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Training Camp Notes - Tighten Your Seatbelts

With at least a week of training camp under the belts of each NFL organization, the banter regarding job battles has been subject to performance and injuries, the latter of which are predictably littering the landscape. Foremost on most fantasy footballers' minds is the Arian Foster situation. After undergoing surgery Friday, rumors began to fly that his recovery could be whittled down to 4-to-6 weeks from 2-to-3 months, which is an optimistic narrative to espouse for a groin muscle that was apparently torn off the bone. Mind you, the suggestion came from the mouths of "sources with knowledge of the situation not authorized to speak publicly," so take the report with the necessary grain of salt. Among those expected to compete for Foster's available reps, Chris Polk resumed the quest Friday after a multi-day absence due to a hamstring concern. Head coach Bill O'Brien has promoted the three-down abilities of both Polk and Alfred Blue this week, but preseason performance will likely dictate who earns the first shot to tote the rock for the Texans in Week 1.

Formerly donning the blue star of Texas' other squad, the Cowboys, the Eagles' offseason splash, DeMarco Murray, continued to work in a limited capacity Saturday after missing Thursday's practice as a result of an unnamed illness. While he was capped to "very little" work, his reps weren't unexpected in order to avoid any semblance of a setback. As for his former team, the Cowboys are attempting to fill Murray's shoes with a combination of holdover Joseph Randle and free-agent pickup Darren McFadden. Unfortunately, McFadden's injury-plagued career has again reared its head, allowing Randle to stake a claim to the top RB gig. On Saturday, head coach Jason Garrett clarified McFadden's current level of health, stating, "We anticipate his plan to be that he is going to get more and more work on the side this week and then hopefully practice after San Diego. That might change. But that's the place as we sit right now." Coming three days removed from comments that he was a day or two from taking the practice field, a wait-and-see approach is clearly the advised course of action with McFadden.

Abiding by the ever-changing landscape of training camp, depth charts everywhere will remain in flux until teams are required to file their 53-man rosters on Sept. 5. In the meantime, continue to monitor lingering and emerging events, like the following:

  • Removed from practice Friday, LaGarrette Blount was initially diagnosed with a "minor" right knee injury, but tests later revealed a sprained MCL. His training camp has so far been bumpy – he failed the conditioning test at the outset, before completing it on his second chance and logging his initial practice on the third day – and even though the Patriots don't believe he'll miss the start of the regular season, he's subject to a one-game suspension from an incident as a member of the Steelers in 2014. Consequently, the Patriots will likely rely upon Jonas Gray and Brandon Bolden in Week 1, no matter Blount's level of health.
  • Matt Cassel has maintained a supposed hold on the Bills' starting quarterback job in the early going, fending off EJ Manuel and Tyrod Taylor in the process. Following Saturday's practice, Cassel learned that he's the leader in the clubhouse to start in the preseason opener Friday against the Panthers, which is a step in the right direction. Meanwhile, his receiving corps sustained a noted injury to end the first week of drills. Sammy Watkins' surgically-repaired right hip is enduring soreness, forcing him out of practice Thursday and keeping him sidelined Friday. While he participated in Saturday's scrimmage, his status is one to watch as training camp continues onward.
  • The Cowboys avoided a major headache by coming to terms on a contract extension with Dez Bryant before training camp, but the enigmatic talent has already supplemented spectacular catches with a scuffle with backup cornerback Tyler Patmon. Bryant's antics at Thursday's practice included dunking over the crossbar of the goalposts, which he followed shortly thereafter with another athletic grab in the right corner of the end zone. One of the two plays resulted in an evident limp and eventual diagnosis of a minor hamstring injury, and with absences on the ledger Friday and Saturday, his status for Sunday's Blue-White Scrimmage is a major question mark. If he doesn't take part, consider the move precautionary at this stage of the game.
  • Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians extended precaution in the direction of his vaunted wideout, Larry Fitzgerald, capping his reps Friday and Saturday in order to tend to a sore foot. The extremity was merely stepped on, though, which intimates that Fitzgerald should be a full-go in the near future. Because he could be without fellow receiver Michael Floyd once the regular season arrives, Fitzgerald is poised to remain Carson Palmer's No. 1 option.
  • Further hindering Palmer's potential options are the respective conditioning of tight ends Jermaine Gresham (back) and Troy Niklas (hamstring). The pair were again limited to individual drills Saturday, leaving former professional basketball player Darren Fells to handle the bulk of the TE workload. After Niklas declared Monday that he hoped to practice fully by Friday, which of course didn't come to pass, Palmer may not have the Cardinals' full arsenal at his disposal for some time.
  • Among tight-end situations around the league, perhaps none is more compelling than Julius Thomas' in Jacksonville. A bout with minor back soreness forced his absence from Friday's practice, but he returned to the fold Saturday. The ailment aside, the potential exists for Thomas to follow in similar footsteps to Broncos alum Eric Decker, who floundered with the Jets last season. Similarly, Thomas will be the focus of opposing schemes, but his frame (6-foot-5, 250 pounds), speed (4.60 40), and leaping ability (35.5-inch vertical) should make life easier for second-year signal caller Blake Bortles.