Training Camp Notes: Ready, Set, Gronk!

  • In a statement which came as music to the ears of his fantasy owners, Rob Gronkowski said Monday that he has been given the green light to play in the Patriots’ regular season opener against the Dolphins on Sunday. Gronkowski did not play in the preseason and his limitations in camp — he rejoined 11-on-11 drills and started taking minor contact just two weeks ago — had some fretting about a possible “game-time decision” tag in Week 1. However, while noting that he is “mentally and physically ready,” Gronkowski indicated that he may be eased into the gameplan, saying he’s “definitely not [playing] every single snap” and that he wants to “just get out there, get my feet wet.” Regardless, Gronkowski figures to be on the field whenever the team in the red zone, and he may end up seeing the most targets of anyone on the team when it’s all said and done.
  • Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker returned to individual drills Monday, 10 days after suffering a concussion, his third since Nov. 17 of last year. According to the Denver Post, Welker could be cleared to fully participate in practice as soon as Wednesday or Thursday, which would put him in line to play in Sunday’s opener against Indianapolis. The injury led to speculation of retirement amongst the media, and resulted in many owners receiving a steep discount on draft day. Welker caught a career-high 10 touchdowns in his first season with the Broncos and is a strong bet for another 100-plus targets, but another concussion within the first several weeks could put him in danger of missing an extended period.
  • Although he wore a protective flak jacket during last Thursday’s exhibition against the Lions, Sammy Watkins aggravated the rib injury he suffered a week prior. Watkins was still able to practice with the team Monday, and afterward he expressed confidence that he will take the field for Sunday’s game in Chicago. The 21-year-old suggested it’s a matter of pain tolerance, noting that “if I need to take a breather or take two or three plays off from being hit then that’s what I’m going to do.” The opportunity is there for the rookie to lead the team in targets by a significant margin, and he’ll get a Bears team in Week 1 that ranked among the bottom five in the league last season, with 4,281 yards surrendered through the air.
  • A bit of deja vu unfolded in Oakland on Monday, as word leaked that the Raiders decided to officially make the switch from Matt Schaub to Derek Carr at quarterback. Coach Dennis Allen confirmed later on, even going so far as to clarify that it’s not a week-to-week situation and rather that Carr is the starter and Schaub is the backup. Schaub worked with the second team Monday, after sitting out all of last week with a sore elbow, marking the second straight year in which the Raiders have thrown in the towel on a key trade acquisition before the season even gets underway. Of course, last season, Matt Flynn came down with a bum elbow in the final week of the preseason and in turn lost the starting job. Carr will be the lone rookie quarterback to start in Week 1, and he will be tasked with not only saving the season but really the franchise as well.
  • Dolphins coach Joe Philbin has been coy in regard to who will start at running back for his team in Week 1, though the general consensus seems to be that it will be Knowshon Moreno and not Lamar Miller. Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor suggested the team wants to see Miller be more decisive with his runs, but Philbin left open the possibility the team could take a hot-hand approach, saying “I think some of that is we have to get a feel for the game. I think it’s hard to say ‘Yeah, he’s definitely the guy at the end of the game,’ or conversely that [Miller] is definitely the guy.”
  • When asked about Odell Beckham’s hamstring injury Monday, coach Tom Coughlin, clearly annoyed, indicated the rookie wideout could miss up to three weeks. Perhaps he was being pessimistic with the estimate, but active status for Week 1 has all but been ruled out for Beckham, meaning Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle and Jerrel Jernigan will head the Giants’ receiving corps to open the year. Once healthy, Beckham will be a threat for an occasional home run, but he likely won’t see enough consistent targets to warrant starting in most leagues.