The first NFL training camps kicked off eight days ago, but Thursday was an unofficial "second grand opening" of sorts. A total of 18 teams hit the practice field for the first time, making it a momentous day by NFL summertime standards. There is already a smattering of both the good (the last of first-round signings, previously ailing quarterbacks now healthy, first-round picks hitting the field) and the bad (one new holdout, a couple of notable injuries), along with a variety of other news and notes.
With plenty to delve into, let's take a quick spin around each conference!
Around the AFC
Venerable veteran Frank Gore (foot) wasn't on the Non-Football Injury list long. The 36-year-old, who's played in all but two regular-season games the last eight seasons, had the designation removed in time for Thursday's opening practice of training camp. The extent of Gore's role this coming season is still up in the air, considering he'll have the likes of LeSean McCoy, T.J. Yeldon and third-round pick Devin Singletary to compete for touches with.
One of the more anticipated training camp openings, that of the Browns, unfolded Thursday. Two years removed from being the scourge of the league at 0-16, Cleveland is now one of the NFL's hottest commodities. A massive infusion of talent will do that, and it was on display to open training camp for a season that carries plenty of high expectations. The team's first practice session saw last season's first-round pick, Baker Mayfield, firing passes to prized offseason acquisition Odell Beckham, Jr. and the wideout that carried that designation at this time last year, Jarvis Landry. However, another one of Mayfield's new teammates, RB Kareem Hunt, opened camp on the Non-Football Injury list due to a groin issue. New head coach Freddie Kitchens did provide some good news on that front, saying he expected the former Chief to be available for practice in a relatively brief period of time. Hunt is eligible to play in preseason games, but he'll have to be away from the team for the first eight regular-season games while serving a suspension.
Indianapolis had a couple of pivotal players from last year's 10-6 squad on the practice field Thursday to kick off camp, albeit with different participation levels. Indy kept QB Andrew Luck limited to individual drills as he continues to nurse an offseason calf injury. The Colts have vowed to be especially cautious with their franchise signal-caller, although the expectation is Luck will work up to 7-on-7 drills Friday...Meanwhile, TE Jack Doyle, he of the offseason kidney and hip surgeries, encouragingly took part in 11-on-11 drills Thursday. There may be some limitations for the veteran as well as camp progresses in terms of participation, but the overriding goal is to have Doyle on the field for much more than the six regular-season contests he was limited to last season.
All eyes were naturally on RB Le'Veon Bell on Thursday as the Jets began training camp, with the former Steeler officially beginning his countdown to playing in a meaningful game for the first time since January 2018. Bell, who participated in only two offseason practice sessions with his new teammates, appeared to be in good shape and even told the gathered media that he'd voluntarily run the camp-opening conditioning run twice because of how much he's champing at the bit after sitting out all of last season...There was some other notable news, off the field in this case, for New York on Thursday. First-round pick Quinnen Williams put pen to paper on his rookie deal, giving him an opportunity to jump right into preparing for his first professional season. Williams suffered a calf injury during OTAs, but he's not expected to have restrictions in camp.
Pittsburgh's veterans don't report until Friday, but one of them is already slated to be sidelined for at least a short period. Pittsburgh placed LB T.J. Watt on the Physically Unable to Perform list after he experienced hamstring tightness during the camp-opening conditioning test. Watt is a key component of Pittsburgh's attacking unit, breaking out last season as a top IDP consideration with a career-high 68 tackles, 13 sacks and six forced fumbles...Another important piece of the defensive side of the ball will be joining his teammates on the practice field come Friday, as CB Mike Hilton signed his exclusive-rights free agent tender Thursday.
While one Watt brother hit the PUP list Thursday, the most prominent of the bunch came off it over in Houston. J.J. Watt had temporarily carried the designation due to a minor knee procedure he'd undergone early in the year, but he was present and accounted for in the team's first practice Thursday. Watt shook off the dark cloud of a pair of injury-marred seasons in 2018 and returned to elite IDP status, racking up 16 sacks and a career-best seven forced fumbles to go along with 61 tackles.
Around the NFC
The day Arizona fans and brass alike have anxiously been awaiting finally arrived Thursday, with the Cardinals taking the field for their first practice of camp. It isn't often a team coming off a 3-13 season has a lot of momentum heading into the late summer the following year, but this is a bit of an exception. After all, No. 1 overall pick and Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray will be helming an "Air Raid" offense installed by former Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury that should keep things moving at the NFL level, if nothing else. There are no shortage of questions surrounding the entire scenario – whether Murray can learn to run the offense with reasonable efficacy and whether the system will translate well to the NFL level being two of the more prominent – but after last season's nightmare, Cardinals fans are likely willing to endure a few growing pains.
We've already got one prominent holdout running back in the AFC in the Chargers' Melvin Gordon. The top backfield option for a Dallas Cowboys team that holds training camp in relative proximity to Gordon's squad was also missing as the defending NFC East champs arrived in Oxnard, California ahead of Friday's first practice. Ezekiel Elliott was not on the team's charter flight Thursday, but he can't yet be considered an official holdout. Elliott could be in the midst of traveling to California on his own, which the team does allow players to do. The 2016 first-round pick comes off a stellar 304-1,434-6 line in 2018, and even though he's under contract for two more seasons at a combined salary of just under $13 million, Elliott seeks a bump in compensation after an impressive first three pro campaigns.
Philly got its first taste of on-field work Thursday, and the sight of a fully healthy Carson Wentz was one of the highlights. The oft-injured but supremely talented signal-caller is fully healed from last season's back fractures and was sharp from the jump, reportedly connecting with offseason returnee DeSean Jackson on three straight completions at one point. Wentz will likely be treated with a fair amount of caution by head coach Doug Pederson and staff during camp and preseason, but they'll also balance it with getting the fourth-year gunslinger enough work after he played his last meaningful game in November 2018.
The Falcons opened training camp with WR Julio Jones practicing in limited fashion due to a foot injury. That's why the sight of fellow pass catcher Calvin Ridley tweaking a hamstring in Thursday's practice was particularly worrisome. However, it should be noted the second-year wideout continued practicing some after the injury until eventually leaving the field with trainers. Head coach Dan Quinn said after practice that Ridley was expected to be back on the field Saturday, the next day that Atlanta performs on-field work.
There's been a modest wave of optimism surrounding the Giants offense ahead of training camp, despite last season's 5-11 season and the offseason trade of Odell Beckham, Jr. The development of first-round QB Daniel Jones is certainly a big reason. The heir apparent to Eli Manning has been impressing throughout the offseason and should see plenty of reps in both camp practices and preseason...However, a bit of rain fell on the parade during Thursday's camp-opening practice due to a fractured thumb suffered by WR Sterling Shepard. The fourth-year wideout was expected to take on an even bigger role this season with Beckham's departure, and last year's 66-872-4 line across 16 games lends credence to the notion he should be up to the task. Thursday's injury does cast a cloud of doubt as to his availability, however, with the team seemingly downplaying the injury but a separate report from NFL Network's Mike Garafolo suggesting Shepard can already be considered questionable for Week 1.
Second overall pick Nick Bosa joined the Jets' Williams in cashing in Thursday. The 21-year-old, who's still recovering from a Grade 1 hamstring strain suffered in OTAs, inked a four-year, $33.5 million contract and is expected to make a significant impact with his elite pass-rushing ability when he does take the field.
QB Aaron Rodgers is healthy coming into training camp after getting some much-needed rest for the MCL sprain and tibial plateau fracture he played through last season. Rodgers has the unfamiliar task of learning a new offense for the first time in his pro career this season, as first-time head coach Matt LaFleur and Nathaniel Hackett have implemented their system in Titletown...One "offensive" player not in uniform to open camp is Rodgers' long-time teammate Mason Crosby. The veteran kicker is currently on the Non-Football Injury List with a calf issue he picked up while training following minicamp. However, the 12-year veteran isn't expected to miss much time and will compete with Sam Ficken when he does get on the practice field.
Another quarterback who finished last season on the sideline – albeit only for the last two games – is Cam Newton. The source of Newton's pair of December absences, his shoulder, was surgically repaired this offseason, and the 2011 first overall pick threw without limitations in Thursday's first practice. Reports are that Newton's shoulder was put to the test, as he threw about 40 passes each in individual and team drills and also completed a 45-yard bomb to Chris Manhertz during the session.
'Tis the season for prominent holdouts, with WR Michael Thomas officially joining the ranks Thursday by missing the opening of Saints camp. Thomas is entering the last year of his rookie contract, which is slated to pay him just over $1.1 million in 2019. The amount is a relative pittance when put up against the combined 229-1,650-14 line Thomas has generated over the last two seasons alone. The team and Thomas are reportedly about $4 million per year apart in talks at the moment, so this will be a situation with potential to drag on for some time.
Seattle opened camp Thursday with RB Chris Carson practicing fully, certainly a welcome sign after offseason arthroscopic surgery caused him to miss OTAs and minicamp. Carson took the reins of the top job last season and produced 1,151 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground while adding another 163 yards on 20 receptions. The third-year pro had some extra urgency to get on the field right from the onset of camp, considering backfield mate Rashaad Penny reportedly lost weight this offseason and will offer formidable competition for Carson.