NFL Training Camps 2013: Updates, Rumors and Analysis for August 8
On Thursday night, the NFL preseason got underway with a vengeance.
Six games were played, including rematches of the last two Super Bowls. Defensive end DeMarcus Ware logged a sack in his debut with the Denver Broncos. Rookie running back Carlos Hyde ran hard in his first game with the San Francisco 49ers. The Kansas City Chiefs and Cincinnati Bengals lit up the scoreboard in a preseason shootout.
It was choppy, and in some cases, it was hideous, but it was football.
And it was glorious.
As we gear up for yet another slate of games on Friday followed by a weekend of exhibition action, here's the latest scoop from around the NFL.
Update on Panthers QB Cam Newton
The Carolina Panthers made a surprising run to the NFC South title in 2013, but after an offseason that ranks somewhere between "catastrophe" and "Seriously? Did someone break a mirror?" the Panthers enter the 2014 campaign surrounded by questions.
Among those questions is the health of quarterback Cam Newton, who has been limited in training camp after undergoing offseason ankle surgery.
Newton told Jonathan Jones and Joseph Person of The Charlotte Observer that his rehab is progressing well, although the fourth-year pro admitted he still has pain in the ankle if he moves the wrong way:
It’s like a thump from your mom when you said something that you weren’t supposed to, she’ll thump you dead in your ear or on your head. It’ll hurt for that little second but it’ll go away after 2-3 minutes. It’s a reminder that, hey, you better check yourself.
It's not known whether Newton will see any action when the Panthers face the Buffalo Bills Friday evening, but Newton said he's ready to go if called upon.
“I’m going about it as if I am playing,” Newton said Thursday after practice, per Jones and Person. “Do I want to play? I do. I think this is an opportunity for me to play, but at the end of the day I’m sticking to the program.”
However, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweeted Friday that Newton is "not expected to play," which makes sense. No point in risking a hobbled franchise quarterback in a meaningless game.
Dolphins SS Reshad Jones Suspended
The Miami Dolphins also haven't had the best of offseasons. Injuries have already hit the offensive line and running backs, and defensive end Dion Jordan was suspended for the first four games of the 2014 season.
Well, Jordan won't be alone in "time out."
The Dolphins released a statement (h/t Mike Wilkening of Pro Football Talk), explaining that strong safety Reshad Jones, who finished second on the team with 107 tackles in 2013, will also miss the season's first four games after testing positive for a banned substance.
In the aforementioned statement, Jones blamed an over-the-counter supplement:
The NFL recently informed me that I tested positive for a substance that is banned under the NFL performance enhancing substances policy. I worked closely with the union to investigate what happened, and I learned that a supplement I took caused the positive test.
I deeply regret not investigating the supplement carefully before I took it, and I will never again take a supplement without having it checked. I am very sorry for the effect of my mistake on my teammates and coaches. I apologize to them, Stephen Ross, the Dolphins organization and fans. During the time away from the team, I will maintain an intense training program so that I can help my team as soon as I return.
It's uncertain who will step into the starting lineup in Jones' stead, but this much is certain: The Dolphins don't need any more bad news.
Raiders WR Denarius Moore on Roster Bubble?
It's been quite some time since the Oakland Raiders had a big-time wide receiver. In fact, it's been a decade since the Raiders had a 1,000-yard receiver.
The team brought in veteran James Jones in free agency to headline a young group of pass-catchers, and as Paul Gutierrez of ESPN reports the logjam at wide receiver may leave Denarius Moore on the outside looking in:
Moore started 35 of the 41 NFL games in which he's played, including 10 of 13 a season ago. His playmaking ability should separate him from the rest of the Raiders receiving corps. But being listed third at a receiver spot, behind Andre Holmes and James Jones, not only put his starting position in jeopardy, but also seemingly places him squarely on the 53-man-roster bubble.
Moore, 25, had 46 catches for 695 yards and five touchdowns in 13 games last year.
49ers OLB Aldon Smith Meets with Roger Goodell
The San Francisco 49ers have one of the most feared defenses in the NFL, but that defense already suffered a big hit when linebacker NaVorro Bowman tore his ACL in last year's NFC Championship game.
Bowman is all but certain to miss at least the first six games of the 2014 season, and it appears he won't be alone.
As Albert Breer of the NFL Network reports, outside linebacker Aldon Smith met with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on Friday in regards to his recent brushes with the law:
Smith faces a potential league suspension after multiple off-field infractions. The Niners believe they will be without Smith for six games or fewer, a team source told NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport. The team is still hoping for four.
Smith had three felony firearms charges that were reduced to misdemeanors last month. He also was arrested for a DUI and had a false-bomb-threat incident at LAX. The Niners star took a leave of absence from the team last season and voluntarily checked into a treatment facility following the arrest for DUI. He missed five games in total.
The 49ers may be hoping for the best, but they're preparing for the worst, according to Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area: "49ers do not know verdict of potential NFL discipline for Aldon Smith, but they're bracing for six to eight games."
Blaine Gabbert Horrific in Preseason Debut
Since he entered the league as the 10th overall pick in the 2011 draft, there may not be a more maligned quarterback in the NFL than Blaine Gabbert.
The Jacksonville Jaguars threw in the towel on Gabbert in March, dealing the 24-year-old to the San Francisco 49ers, who then handed Gabbert $2 million in guaranteed money.
As Eric Branch of The San Francisco Chronicle reports, if Gabbert's preseason debut was any indication, the Niners might want to check the return policy on that deal:
In his first game with the 49ers, a 23-3 loss to the Ravens, Gabbert relieved Colin Kaepernick after one series and offered evidence his offseason change of scenery didn't change much.
In four scoreless series, Gabbert completed 3 of 11 passes for 20 yards with an interception that came when he underthrew well-covered tight end Derek Carrier down the left sideline. His evening ended fittingly: On the penultimate play of the first half, his aborted pass landed about two feet in front of him.
Gabbert's passer rating in his first game with the 49ers? 1.7.
Titans WR Justin Hunter Continues to Shine
The Tennessee Titans are undergoing big changes on offense in 2014. There's a new scheme courtesy of new head coach Ken Whisenhunt and a new running back in rookie Bishop Sankey.
With quarterback Jake Locker entering a season that will likely define his NFL career, the Titans need their young wide receivers to step up their games this year.
According to Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean, so far second-year pro Justin Hunter is holding up his end of the deal:
Justin Hunter continues to make highlight-reel catches. He made a few more on Thursday, first going up to take the ball away from cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson. Later, Hunter caught the ball between a pair of defenders in a red zone drill.
After making only 18 grabs as a rookie last year, Hunter told 102.5 The Game's SportsNight (per Terry McCormick of Titans Insider) that he's looking to make a big leap forward in 2014:
My biggest goal it to have a lot more catches this year. If I could catch 60 balls, that would be great. It would really help out the team. I'm working on those underneath routes and being a more complete receiver this year. I can't have a drop-off year. I have to improve from last year.
If Hunter does improve in 2014, the combination of Hunter and Kendall Wright could form one of the better wide receiver duos in the NFL that no one's heard of.
Matthew Stafford Looking Sharp
Three years ago, Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford topped 5,000 passing yards, and the Lions made the playoffs for the first time in two decades.
Both Stafford and the Lions have been unable to duplicate that success since, leading to speculation that for all the 26-year-old's talent, his production might never meet his paycheck.
The arrival of a new head coach (Jim Caldwell) and a new offensive coordinator (Joe Lombardi) in the Motor City has offered Stafford a fresh start of sorts.
According to what Lombardi told Carlos Monarrez of The Detroit Free Press, Stafford is availing himself of that opportunity.
“Knock on wood,” Lombardi said. “He (Stafford) hasn't thrown one interception in a team or seven-on-seven period all camp. So that’s a credit to him and the work that he’s done.”
It's welcome news, as the Lions are going to go as far in 2014 as Stafford's right arm takes them.
Colts C Khaled Holmes out Indefinitely with Ankle Sprain
If there's one thing every NFL team desperately wants to do, it's survive training camp and the preseason without suffering any significant injuries.
The Indianapolis Colts have already been bitten hard by the injury bug, losing starting left guard Donald Thomas to a season-ending quadriceps injury.
Now, the Colts are scrambling even more.
As Stephen Holder of The Indianapolis Star reports, the team will now be without starting center Khaled Holmes indefinitely after the second-year pro sprained his ankle on the opening drive of the Colts' preseason opener against the New York Jets.
The good news didn't stop there. Top reserve Xavier Nixon, who has been unable to practice due to a knee injury, will need surgery and is out indefinitely as well. Nixon tweeted that he would be having surgery on Friday.
Other than that, though, everything's great.