Best of Saturday at NFL training camps: Competition fuels Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes

Both Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes are ready to get the season started, as evidenced by what was said about Mahomes and by Rodgers (more to follow) during Saturday’s 2020 NFL training camps. Hint: Both quarterbacks are rather competitive and are ready to build off of last season.

The Packers and Chiefs were a handful of teams that practiced on Saturday, along with the Atlanta Falcons, Houston Texans and San Francisco 49ers.

Here’s what you need to know from camps across the league for Saturday:

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What our NFL Nation reporters saw Saturday

In between drills during Saturday’s Houston Texans practice, an employee swapped out the down and distance markers so they could be sanitized with a spray. The team also uses the spray to disinfect items each day after practice, including players’ pads. This is just one of the many precautions the Texans have taken to limit the spread of germs as much as they can during training camp amid the coronavirus pandemic. — Sarah Barshop

Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy called quarterback Patrick Mahomes a “competitive p—k” on Saturday, but he went on to explain he means it in a good way. “He’s a great kid, but he’s a competitive p—k,” Bieniemy said. “He wants to improve at everything he possibly can improve upon. He wants to be the best at whatever he can do. And along the way, he wants to make sure that he’s leading the guys. He wants to be held accountable by his peers. But also, too, he just wants to work and that’s what you love about being around him every single day.”

Also on Saturday, running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire received the biggest hit of the day from Frank Clark after catching a pass along the sideline. “That’s football,” Bieniemy said. “Frank got him. He tagged him a little bit. Welcome the rookie in. That’s part of the game.” — Adam Teicher

It was just one practice — and one without pads — but there was a different feel to the Green Bay Packers‘ offense. As a rookie coach, Matt LaFleur spent much of last offseason trying to figure out how to meld his offensive beliefs with the things that quarterback Aaron Rodgers liked from former coach Mike McCarthy’s system (and yes, there were things he liked, contrary to what some might think). This season, it looks more like LaFleur’s system, featuring the use of multiple running backs (Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams, rookie A.J. Dillon and even Tyler Ervin) along with rookie H-back Josiah Deguara.

“As we like to say now it’s our system,” Rodgers said after practice. “It’s not the old system and the new system; it’s our system, and it’s been a great blending of a lot of concepts that we used to run and obviously what Matt brought with him. I think the beauty has been the expansion of both stuff that we used to do and stuff that Matt brought with him. I think that’s kind of the jump that we’re hoping for in Year 2 is to build on what we did last year and then to kind of expand on it.” That means perhaps more of the Kyle Shanahan/Sean McVay influence will come in with the Packers. Rodgers looked sharp on Day 1. In the very first team period, he threw a dime to wide receiver Allen Lazard for a 25-yard touchdown on a post route. — Rob Demovsky

The San Francisco 49ers had their first practice Saturday in shells, with the pads set to come on Monday. While they were without defensive lineman Arik Armstead (back stiffness), the biggest news was that tight end George Kittle was on the field and ready to go after signing a five-year, $75 million contract extension on Friday. Kittle was clearly fired up as he moved quickly through the various drills, at one point catching a short pass and bursting up the field as defenders cleared a path. After practice, while promoting his own special ticket for some sort of 2020 election, Kittle said he never intended to hold out if his contract hadn’t gotten done. “I had confidence in the fact that we’d get a deal done, and so being a captain and being what I think is the leader of the team, I wanted to set the right example and I wanted to be here with the guys and go through the workouts,” Kittle said. The Niners can now go about other business knowing they have their best player under contract well into the future. — Nick Wagoner



Baker Mayfield acknowledges he hasn’t had as much success as he had hoped for in Cleveland and says he lost himself during his first two seasons.

NFL Nation reporters look ahead

Wide receiver Jarvis Landry underwent offseason hip surgery, but last week was activated off the physically unable to perform list. Even though the Browns’ plan was to gradually integrate Landry into training camp, he looked sharp in practice Friday, even hauling in a long touchdown pass from Baker Mayfield. Landry has never missed a game in his six years in the league, and looks primed to keep that streak going. Said Landry: “I feel really good. As of now, we have a good plan going forward, and I’m excited.” — Jake Trotter

Coach Mike McCarthy has been delivering a ton of messages to the Dallas Cowboys since the players reported to The Star this summer, but the message Friday was a little different. “Frankly the biggest thing that we talked about going into the first practice was the importance of there’s 19 practices before we play the L.A. Rams,” McCarthy said. “It’s just how important each practice is in staying tuned into the details of it. I’m not really worried about the physical talent of this team. I think we all agree it’s definitely high in nature. So we’re really just focused on the emotional development, the football IQ and most important to pull it all together as a team. It’s a good thing to have smart players. But you have to smart, competitive, interactive, connective units throughout your football team. And as quickly as we get to that rhythm and timing will definitely help us in our opener.” — Todd Archer

New England Patriots players were off Saturday, setting the stage for a return Sunday for another high-tempo practice. Coach Bill Belichick said Friday’s first full-speed, high-tempo practice was a welcome change. Then the club will be in full pads starting Monday. — Mike Reiss

The Miami Dolphins are expecting more out of defensive lineman Christian Wilkins as he enters Year 2, and they believe a clearer mind more focused on football along with arriving to camp in better shape should help him achieve that. Dolphins defensive-line coach Marion Hobby acknowledged they didn’t get to see the best of Wilkins until the latter part of the 2019 season. Some offseason transparency helped Wilkins, a 2019 first-round pick out of Clemson, realize that, too. “[It’s] showing him where he could be better — sometimes that, as a coach, can be critique or that can be coming down on him; but I think it has a lot to do with him — him wanting to do well and get better as a player. That’s where it starts. They’ve got to be self-motivators and then as coaches, we just continue to build on what they bring to the table,” Hobby said. “He matured as he went on. … He had a lot on his plate early. I talked with him about it and he said, ‘Yeah, Coach, I had a lot going on, but I’m settling into my role.'” — Cameron Wolfe

Some folks might be wondering what it’s like to cover training camp during a pandemic. For a reporter on the Jets, it starts at 7:15 a.m., with a text from the team — a COVID-19 questionnaire. It’s a few simple questions about your current health (fever? sore throat?) and whether you’ve been exposed to anyone with the virus. You must include a selfie photo. Upon completion, you receive a bar code for entrance to the team facility. At the facility, a facial-recognition system (hence the selfie) checks your temperature. Once cleared, you can watch practice from the designated area. There is no interaction with coaches and players. All interviews are done via Zoom. And, of course, a face covering must be worn at all times. There is no COVID-19 test because those covering the Jets are in the lowest tier in terms of access. — Rich Cimini

Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey hasn’t come off the field much the past two seasons, playing about 93% of the snaps. That likely won’t change much this season under coach Matt Rhule, but when McCaffrey does take a breather, look for free-agent addition Mike Davis to be first up. The 2015 fourth-round pick by the San Francisco 49ers has impressed Rhule thus far and appears to have the edge over last season’s backup, Reggie Bonnafon. “I really like Mike Davis,” Rhule said. “He’s a pro and has done it at a high level.” Davis, claimed by Carolina in November last season, has 10 NFL starts. Bonnafon, signed as an undrafted free agent out of Louisville last year, has none. … The Panthers were expected to work out recently released Andrew Vollert on Saturday in their quest to shore up the third tight end spot. — David Newton

Washington still hasn’t had a practice open to the media thanks to rain-soaked fields Thursday and Friday (the days scheduled for attending). The area received more rain than anticipated. It forced the team to move practice to its bubble, which doubles as a locker room to approximately 30 players as the team tries to accommodate social distancing. Because of this, and with 80 players on the roster, it’s hard to let the media in to watch. But Washington was still mostly doing work that would be considered somewhere between glorified walk-throughs and organized team activities. The team begins full-pad workouts starting Tuesday, which will be the next time the media will be scheduled to attend. — John Keim

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