NFL

NFL AM: AFC Training Camp Headlines

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Now that training camps are open across the NFL we’re going to touch on some of the biggest topics for some AFC teams.

 

Buffalo Bills- “Not a lot of sizzle.” 

A year ago, the Buffalo Bills were one of the hottest teams in training camp as they ushered in the Rex Ryan era.  Following yet another non-playoff season and no Sammy Watkins at camp, the buzz seems to be faded.

“I think it was so new [last year]. You’re coming in and there was that type of field,” Ryan told reporters. “You look at our circumstances. You had competition at a quarterback position. I think that was a lot of the focus. Nobody, including coaches, players, fans really knew who the quarterback was gonna be. So as a coach, you’re trying to get to know the players and all that.

“I guess it is more business-like [this season], I think would be maybe how I would look at it. But I love it. I love how the fans come out here and support this team like really nobody else. But there not might be quite the same kind of buzz that it was last year, I would agree with you on that.”

New York Jets- “Forte injures hamstring.”

With NFL teams not having to disclose injuries and time periods that players may be out, it’s tough to ascertain how serious Jets’ free agent running back Matt Forte’s hamstring injury actually is.  This is what tight-lipped Jets’ head coach Todd Bowles had to say regarding it.

On whether Matt Forte did any work on the field…

“No, he did not.”

On if it is his hamstring…

“Yes, it was.”

On if it is any more of a concern…

“No.”

On when Forte will practice again…

“Day-by-day, we’ll see how he’s feeling.”

On when he expects Forte to return

“No idea. He’s making progress and when he comes back, we’ll be ready for him to come back.”

Behind Forte, the backfield depth currently includes Bilal Powell, Bernard Pierce, Romar Morris and Dominique Williams.

Pittsburgh Steelers- “No holdout for AB.”

Antonio Brown is one of the best wide receivers in the NFL, and severely underpaid as he enters the final year of his five-year, $41.9 million deal with a salary of $6.25 million.

The Steelers have a policy of not renegotiating deals with a year left on them.

“I can’t really fight what the rules are,” Brown said after practice.  “You have to take care of your guys. If a guy underperforms you get rid of him. If a guy overperforms you take care of him.”

Instead of causing a distraction and holding out, which could severely affect the team, Brown decided to show up and have faith in the organization.

“The Rooneys have been first-class with me since I was 21 or 22 years old,” he said. “I’ve never held out. I’m a first-class guy in any relationship. The first way of getting better is showing up, so I’m always going to show up and do my part and be ready to go.”

Houston Texans- “Hopkins ends holdout after one day.”

The defending AFC South champion Houston Texans began training camp without their best defensive player, defensive end J.J. Watt, and their best offensive player, DeAndre Hopkins.

Watt is of course injured and had back surgery to repair a herniated disk.  

Hopkins missed the start of Texans training camp as he’s hoping to ink a new deal as he enters the final year of his rookie contract which is due to pay him just $1 million, but the team did exercise an option that would pay him $8 million in 2017.

“I’m not looking for a certain range,” Hopkins told ESPN last week of what he’s seeking in a new or restructured contract. “I just want to be treated for what I’m worth. That’s fair to say, right?”

After one day of missing camp, Hopkins decided to return to his teammates.

“I, too, am disappointed that the Texans’ organization has elected not to enter into contract negotiations to secure my future as a Texan. I have expressed my sincere position regarding my contract status and I, too, with sound mind have expressed my stance to the Texans’ organization. My focus also is on the 2016 season and help my team reach our ultimate goal. Having said that I am returning to the Houston Texans to play for a Super Bowl in Houston, Texas. I will be holding a 12 noon Monday press conference at Reliant Stadium. I am excited about returning to the team and grind this camp.”

It’s certainly understandable why Hopkins is upset.  He has been one of the best receivers in the NFL despite playing with subpar quarterbacks his entire Texans’ career.  Despite being a great performer and a good soldier, he witnessed the team give quarterback Brock Osweiler a contract worth $72 million over four years after starting just seven games with the Denver Broncos.

The Texans might be a little tight against the salary cap and the team does have leverage as there are two years left on Hopkins deal.  With that said, it sends a bad message to members of the team and potential free agents when they don’t take care of a player that’s so deserving.

Jacksonville Jaguars- “Marqise Lee misses more time.”

It’s been a disappointing start of a career for former second-round pick Marqise Lee.  The former USC superstar has battled injury after injury after being selected by the Jaguars, and he’s seen the offense take off mostly without him.

This is a very important camp for Lee, as there is a real chance that he could find himself without a job if he doesn’t perform.

It appears that the injury bug continues to bite the former Trojans star as he missed the last two Jaguars practices with a hamstring strain.

“You know what, it is a mild hamstring strain,” Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley explained. “So he was out here, you saw him jogging around. It’s not going to be for an extended period of time, but we’re going to be cautious with it and make sure that we do our due diligence. Like I said, we’re going to be more cautious than anything.”

Caution is certainly something the team needs to practice with Lee, who has missed nine games in his two-year career.

“Well, I think because it’s not major, so it’s not something where it’s an extended period of time. You know that is what he’s counting on and I told him that we’ll be smart with him and bring him back and hopefully shortly he’ll be fine,” the usually optimistic Bradley said.

With Pro Bowler Allen Robinson and newly extended Allen Hurns locking up the first two roster spots, and coaches being high on 2015 rookie wide receiver Rashad Greene, Lee is battling for one of two roster spots. Others vying for the positions are veterans Bryan Walters and Arrelious Benn, Tony Washington, Neal Sterling and Shaq Evans, among others.

The team would love things to work out with Lee, because he adds an element of deep speed to the receiving corps, but the most important ability is durability, and at this point Lee doesn’t have much.

Denver Broncos- “Sanchez is the frontrunner.”

We’re pretty certain that veteran quarterback Mark Sanchez is no longer the future of anyone’s NFL franchise.

With that said, there’s a pretty good chance that he’s the present for the defending Super Bowl champs, as he looks like the best bet to be the opening night starter when the Broncos take on the Carolina Panthers on Thursday, September 8th.

“This is like a gift-wrapped opportunity from Heaven,” Sanchez said. “As soon as it arrived, I told myself, ‘Take advantage of things. Assert yourself. Be the guy you know you can be. Win the job. And then go win some games, which is the most important thing of all.'”

Broncos GM John Elway, one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, believes in the former USC star.

“I don’t think there’s much respect out there,” Elway told NFL Media’s Mike Silver. “And a lot of that is [because] when you look at the quarterback position, with the guys that we have, they don’t have a lot of [outside] respect, obviously.

“We think a lot more of Mark Sanchez than maybe the public does. [That’s from] watching tape on him, and really watching him in Philly last year, and also since he’s been here. If you’re in New York, they have a tendency to bring the attention to the negative, rather than the positive. And Mark kind of got caught in that rut. We hope we’re right. The great thing about camp starting, finally, is we can stop talking about it and see who’s gonna come to the forefront.”

Last year the Broncos flipped the script on modern NFL football as they figured out how to win a Super Bowl with mediocre, bordering on horrific quarterback play.  With a good bit of their tremendous defense still in tact, it makes all the sense in the world to put the veteran Sanchez under center while giving first-round pick Paxton Lynch a redshirt year.

Can Sanchez be much worse than Peyton Manning was last year?


About Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein is the managing football editor for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade.  Charlie has hosted drive time radio for NBC and ESPN affiliates in different markets around the country, along with being an NFL correspondent for ESPN Radio and WFAN.  He has been featured on the NFL Network as well as Sirius/XM NFL Radio and has been published on Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, ESPN as well as numerous other publications.