Friday was another busy day in the NFL training camp world for most teams, although the Las Vegas Raiders and Jacksonville Jaguars took the day off after their preseason opening matchup on Thursday night in Canton, Ohio, which saw the Raiders prevail 27-11. But now that we’re in Week 2 of training camp, annoyances are starting to pop up around the league.
That was especially the case with the San Francisco 49ers, who have seen their share of scuffles during the early portions of camp, so much so that coach Kyle Shanahan made it a point to call it out before practice on Friday. There’s such a thing as too much intensity, apparently.
Annoyances also surfaced in a most innocent way, as Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey lamented his candle shortage after Friday’s practice, which saw the Panthers invite the Gaffney (South Carolina) High School football team for a fun joint workout. The Cincinnati Bengals continue to practice without star quarterback Joe Burrow, who is out indefinitely following an appendectomy.
Here’s what you need to know from camps across the league.
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Shanahan upset with punches at 49ers practice: After halting practice for a second time because of an all-out brawl Tuesday, coach Kyle Shanahan called for his team to huddle up. He promptly delivered some choice words about what had just transpired. Underneath the anger was a simple message about how Shanahan wants his team to play. Physical? Absolutely. Tough? Of course. Irritating? Sure. But when punches are thrown, as there were on two occasions in that Tuesday practice — namely between star middle linebacker Fred Warner and receiver Brandon Aiyuk — that’s where Shanahan wants the Niners to draw the line.
Burrow still involved despite being out indefinitely following appendectomy: Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow remains out indefinitely after undergoing an appendectomy at the beginning of training camp. Bengals coach Zac Taylor said he doesn’t have a timetable for Burrow’s on-field return. “I hate to put a timeline on it,” Taylor said Friday. “But he’s getting a lot of good mental work right now.” The third-year quarterback and top overall pick in the 2020 draft hasn’t participated in any practices since the Bengals started training camp last week. But Burrow remains visible and active during the preparation for the upcoming season.
Browns sticking with QB plan despite appeal of Watson suspension: Cleveland Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said Friday the team is waiting to see what happens with the NFL’s appeal of Deshaun Watson’s six-game suspension before altering its plans at quarterback in practice. To this point in training camp, Watson has gotten the overwhelming majority of the snaps with the first-team offense; backup Jacoby Brissett has mostly worked with the second team. “We’ll just kind of await clarity on the situation,” Stefanski said before Friday’s practice. “Just continue to move ahead with what we’re doing.” Stefanski was speaking for the first time since the NFL announced Wednesday that it was appealing the ruling of disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson, a former federal judge, as it seeks a tougher penalty under the league’s personal conduct policy.
What our NFL Nation reporters saw Friday
San Francisco 49ers: For each of the past five seasons under Kyle Shanahan, the Niners have had someone different lead the team in rushing. Last year, it was rookie running back Elijah Mitchell, which has many wondering if he can break that streak and do it for a second season in a row. The early returns would indicate he will get the opportunity to do just that.
Mitchell got plenty of touches in Friday’s practice and looked to have his sharpest session in this camp yet. One of those runs came off the left side through a hole opened by tackle Trent Williams and guard Aaron Banks that would have gone for a huge gain. Mitchell played through a variety of injuries last year, including broken ribs. But he’s come back this year with a few added pounds in an effort to hold up better.
“Elijah is such an efficient runner,” Shanahan said. “He doesn’t mess around at all … we’re trying not to lose what has got him here and add other elements to his game that his body is capable of doing.” — Nick Wagoner
Minnesota Vikings: Linebacker Jordan Hicks had an active day Friday. He intercepted quarterback Kirk Cousins once in the red zone and he tipped another pass near the sideline that was ultimately caught by receiver Dan Chisena. Hicks missed the first few days of training camp because of a non-COVID illness, but he returned late last week and has looked strong in the Vikings new 3-4 defense. Camp lineups tend to change over time, but it’s been notable to see Hicks playing at least at times on first, second and third downs alongside Eric Kendricks. — Kevin Seifert
Washington Commanders: Safety Kamren Curl built on his strong spring by having an excellent start to training camp. On Friday, Curl was again in the right place at the right time on multiple plays — one resulted in him recovering a fumble and another ended with him stopping the running back in the hole. Curl has been used at times in Washington’s Buffalo nickel role — the one filled by Landon Collins last season. Curl also has played the deep half in the team’s two-safety set. But perhaps the biggest change for Curl has been his communication skills. He’s been more vocal, which coaches take as a sign of his increased confidence in himself and comfort in the defense. — John Keim
Tennessee Titans: Quarterback Ryan Tannehill was sharp in practice Friday. Tannehill has thrown only one interception through eight practices. His best throw was a perfectly placed drop shot over the shoulder of Nick Westbrook-Ikhine for a big gain during a team period. Tannehill also found Racey McMath deep in the secondary for what would have been a long touchdown. The chemistry is growing for Tannehill and the receivers on deep passes. That is something the Titans desperately needed to improve upon from last season. McMath has emerged as a potential deep threat after hauling in long passes from Tannehill in each of the past three practices. — Turron Davenport
New York Jets: Backup wide receiver Denzel Mims didn’t say, “Play me or trade me,” but he absolutely believes he deserves to be playing. The disappointing 2020 second-round pick envisions himself as a starter, saying, “I see myself on top.” He added, “I show it every day. It’s up to [the coaches] if they play me or not, but I show every day what I can do and I’m going to continue to do that.” Mims, whose first two seasons were impacted by injuries and illnesses, has improved in all areas, earning praise from coaches. Problem is, the Jets have good depth at receiver. Right now, he’s no better than fifth or sixth on the depth chart. He’s trying to establish a role on special teams, but he’s never done it before, which hurts his value. Don’t be surprised if his name pops up in trade speculation as the regular season draws near. — Rich Cimini
Atlanta Falcons: The biggest note of the day for the Falcons was who was not at practice. Jalen Mayfield, last year’s third-round draft pick and Atlanta’s starter at left guard last season, is dealing with a lower back issue. It’s already been a rough camp for Mayfield, who had been supplanted over the past week by Elijah Wilkinson at left guard, but now he’s dealing with an injury, too. “We got to get it to calm down,” Falcons head coach Arthur Smith said. “He’s a tough, tough kid and grinding it out. So we’ll see where that goes.” Smith said they will see where he is next week with it. He said that “we don’t foresee it being major” but acknowledged that back injuries can be tricky. — Michael Rothstein
Carolina Panthers: Running back Christian McCaffrey showed his explosiveness late in practice with a long run and then a red zone touchdown run. It’s important for the Panthers to keep him on the field and fresh this season after he has missed 23 of his past 33 games with injuries. Regardless of whether Baker Mayfield or Sam Darnold wins the starting quarterback job — neither had a big edge Friday — having McCaffrey in the backfield with them is key. McCaffrey was back today after taking a day off as the team continues to make sure he doesn’t have more than three padded practices in a row. “Those days off are important,” McCaffrey said. “You’ve got to make sure you’re doing things on those days off to get ready for the next day. That’s the purpose of it. … I feel great.” But McCaffrey does have an issue. His self-proclaimed “bougie” dorm room at Wofford College is low on candles. So during his post-practice news conference, he asked, “If anyone has any candles or scents for rooms, let me know.” — David Newton
Dallas Cowboys: Linebacker Anthony Barr spent his first day on the practice field holding a defensive call sheet as he gets accustomed to the Cowboys’ defense. He is on the physically unable to perform list, but he says he “feels great” physically and called it “just an acclimation period,” before he starts to practice. He is looking forward to working with Micah Parsons. “Obviously, he had a great start last year. Pretty amazing what he was able to accomplish and I think he could just continue to elevate and take it to the next level, and I’m hoping to be able to be a tool, a resource to him, and also learn from him, learn from all the guys,” Barr said. “Come in humble and ready to learn and ready to help.” — Todd Archer
Los Angeles Chargers: Cornerback J.C. Jackson cracked a smile after Day 8 of training camp when he was asked about the experience practicing against Pro Bowl quarterback Justin Herbert. “He hasn’t really thrown to my side,” Jackson said, a shy grin growing. “I don’t know if he’s afraid or what, but he’s barely thrown to my side.” Herbert afraid? That’s unlikely, although the third-year quarterback did witness Friday what’s likely to happen when Jackson is challenged, as backup Easton Stick attempted a pass that was tipped and landed in Jackson’s hands. “That’s team defense,” Jackson said about the play. The Chargers signed Jackson, the NFL’s interceptions leader since 2018 (25), to a five-year, $82.5 million contract in free agency. “He’s been solid,” defensive coordinator Renaldo Hill said. “He’s been like we anticipated from his playing days in New England. Come out here and be a lockdown performer.” — Lindsey Thiry
Las Vegas Raiders: New Raiders coach Josh McDaniels acknowledged Friday that his first offensive playcall of Thursday night’s Hall of Fame Game, an attempted deep pass, was an “ode” to the late Cliff Branch, a long-ball threat throughout his career who will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday. “That was a staple,” McDaniels said after saluting with his right hand. “Cliff was a fast guy and, obviously, made a bunch of big plays in his career, big important plays in big important games … I know Mr. Davis, both Mr. Davises, are big fans of the long ball so, yes, that was an ode to the Raiders, Cliff Branch and the way that Mr. Davis, both of them, enjoy that type of play. We tried to, didn’t go off exactly the way that we hoped that it would, but it ended up in our favor regardless.” Jarrett Stidham targeted Tyron Johnson down the left sideline with the pass but was hit as he released the ball, which instead fluttered down into the waiting arms of receiver Keelan Cole for a 31-yard catch-and-run pickup. — Paul Gutierrez
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Wide receiver Chris Godwin joined his teammates on the practice field Friday for the first time since suffering a torn ACL in Week 15 last year. Godwin wore a brace on his right knee and participated in some drills with the wide receivers. He was not placed on the PUP list to start camp, but the plan has been to take things slowly. Wide receivers coach Kevin Garver told ESPN, “I thought he looked good. It’s gonna be a process for him. Take it one step at a time. But for this part of the process, he looked great.” Wide receiver Mike Evans left practice early for what head coach Todd Bowles says is likely a “tweaked hamstring.” Quarterback Tom Brady did not take part in practice because of a personal matter, the team said. Brady will also not be taking part in next week’s preseason opener against the Miami Dolphins, Bowles said, and he anticipates several starters will also sit out after two days of joint practices next week. — Jenna Laine
Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens practiced without their top two wide receivers (Rashod Bateman and Devin Duvernay), which has provided a big opportunity for James Proche II, who was limited to 21% of the offensive snaps last season. Proche has responded with some big plays downfield and in the red zone. “Just doing my job,” Proche said. “That’s my screen saver on my phone — ‘Do your job.’ I’m not worried about anything else but that.” Bateman missed his first practice of camp because of an undisclosed injury and could sit out Saturday as well. Duvernay (thigh bruise) is close to returning, according to coach John Harbaugh. — Jamison Hensley
Denver Broncos: There are plenty of ways for a coach to connect with this players, but Nathaniel Hackett is already known among his players as a hugger, and many have already have had to brace themselves when they see the head coach in the hallways of the team’s suburban Denver complex. “Been a hugger since I was born, came out trying to hug the nurse,” Hackett said. “It’s one of those things, it’s just who I am. Got it from my grandma, my mom. That’s how I grew up; I’m not going to change. It throws the guys off at first because you come in hot. But hey, it’s me.”
“I think Coach Hackett is still disciplined and he expects us to do things as well as we can at all times and is going to let you know if you don’t, but that’s his personality, that’s the way he approaches life,” guard Dalton Risner said. Hackett promised from the moment he was hired that he wanted a high-energy environment around the Broncos. The team hasn’t been to the playoffs since its Super Bowl 50 win to close out the 2015 season. The Hackett ambush hug has become part of that equation. — Jeff Legwold
Cincinnati Bengals: Friday was a bounce-back day for the offense after a rough showing Thursday. But most importantly, it showed why WR Ja’Marr Chase could be a major asset when lined up as the slot receiver. Running a fade route out of the slot, he caught a gorgeous pass from QB Brandon Allen for a touchdown. Earlier in the day, coach Zac Taylor explained why Chase out of the slot could be a strength for the offense this season. “There’s a lot of different ways depending on the defense, depending on the defensive personnel you’re facing, that you can try to stress the defense, try to stress the player caller, try to stress their personnel,” Taylor said. “And Ja’Marr’s comfortable doing all of it.” — Ben Baby
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.@bakermayfield is going to have some extra targets to throw to today.
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