Thursday at NFL training camps: ‘Football takes a back burner’

Thursday was a different sort of NFL training camp day for many teams and their players as some franchises canceled or shortened practices, some players wore tape with Jacob Blake’s name on it and others took to social media — all in response to the police shooting of Blake in Wisconsin and the need to effect change against systemic racism.

The New York Jets, Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis Colts, Tennessee Titans, Arizona Cardinals, Denver Broncos, Los Angeles Chargers and the Washington Football Team were among the teams not practicing Thursday.

“Football takes a back burner and we felt like this was one of those moments as an organization, wanted our players to know that we support them,” Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said.

“Want them to have a day to be with their families, reflect on things, be around friends, be around each other, and then use the day to help make that change they want to see, whether it’s on social media, using the platform they have, or if it’s going to register to vote or trying to get other people set up to register to vote.”

Each player on the Saints wore the name Jacob Blake taped across his helmet during Thursday’s practice — though veteran linebacker Craig Robertson said the team still plans to do more to honor Blake and “just let everybody know that we’re not gonna stand for that.” Saints coach Sean Payton said he supports whatever the team decides to do.

“Part of coaching is teaching them they have a voice — a very powerful one — and certainly understanding that and respecting everyone’s voice. So collectively as a team, a lot of things can be done to encourage change and be a part of change. That’s part of the teaching element of what we do as coaches. It never changes regardless of the level, whether it’s Pop Warner, high school, college or the NFL. It’s more than just football,” Payton said.

“These topics sometimes aren’t easy. And yet there’s an old adage, ‘The obstacle is the way.’ It’s not going around it, it’s understanding and going through it and addressing it, even if it means uncomfortable conversations and topics that make people somewhat uneasy.”

Here’s a look at more reaction from around the league, camp news and notes, and more:

Jump to the best of the day:
Team, player reactions | News of the day | Back at camp

Social media reaction


NFL Nation’s reports on a day of reflection, action

After a team meeting headed by Baker Mayfield, Odell Beckham Jr. and Myles Garrett, among others, the Cleveland Browns elected to hold a shortened practice before reconvening in the indoor field house to continue discussions about racism and social justice and any action they might be able to take individually and as a team. — Jake Trotter

Philadelphia Eagles coach Doug Pederson opened the floor to the players to discuss race relations Wednesday night during a team meeting. The team felt comfortable practicing Thursday knowing that an “action plan” to promote change is being formulated. — Tim McManus

The Arizona Cardinals canceled their walk-through and meetings Thursday after a morning team meeting that was “somber,” Kingsbury said, and “open-minded” and produced a “good conversation,” according to a source. Kingsbury said they will be back on schedule Friday. — Josh Weinfuss

The Carolina Panthers were off on Thursday but players were in the building getting COVID-19 tests, rehabbing and working on their own. Panthers coach Matt Rhule said players decided to practice Wednesday night instead of canceling as a form of protest because they plan to come up with something more meaningful to get their views across. — David Newton

Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians held a brief team meeting before practice Thursday and told players he fully supports moving or canceling practice if players can devise a plan to bring about change. “Your responsibility is to take action,” Arians said. “I don’t know that protest is an action. I think each guy has a personal thing. I would beg them to take action, find a cause and either support it financially or do something to change the situation.” — Jenna Laine

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Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy says it’s difficult to talk about football with everything going on in the country. He also offers his support to the Bucks for protesting by not playing.

The Chicago Bears were scheduled to practice Thursday morning, but a small handful of players (almost all offensive linemen) and coaches trickled onto the practice fields before the players turned around and walked back toward the team facility. Minutes later, a member of the Bears’ media relations staff announced that there had been a scheduling change and media members needed to exit the grounds immediately. No further update was provided by the team. — Jeff Dickerson

After the Packers canceled practice, players were welcome to stick around Lambeau Field to watch the documentary “13th” — which details how the 13th Amendment abolished slavery but led to an increase in incarcerations. “It’s something that one of our coaches brought up this morning,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said. “I happened to watch it this summer, myself. And it kind of blows your mind just in terms of how certain things are run in our country and in particular the prison system, how people can actually make money off it. And just certain laws that were passed. It wasn’t mandatory, by any means, but for those that wanted to watch it, they’re watching it now.” — Rob Demovsky

Falcons coach Dan Quinn and defensive end Steven Means both addressed the media about the unrest that followed the police killing of Jacob Blake. Although the Falcons proceeded with practice Thursday, the team reflected on what actions need to be taken to bring about change. Quinn made his position clear when he said, “Coming from my end of things, how, as a white coach, can I become a better ally because the stories that you heard bothered you so much, to say ‘Hey man, I support’ just wasn’t enough.” Means encouraged people of different backgrounds to take time to listen to one another with empathy. He also emphasized the importance of voting. — Vaughn McClure

Tennessee Titans coach Mike Vrabel said the decision to cancel practice Thursday came after talking with the players. Kevin Byard and Ryan Tannehill each spoke for the team. Byard shared how he feared the uncertain future for his 1-year-old daughter and his son who was born on Sunday. Tannehill got choked up as he spoke about how teammates have to worry that their children might not come home after an exchange with law enforcement. “We’re tired of dealing with excessive force. We’re tired of seeing Black men and women die in situations where they should be walking home and spending the night with their families. It’s sickening,” Tannehill said. — Turron Davenport

The Detroit Lions practiced Thursday — two days after being the first professional sports team to not practice or play in a game in protest. Safety Will Harris called what he saw in sports Wednesday “beautiful,” and Lions coach Matt Patricia said “maybe we got everybody to stop and think for a minute, that’s really great.” — Michael Rothstein

As for stepping away to address matters of social injustice, San Francisco 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said he would follow the lead of his players, none of whom suggested a day off on Thursday. “If there’s ever anything they want to do constructively as a team or take practice off to do that, there will be zero hesitation on our part,” Shanahan said. “That’s something I will always leave up to the players to bring to my attention.” — Nick Wagoner

Jaguars receiver Chris Conley said NFL players sitting out a game or two in protest wouldn’t have the same kind of impact that the NBA players’ boycott did — unless it’s the players who are the face of the NFL: the quarterbacks. “Until the people in the NFL who are irreplaceable decide that they’re going to step back and going to hang it up for a week, two weeks, whatever it may be … but I don’t foresee that happening,” Conley said in response to a question about whether he could see players in the NFL sitting out regular-season games. “… I understand how painstakingly hard it’s going to be for those guys because of the position they’re in. But if a statement is going to be made by this league in solidarity and everyone standing up, it’s got to start with them.” — Michael DiRocco

The Minnesota Vikings decided to practice on Thursday after an emotional two-hour all-team meeting in the morning. During stretching, the team played Lil’ Baby’s “The Bigger Picture,” a song released in June following the killing of George Floyd that addresses racial and social injustices. The Vikings have made it through camp at near full health except for defensive end Danielle Hunter, whose “slight tweak,” according to coach Mike Zimmer, kept him out a 10th straight practice. — Courtney Cronin


Top news of the day

Eagles starting left tackle Andre Dillard tears biceps, source says

Eagles starting left tackle Andre Dillard tore his biceps and will likely need season-ending surgery next week, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Dillard, the team’s first-round pick in 2019, suffered the injury during one-on-one drills early in Thursday’s practice. He was taken inside after being evaluated by trainers.

Dolphins trade RB Kalen Ballage to rival Jets, source says
Adding another veteran to their crowded backfield, New York has acquired running back Kalen Ballage from Miami in a rare intradivision trade, a league source confirmed. Ballage will be reunited with coach Adam Gase, who was part of Miami’s decision to draft him in 2018. He’s the second ex-Dolphin to join Gase’s stable of running backs, joining Frank Gore, who mentored Ballage as a rookie.

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Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians calls for athletes to use more than just words to promote social justice.

What our NFL Nation reporters saw and heard at camp

The kicking competition between veteran Nick Folk and rookie Justin Rohrwasser continues, and Folk has the edge from a consistency standpoint. Since joining the team earlier this week, Folk hasn’t missed when kicking to the traditional goal posts (the team has a narrower set of goal posts that it uses occasionally). Rohrwasser, the fifth-round pick from Marshall, hasn’t been as consistent as one of his attempts Thursday clanged off the left upright.— Mike Reiss

Lamar Jackson threw his first interception of training camp and it took until the ninth practice for him to do so. Jackson’s pass was deflected by safety Chuck Clark, and it ended up in the arms of rookie linebacker Malik Harrison. The reigning NFL MVP was picked off only six times last season, including once in his last 10 regular-season games. Jackson has been just as good in taking care of the ball this summer. — Jamison Hensley

During the Giants’ practice Thursday, discipline was again under the spotlight. This time on a long completion from quarterback Daniel Jones to wide receiver Sterling Shepard, who threw the ball some 20 yards out of the end zone and began talking trash after the play. But this kind of stuff doesn’t fly under coach Joe Judge. He made Shepard fetch the ball and walk it back to the huddle. Judge then had some words for Shepard. “It would have been a 15-yard penalty in a game, and that’s what he told me,” Shepard said. Surely not so calmly. — Jordan Raanan

Cornerback Bashaud Breeland‘s workload with the starters has decreased significantly in recent days as he faces a four-game NFL suspension to begin the season. Breeland has been getting most of his work instead with the backups. Cornerbacks coach Sam Madison said Breeland still has a role while suspended. “We’re going to have a lot of young guys out there playing (and they) don’t have many years of playing in the league,” Madison said. “We’re going to need his veteran presence and his voice just as much as if he was here.” — Adam Teicher

Cornerback Darius Slay had his best moment of training camp Thursday, staying stride-for-stride with wide receiver DeSean Jackson down the right sideline and finishing with a pass break-up. Jackson recognized Slay’s efforts with a fist bump. — Tim McManus

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Dan Graziano says NFL players want to see the league and team owners show support and engage in conversations with legislators about police reform.

Washington left tackle Geron Christian, a third-round pick in 2018, has worked mostly with the starters, but he still has a lot to prove. A lot. There were questions in the organization about him last season and some had written him off. But Christian has one more shot to show what he can do. He said he has a different mindset than he had as rookie when Trent Williams was starting on the left side (and Morgan Moses on the right). “My mindset should’ve been more aggressive,” Christian said. “I feel like everything my first year up to my injury, it all was on me. Not that I didn’t have a ton of ability, too, it was just really a mindset. I just really didn’t see myself playing.” If he has truly changed, then Christian might finally show what he can — or can’t — do. — John Keim

It was not the best day for the Lions’ offense, as tight end T.J. Hockenson and wide receiver Quintez Cephus both struggled with drops. Largely, though, those two players have had strong camps and been among the most consistent offensive performers. — Michael Rothstein

The 49ers altered their schedule Thursday from a fully-padded practice to a walk-through as injuries have piled up and their depth has dwindled. Fullback Kyle Juszczyk was a new addition to the lengthy injury list with a strained hamstring and will be week-to-week moving forward, according to Shanahan. The extra down time is intended to buy additional recovery for a team with roughly a dozen players currently working back from various ailments. — Nick Wagoner

With cornerback Chidobe Awuzie dealing with a minor knee injury, second-round pick Trevon Diggs is making the most of his opportunity. On Thursday, Diggs was able to break up a crossing route to Michael Gallup, properly trailing the wide receiver’s front hip and reaching with his left hand to knock the ball away. Later, he was able to come up with his first interception on a high Dak Prescott pass created by pressure in the quarterback’s face. In the past two days, Diggs has been more assertive and his length and ball skills have shown up in a big way. It might not mean he is a Week 1 starter, but he is progressing nicely. “He’s an awesome player,” safety Darian Thompson said. “Great corner, great coverage, great hands, speed, footwork. He’s learning the game. So we’re excited to have him.” — Todd Archer

A powerful message, emblazoned on a new state-of-the-art, dual-sided videoboard, awaited players when they arrived at SoFi Stadium for their scrimmage on Thursday morning — the words of Jacob Blake’s sister, who said: “I’m not sad. I don’t want your pity. I want change.”Inside, players and coaches gathered in the locker room for the first time and had a drawn-out, emotional conversation about social injustice. After it was over, Chargers coach Anthony Lynn decided his team should not practice. A little before 12:30 p.m. PT, he walked with his players to one corner of the field to announce the decision on NFL Network and utilize a national platform to speak out on police brutality.

“Overall, I feel good about the [Black Lives Matter] movement,” Lynn sad. “It’s just that we had a setback. What happened in Wisconsin, it was ridiculous. To see that white boy walking around with a machine gun and nobody does nothing — if that’s a black man, that’s a dead black man.We all know that. It’s blatant. We’re gonna continue this fight. We’re not gonna quit. If anything, we’re gonna double down and we’re gonna do more.” — Alden Gonzalez

Original article: https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/29752132/nfl-training-camp-2020-football-takes-back-burner-thursday

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