Brown and Danny Woodhead also give the team a pair of options to turn to if they feel Mathews’ play is not where they want it to be. That was sometimes an issue early in Mathews’ career because of fumbles and Thursday night’s preseason game provided a reminder of those days when Mathews coughed up the ball on his way into the end zone. Chargers coach Mike McCoy wasn’t thrilled with the turnover, but said he’s not turning to Brown or Woodhead the next time the Chargers are knocking on the door.
Fumble won’t change Ryan Mathews’ role with Chargers
Still, Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan told reporters Friday that Smith remains in the team’s plans.
Asked if he expected Smith to be on the opening day roster, Maccagnan said he “assumes” that answer is yes and said the team likes Smith.
The team will almost certainly end up either moving on from Smith or second-year quarterback Bryce Petty after drafting Christian Hackenberg last spring. That’s a decision Maccagnan doesn’t have to make now, but Smith knows he might also be auditioning for other teams.
Jets Coach Todd Bowles praised Smith in the offseason. Whether that was about trade value or whether the team still thinks Smith could end up being in its long-term plans might is unclear, and a lot could depend on what happens over the next four or five weeks with all of the team’s quarterbacks.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger paid tribute Friday to retired tight end Heath Miller by wearing Miller’s No. 83 jersey for the start of training camp.
Friday marked the start of the Steelers’ first camp without Miller since 2004. He was a first-round pick in 2005 who caught 45 career touchdown passes and went to two Pro Bowls.
Miller announced his retirement in February.
The Steelers tweeted a video of Roethlisberger taking the field in the No. 83 jersey on their official Twitter account.
Ladarius Green figures as the team’s new No. 1 tight end after signing with the Steelers in March, but he’s starting camp on the PUP list. His absence means extra reps for tight ends Jesse James and David Johnson.
They aren’t going to wait to see how those moves or any of the others they made this offseason work out before deciding on General Manager Rick Smith’s future with the team. The Texans have extended Smith’s contract, which was due to expire after this season, through the 2020 campaign.
“Rick’s doing a good job for us, and I think stability in the organization is important,” owner Bob McNair said, via John McClain of the Houston Chronicle. “He works hard. He’s very diligent. He communicates well. He knows what our objectives are. Rick has put together a good scouting staff, and he works well with the coaching staff. I thought this was a good time to get this done.”
Smith is the second G.M. in the history of the franchise. He succeeded Charley Casserley in 2006 and built the first Texans teams to advance to the postseason. They took a step back in 2013 and 2014 and had a rough draft in 2013 outside of wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, but returned to the postseason as AFC South champs last year and McNair clearly believes Smith will continue to be successful in the years to come.
In the early days of training camp, the most dreaded sight is the flatbed cart.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera said moments later that Butler was suffering from cramps, alleviating some of the concern.
Butler is a key piece for the Panthers for several reasons, even beyond his presence on the field. Having another interior presence should help them keep waves of linemen coming, and add to a pass-rush that isn’t as well-stocked at defensive end.
But he’s also a useful deterrent/insurance policy in the ongoing Kawann Short contract talks, allowing General Manager Dave Gettleman some cover for the future if they can’t work out a deal with Short.
The Raiders put running back Roy Helu on the physically unable to perform list at the start of camp because he had surgery on both hips this offseason, but it’s going to be a brief stay.
The change isn’t because Helu is moving back to the active roster. Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said Friday that the team has removed Helu from the 90-man roster entirely and replacing him with defensive tackle Derrick Lott.
Helu signed with the Raiders in March 2015, but he was hurt during training camp and wound up getting just 17 carries and nine receptions in nine appearances with the team. His hip problems suggested more of the same could be on tap this season and the Raiders will look elsewhere for backs to complement Latavius Murray.
And so, quarterback Eli Manning told Sal Paolantonio of ESPN, the veterans on the Giants have talked to Beckham about keeping his emotions in check.
“Odell knows what he needs to do,” Manning said. “He’s got to be careful with his emotions and make sure that doesn’t affect his play. You want to get in that right temperament, be at your best, play your best football and he’s got to make sure he controls that, where we’re getting his best and his actions don’t affect the team in a negative way.”
Receiver Victor Cruz added that Beckham, as a young star in the NFL, needs to consider what kind of reputation he wants to have.
“I think he understands that this past year, since last season, has been a little bit of a whirlwind, in that regard, and he understands that — he wants people to know him for him and how he’s a great player, great person, and how he wants to be perceived and I think he’s really taken charge of that,” Cruz said.
Beckham already has the “great player” part down. He may have some work to do rehabbing his personal image, after the ugly ending to last season.
After the retirement of Peyton Manning and the departure via free agency of Brock Osweiler, the Broncos official website referred to the quality of the team’s quarterback play in 2015 as “sub-optimal” and “near-replacement-level.”
On Friday, coach Gary Kubiak didn’t use such specificity in connection with the quarterback position. But he used a broad brush to paint a not-so-flattering picture regarding the team’s offensive performance in 2015.
“We’re talking about a group,” Kubiak told reporters. “We’re not talking about a position. You go back to last year and you look at us, we finished in the middle of the pack. I think we finished 16th. Out of 12 playoff teams, I think we we’re like sixth offensively, but we feel like we did not play well at all. That tells you the standard that we have, the standard that I have and [offensive coordinator Rick Dennison] has, and what we want to do. We’ve got to improve as a team. We can’t turn the ball over as much as we did last year and we’ve got to play better up front. If we do those things with the players we’ve got, we’re going to be a better offense. That’s what we’re talking about. We’re talking about a group, not a player.”
Fine, but it’s hard not to throw stones at an entire offense without hitting the former leader of it in the red splotch on his forehead. Quarterbacks get the credit when offenses thrive and the blame when they sputter. The Broncos sputtered on offense last year, and the play of Peyton Manning was a big factor in that.
This year, if the Broncos can get more out of the quarterback position, they can be better on offense and, if they perform as well as they did defensively in 2015, hoist another Lombardi Trophy.
On Friday, Mark Sanchez had the first crack at leading the first-team offense. After he threw an interception to cornerback Chris Harris Jr., however, Trevor Siemian entered and, according to Mike Klis of 9news.com, remained the No. 1 quarterback for the rest of the day.
With multiple options and no clear-cut leader at the position, that’s likely how it’s going to go. With Kubiak wanting to protect the ball, the one that does will play. Until he doesn’t, at which point someone else will play.
The Jets have excused defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson from their training camp practices due to personal reasons, Jets coach Todd Bowles told reporters Friday.
Bowles said he expects Richardson to be absent for a couple days.
The Jets started camp on Thursday.
Richardson, 25, had five sacks last season after serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. He has 16.5 sacks in three seasons and was named to the Pro Bowl in 2014.
Richardson is suspended for the Jets’ season opener vs. the Bengals for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. He’s still allowed to participate in camp and the preseason.
Tight end Dennis Pitta avoided a spot on the physically unable to perform list this week, leaving him eligible to take part in practices with the Ravens as they opened training camp.
Pitta didn’t practice at all last year as his twice-broken and dislocated hip was never well enough for him to get on the field. Pitta contemplated retirement in the offseason, but restructured his contract with the team in order to give it another go.
After the first two practices, Pitta told reporters that he’s not thinking about his hip unless he’s being asked about it and that he feels his chemistry with quarterback Joe Flacco hasn’t suffered as a result of his long layoff.
“I don’t feel like I’ve lost a step,” Pitta said, via ESPN.com. “I don’t feel like I’m any slower or do anything different than I did a couple of years ago, in my opinion. That’s my goal. I want to be the lead guy.”
Whether he’s the lead guy at tight end or part of a group with Benjamin Watson and Maxx Williams, getting Pitta back in a form close to where he was in the past would be a big win for the Ravens offense. So far, it looks like there’s good reason for optimism about his chances of doing that.
Robert Griffin III got the first reps with the first-team offense as the Browns opened training camp Friday, but Browns coach Hue Jackson has been adamant that the team does not yet have a starting quarterback.
As he did throughout the spring, Griffin said he’s just “having fun” and whatever level of uncertainty may exist hasn’t affected his thinking or his work.
“I think Coach is going to come out and see what he needs to see and make that decision,” Griffin said, per the team’s official camp transcript. “It’s our job as players to put our best foot forward.”
Jackson has said he’ll name a starter before the team plays its first preseason game, and since the spring it’s seemed like Griffin’s job to lose. Friday marked the first of 11 practices the Browns have on their schedule before their Aug. 12 preseason opener at Green Bay.
“At the end of the day you come out here every day having to work to be the guy, to be the best,” Griffin said. “Even when they name the starter you still have to come out here and work and prove it every single day. Nothing’s ever going to be given to you.
“I don’t worry about things that I can’t control. If [Jackson] asks me to stand up in front of the team and present something, I’m going to present something. If he says, ‘Don’t tell me anything,’ then I’m going to sit there and take notes. At the end of the day, you don’t worry about what you can’t control. Coach has decisions that he has to make, and your job is to make that decision easy for him.”
The Chargers have reported for training camp. Defensive end Joey Bosa hasn’t. It’s unclear when he will.
“We’re disappointed that he’s not here,” G.M. Tom Telesco said Friday, via Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune. “We just have some small, fundamental differences that haven’t been resolved yet. But we’re still actively talking. We’re still actively working on it.”
If the differences are “small,” it should be easy. The fact that they are “fundamental,” however, makes things more difficult.
The fight reportedly centers on offset language on the fully-guaranteed contract and cash flow on his signing bonus. Common sense suggests that a compromise can occur by giving the team what it wants on one issue and the player what he wants on the other.
But common sense ain’t, and Gehlken suggests Bosa could be absent for a while. That’s the last thing the Chargers need as they try to maximize their on-field victories as their biggest off-field fight — a vote on public funding for their new stadium — looms.
Colts running back Frank Gore, with only 700 rushing yards, will find himself as No. 8 on the all-time NFL rushing yardage list. That will provide plenty of motivation. His spot on another list still gives him motivation, more than a decade later.
“When I was coming out I had injuries,” Gore told reporters on Friday. “Me, I like people doubting me. I go even harder and I love proving people wrong. When I was the sixth [running] back taken, I made sure I told myself I would be the best one out of all of them.”
He clearly is. Gore’s accomplishments become even more impressive when considering that his draft year of 2005 had three running backs picked in the top five: Ronnie Brown (by the Dolphins), Cedric Benson (by the Bears), and Cadillac Williams (by the Buccaneers).
The other two running backs selected before Gore in round three had their names called in round two: J.J. Arrington of the Cardinals and Eric Shelton of the Panthers. (Although the question that sparked Gore’s response called him the “last guy standing” at his position from 2005, Darren Sproles also was taken that year, by the Chargers in round four. Sproles signed a contract extension with the Eagles earlier today.)
The five taken before Gore had combined career rushing yards of 16,123. Gore has 12,040 and counting — including more than twice the amount of the guy with the second most (Benson, who had 6,017).
Most glaringly, the last running back taken before Gore, Eric Shelton, had 23 total rushing yards in his career. Gore could beat that number by the end of the first quarter of his current team’s first game of 2016.
When quarterback Nick Foles was released by the Rams, speculation about his next stop often included the Cowboys.
Kellen Moore is the No. 2 in Dallas, but the team talked about upgrading their options behind Tony Romo at points earlier in the offseason and Foles’ best days in the NFL looked a lot better than what Moore did in his appearances with the Cowboys last season.
Foles has had plenty of bad days as well and it seems that the sum total has left the Cowboys unconvinced that he would be a better choice to be a heartbeat (or broken collarbone) away from the starting quarterback job. Owner Jerry Jones said Friday that Foles “isn’t an option” and reiterated that they like Moore.
Executive vice president Stephen Jones added that the team has to develop their own quarterbacks to improve the overall depth at the position, something they’ll try to do with fourth-round pick Dak Prescott this year.
In 2014, Lions linebacker DeAndre Levy had an excellent season, and the team rewarded him with a four-year, $33 million contract. But it’s been all injuries since.
Last year Levy played in just one game because of a hip injury, and today the Lions announced that Levy will open training camp on the non-football injury list.
There is no immediate word on the nature of Levy’s injury or if it’s related to last year’s hip problems. Players sometimes end up on the NFI list for just a short time at the start of camp, so this designation isn’t a cause for panic in Detroit, but it’s not exactly a good thing, either.
Safety Don Carey was also placed on the non-football injury list.
But it quickly became a two-for-one injury.
According to Michael Phillips of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Washington General Manager Scot McCloughan was on the practice field wearing a wrap on his left hand, and jokingly pointed at Doctson, and said: “It’s this guy’s fault.”
As it turns out, it was.
Later in the day, former tight end Chris Cooley said on ESPN 980 that it was a reaction to McCloughan hearing news of Doctson’s Achilles injury, which is keeping him from practicing.
“I said, ‘What happened to your hand?'” Cooley said. “He said, when I found out about Doctson — which they thought was going to be much worse, the Doctson injury, apparently it isn’t going to be as bad — I punched the wall.”
Cooley said that kind of reaction inspired respect for the longtime personnel man, showing how much he cared about his roster.