kerrigan did it right the next time.

Falcons Camp Report: Day 4

July, 28, 2014
Jul 28
6:50
PM ET
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Atlanta Falcons training camp:
  • Showing some fight: The Falcons provided plenty of footage for HBO's "Hard Knocks" during Monday's first padded practice. Numerous fights broke out throughout the day. It started with offensive lineman Gabe Carimi and outside linebacker Stansly Maponga exchanging punches following a pass-rush, one-on-one drill. "Both sides don't want to take crap," Carimi said. "I don't think there's anything personal between us. We'll talk about it. We'll be fine in the locker room. We'll be fine the next day. I think we've got two, passionate lines, and I think that's a good thing." The scuffle had a domino effect as outside linebacker Jacques Smith and center Joe Hawley got into it with a heated exchange. Hawley took exception because Smith's a rookie, and he let the youngster know about it. Another veteran, guard Justin Blalock, had a problem with Smith's reaction, too. "Out here on the field, things are going to work a certain way: You're just not going to talk like that to certain people," Blalock said. "There are things in place to handle that type of stuff. Unfortunately, you had to see some of that today." Coach Mike Smith stepped in and used a couple of expletives to calm the situation. The rookie Smith later got into it with tackle Ryan Schraeder.
  • Tough enough: Coach Smith seemed to be a little annoyed when the subject of toughness was brought up, considering it was the first time real hitting took place. "Everyone wants to talk about toughness: If you play in the National Football League, you are a tough person," Smith said. "It's about being resilient. It's about being strong. It's about being physical. Everybody that plays in the NFL is tough. And I can't tell you I've ever been around a football player that plays in the National Football League that's not tough. ... But in terms of being physical, we've got to be a more physical football team."
  • Rocky road: There was a funny moment in practice when Matt Ryan lightly tackled cornerback Robert Alford after Alford picked off a pass and returned it. But it was no joke how the passing game with Ryan and T.J. Yates was a little out of sync. There was some solid defensive pressure, particularly from Jonathan Massaquoi, who threw Ryan's timing off on at least one play. The defensive backs also made plays by knocking the ball away.
  • Rookie watch: Right tackle Jake Matthews was solid throughout the entire day, rarely giving up ground and forcing pass-rushers out wide. He was consistent in one-on-one drills and during full 11-on-11 team work. Defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman didn't fare as well, getting stood up a few times by offensive guard Harland Gunn both in drills and full team work. Practice ended with one play ran at full speed, and linebacker Marquis Spruill made a nice tackle on fellow rookie Devonta Freeman.
  • Extra points: Coach Smith said the pad level was way too high during the first padded practice. ... New defensive lineman Tyson Jackson and Paul Soliai looked the part up front with the pads on, barely getting push during one-on-ones and holding their own against double-teams. ... Julio Jones sat out practice, as planned. He'll be back Tuesday. ... Roddy White wore a thin knee brace but said it was no big deal. ... Team owner Arthur Blank attended practice.

Bengals Camp Report: Day 5

July, 28, 2014
Jul 28
6:30
PM ET
CINCINNATI -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Cincinnati Bengals training camp:


  • The Bengals had barely finished stretching at the start of Monday's practice before Mohamed Sanu made his presence known. The receiver went in motion on one of the first plays of an 11-on-11 drill before he was handed the football. Right after taking it from quarterback Andy Dalton, Sanu stopped, pulled up and threw a pass -- one of the few he has even attempted, in practice or otherwise, since college -- to fellow receiver A.J. Green. The throw fell easily into Green's hands well down field and set the tone for what ended up being a strong day overall for Sanu. "Coach had me doing a little bit of everything," Sanu said about offensive coordinator Hue Jackson.
  • In addition to throwing that pass, Sanu ran the ball once and, naturally, caught a few passes of his own from Dalton and other quarterbacks. While Sanu nor Jackson nor head coach Marvin Lewis will dare provide specifics about how they are using the receiver, they are all glad to have such a versatile playmaker on the roster. With Sanu a threat to do almost anything on the field, the Bengals know how big a challenge covering him, while also having to account for Giovani Bernard and Green, among others, can be.
  • Much of the Bengals' second fully-padded practice of training camp was spent working on short-yardage and goal-line situations. Running backs had to plow ahead on each play while defenders were charged with stopping them. It seemed like regularly during the third-and-short and fourth-and-short plays, the running backs were able to slither free for the first-down gain. On the goal line, however, the defense had its share of wins, breaking through and knocking down passing attempts, stopping running backs at the line of scrimmage or flushing quarterbacks out of the pocket and into forced throws. The units seemed split on the amount of time they respectively won battles in the trenches.
  • While the overall contact stepped up a notch Monday, the physical play that occurred Sunday may have been just a bit too much for several defenders. Linebackers J.K. Schaffer and Sean Porter got a little dinged after the first fully padded practice of the camp. That caused them both to stay in the training room Monday, while defensive end Robert Geathers and cornerback Adam Jones may have been receiving veterans' days off after the intense Day 4 workout. Neither was dressed Monday, but both were out on the practice fields. Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick also was at practice but not participating after apparently tweaking a hamstring on Saturday.
  • The Bengals did lose one player to injury Monday. Offensive tackle Andre Smith ran into the locker room in the middle of the practice for an unspecified injury. Jackson said after practice he wasn't positive what the injury was but felt comfortable in affirming that the lineman shouldn't miss too much time. An off day couldn't have come at a better time for the Bengals. They won't practice Tuesday and will be back in action Wednesday.
ANDERSON, Ind. -- The Colts strolled into training camp last week with a deep group of running backs on their roster.

Several things have happened since then.

Vick Ballard went down with a torn Achilles and away went Chris Rainey for not following team rules. Oh yeah, Trent Richardson continues to watch training camp practice from the sidelines.

[+] EnlargeTrent Richardson
Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY SportsThe Colts hope running back Trent Richardson can have a bounce-back season.
So the depth the Colts had before?

Gone.

Injuries and immaturity have left the Colts with Ahmad Bradshaw, Dan Herron, Davin Meggett and Zurlon Tipton as the only healthy running backs taking snaps in practice.

"We're one less, so those other guys are going to continue to get work," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. "(General manager) Ryan (Grigson) and I, again, will look at the roster and see what we need to do. He's always looking at the wire and who is on the street, to see if we need to bring in another set of legs."

Richardson could help stop some of the uneasiness that's going through the organization about depth concerns at running back by showing he's ready to have a bounce-back season. Everybody's waiting -- and waiting some more -- to see if that will happen.

Pagano hasn't given a timetable on when Richardson will practice.

"We're not going to push these guys," Pagano said. "We've seen guys go down and we're always going to err on the side of caution, you know that. But they're doing better and they're getting really close and hopefully they'll be back sooner than later."

Losing Rainey means the Colts miss out on having a player who could handle two roles on the roster for them.

Pagano knows it, too.

He spent several minutes less than 48 hours prior to Rainey's release telling a story about watching a DVD of Rainey in high school in Florida with his daughter. Pagano saw Rainey's "athleticism, the burst, the speed" in the video. But Rainey failed to take advantage of the opportunity to be the Colts' third running back and return specialist. He only has himself to blame for his mistakes.

Bradshaw has been a positive so far in training camp. He's been a regular in practice -- even sprinting down field trying to catch cornerback Josh Gordy after an Andrew Luck interception Monday -- and he's not showing any signs of having a problem with his neck, which caused him to miss the final 13 games of the 2013 season.

"He looks fantastic," Pagano said. "He has found the groove to make it. We know how tough Ahmad is. We know how he's wired, so I'm not going to be pulling back on the reins. He's one of those guys we have to protect them from themselves. It will take care of itself. He's not one of those guys that will think about what he went through.

"He's a football player, tough guy, hard nose. Love to see what we can get out of him. We are putting the pads on today for the first time so we will find some other things out."

Bradshaw can continue to look good and impress, but all eyes will remain on Richardson.

Packers Camp Report: Day 3

July, 28, 2014
Jul 28
6:30
PM ET
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Green Bay Packers training camp:


  • Lest you forgot about Sean Richardson when it came time to talk about playing time at the safety position, the third-year pro reminded everyone of his potential on Monday. With the pads on for the first time, Richardson made a play that has rarely been replicated by a Packers safety since the days of Nick Collins or Charles Woodson. During a team blitz period, Aaron Rodgers fired a pass over the middle to Jordy Nelson but Richardson jumped in and snatched the ball away from Nelson for an interception.
  • For the first padded practice of camp, the temperature on Monday morning when things kicked off at 8:20 a.m. local time was just 56 degrees. An hour into the practice, it was not yet 60 degrees, but the Packers took one of their TV timeout regeneration breaks and followed it with one short period followed by another water break. Still, when asked whether it was fun to put the pads on, veteran guard Josh Sitton said, "I mean, fun is a little strong." The practice lasted 2 hours, 26 minutes – or about 10 minutes longer than the non-padded practices each of the first two days.
  • Nose tackle B.J. Raji got off to a strong start in the first one-on-one pass-rushing drill. He won all three of his reps. Of course, when someone wins, it means someone else looked bad. Twice, Raji beat JC Tretter, who is trying to lock down the starting center job. Raji beat Tretter with his quickness on one turn and then overpowered him on another. Tackle Bryan Bulaga also looked good in his first turns since blowing out his knee last camp. He won all three of his reps, including one at left tackle against Clay Matthews.
  • In other odds and ends from practice: Cornerback Davon House had a strip-sack of Matt Flynn and recovered the fumble during the team blitz period. … If you're looking for an undrafted rookie to watch, keep an eye on inside linebacker Joe Thomas of South Carolina State. He's a bit undersized (6-1, 227) but is around the ball often. … In what could be a bad sign for undrafted rookie tight end Colt Lyerla, he was relegated to the scout team that worked against the defense at the start of practice while the majority of the offensive players, including fellow undrafted rookie tight end Justin Perillo, practiced inside the Hutson Center at the start of the session.
  • Outside linebacker Mike Neal said he could be cleared to practice as soon as Wednesday. He remains on the PUP list with a core muscle injury but is scheduled to be examined on Tuesday. He said he reported to camp lighter than ever, at 263 pounds. He played last season at 275, which is about 25 pounds lighter than he was is first three seasons, when he played defensive end.
  • In addition to Neal, others who remained out were: Nick Perry (foot, knee), Jamari Lattimore (illness), Jeff Janis (illness), Letroy Guion (hamstring), and Jerel Worthy (back). Janis made an appearance at practice for the first time in camp.
  • The Packers do not practice on Tuesday. They return to the field on Wednesday at 8:20 a.m. local time.

Saints Camp Report: Day 4

July, 28, 2014
Jul 28
6:30
PM ET
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. – A daily review of the hot topics coming out of New Orleans Saints training camp:


  • Cornerback Keenan Lewis created his own no-fly zone during one set of team drills Monday, rejecting passes intended for Marques Colston, Andy Tanner and Joe Morgan (the last two on back-to-back plays). As I've written many times, Lewis should have been a Pro Bowler last year and was as important as anyone to the Saints’ defensive revival. So far, he looks primed for a repeat. … Overall, it was a good day for the secondary, with Pierre Warren diving for an interception and Kenny Vaccaro and Patrick Robinson also providing highlights.
  • The offensive highlight was a long run by tailback Khiry Robinson that included a sweet cutback – a play that coach Sean Payton later singled out. But just as impressive for Robinson was a terrific blitz pickup when he had to absorb a big impact from Vaccaro. Robinson said that’s one element of his game he’s really trying to improve in his second NFL season, which he called “night and day” compared to his rookie year out of West Texas A&M. … Saints offensive tackle Zach Strief said as Robinson continues to add knowledge and confidence to his impressive ability, “You are kind of unleashing a lot of potential there.”
  • It was another physical practice in full pads Monday. The offensive line definitely got the better of the defense in early 9-on-7 run drills, though Strief admitted they’re at an advantage when the defense doesn’t have any safeties to help fill gaps. “There is good competition there. I tried to give (defensive end Akiem) Hicks a high-five after the period, and he told me no. There is definitely competitiveness, and that is part of training camp.” … Strief had another strong performance in one-on-one pass-rush drills. Others who stood out in that drill included center Jonathan Goodwin, defensive end Glenn Foster and outside linebacker Keyunta Dawson.
  • The Saints turned up the volume on Monday’s practice, blasting some music through the stretching period and a few drills – something they started doing before the playoffs last year when they mixed up the daily routine (along with the new Gatorade flavors and sweatsuits). It wasn’t just for entertainment purposes. Payton said it also helps players learn to focus through the noise.
  • Guard Ben Grubbs (undisclosed injury) and receiver Robert Meachem (back) remained sidelined Monday. Payton said both should be back within a day or so but declined to offer any specifics on the injuries. Safety Jairus Byrd, defensive tackle John Jenkins, receiver Kenny Stills and offensive tackle Tavon Rooks also remained sidelined.
SAN DIEGO -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of San Diego Chargers training camp:

For a second straight day rookie Chris Watt worked with the starters at right guard, with Johnnie Troutman working at right guard with the second unit. Both are filling in until last year’s starter, Jeromey Clary, returns from the physically unable to perform list after offseason shoulder and hip surgery.

For the most part, Watt has been assignment correct and held his own during one-on-one pass drills. But another measuring point for the third round selection out of Notre Dame will be how he performs against Dallas on Aug. 7 at Qualcomm Stadium.

Speaking of rookies, second-round selection Jeremiah Attaochu continues to flash speed and athleticism in his first week of training camp. The Georgia Tech product has been used as a pass rush specialist in passing situations.

However, at times Attaochu has been a little overzealous in pursuing the ball carrier. Attaochu was beat on a wheel route by Ryan Mathews and tackled him by legs, a no-no during team drills when players are supposed to keep hitting above the waist.

And while rushing the passer, Attaochu pushed tackle Michael Harris back in to quarterback Kellen Clemens, who hit his hand on Harris’ helmet following through on a pass down the field. But the Chargers can live with Attaochu’s enthusiasm, as long as he’s playing aggressive and making plays.

Jarret Johnson, Dwight Freeney and Antonio Gates returned to practice after taking rest days on Sunday. Receiver Vincent Brown remained out for a third straight day with a calf injury. And Melvin Ingram also did not practice, apparently taking a rest day for his surgically repaired knee. Clary remains on the PUP list.

Mathews moved well working with the offense in two-minute drills on Tuesday. After catching a pass out on the flat, Mathews made a nice open-field move to avoid an oncoming Manti Te'o. Mathews also showed nimble feet finding cutback lanes in the run game.

Perhaps Mathews had some extra motivation with LaDainian Tomlinson on hand for Monday’s practice. Now an analyst for the NFL Network, the former San Diego running back talked with his former teammates like Rivers and Gates, along with Mathews and Dwight Freeney, after practice.

The Chargers wore pads for a third straight day on Monday, but will take a day off on Tuesday. San Diego returns to practice on Wednesday, beginning at 5:50 p.m. ET. Wednesday’s practice is open to the public.
By claiming rookie running back Tyler Gaffney on waivers Monday, the New England Patriots showed willingness to a pay a short-term price for a potential long-term gain at a position where there is an uncertain future.

In doing so, they essentially added an additional draft choice, as Gaffney was selected in the sixth round in May. The cost: Gaffney's $420,000 base salary for 2014.

Gaffney, who was part of our "Beyond the first round" series leading into the draft in part because of his excellent 6.78 time in the 3-cone drill, could help the Patriots in 2015 upon his return to health. He suffered a season-ending knee injury in a practice Friday.

The Patriots' top three running backs -- Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden -- all enter the final year of their contracts. Rookie James White, the team's fourth-round pick out of Wisconsin, is signed through 2017. Gaffney's contract also extends through the 2017 season.

When the Patriots did the same thing with tight end Jake Ballard in 2012, some said it was against "unwritten" rules in the NFL. That drew a somewhat fiery response from coach Bill Belichick.

This is essentially Ballard, Part II.

The Patriots hope this one works out with more favorable results, as Ballard never emerged with the team and landed with the Arizona Cardinals, where he's had more success.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The crux of the New York Giants' tight end problem, with six weeks until the regular season begins, continues to be this: Their new offense wants to rely on the tight end to a significant extent, but it still doesn't really have a tight end on which it can rely.

Robinson
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"Right now, we're looking for that complete tight end who can do it all," Giants tight ends coach Kevin M. Gilbride said Monday. "But we also need guys who are role players -- guys who can be specialists in certain areas. If he's best at executing a certain block, he's going to have the opportunity to make that block in the game. If he's best at running a certain route, he's going to have the opportunity to run that route in a game. So you need to have that all-around tight end, and then you also need to have specialists, guys who are great at a particular role."

The problem is that, to this point, no one from the group that includes Adrien Robinson, Larry Donnell, Daniel Fells, Kellen Davis and Xavier Grimble has established himself as the all-around guy.

"I think right now, they've all got a shot at doing it," Gilbride said. "They're all very good in certain areas right now and not as efficient or as good in other areas. In order to become that all-around tight end, they need to continue to develop."

Gilbride wouldn't handicap the competition, but based on what we've seen so far at practice, Fells looks like the most capable pass-catcher. Donnell made an excellent leaping catch on a seam throw from Ryan Nassib in practice Monday, a short time after Fells caught a touchdown pass from Eli Manning. Davis made a great catch on a seam-route throw from Nassib on Sunday. Robinson has always been a capable run-blocker and continues to show that. The Giants have tried their best to rotate all of the tight end candidates in with the first-team offense to give them all a chance to show what they can do. But it's too early for anyone to have separated himself.

"Every time they get on the field, they know they're being evaluated with everything that they do," Gilbride said. "When guys start to emerge, we'll know it."

So far in camp, we have seen tight ends lined up all over the formation -- in the slot, in tight, out wide... even in the backfield in a fullback or H-back role. Gilbride said that's not a case of experimentation; it's an integral part of the offense and something their tight ends will have to do. The new running game includes more zone and stretch concepts that will require the tight ends to be nimble and flexible as blockers. There is a lot to the job.

"I would describe it as 'Jack of all trades,'" Gilbride said. "Having them be in the backfield and playing a lot of that fullback role, splitting them out as the No. 1 receiver, the No. 2. An in-line tight end as far as the blocking and the pass receiving. It's a jack of all trades and they have to master them all. It's an exciting, fun position in this offense, but we need to continue to develop in order to be ready to help our team win football games."

The Giants could keep as many as four tight ends on their roster, especially if they wrap up the preseason with the same issue they have now -- guys who have disparate strengths and weaknesses and have to be mixed and matched in and out of the lineup depending on circumstances. But Gilbride made it clear that's not the ideal situation.

"I think you can get it done with the specialist-type thing, but that's not really what we're looking for," he said. "What we're really looking for is to develop a number of overall tight ends who can do it all."

The search continues.

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