As training camp keeps rolling through August, Rob Gronkowski gave a frank, but positive, assessment of how he feels in the early stages of his comeback while a couple of NFL stars showed moves that apply beyond the gridiron.
Here’s what you need to know from camps across the league:
Top news of the day
Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians believes the Rob Gronkowski we’re seeing in training camp — the one Tom Brady lured out of a one-year retirement and convinced his new team to trade for this offseason — is the same one who shattered numerous NFL, Super Bowl and postseason records five and six years ago. “The back surgeries have healed. So he had a year of healing. He looks to me like he was five or six years ago,” Arians said Thursday.
Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill left practice early on Thursday after injuring his right hamstring. Hill had just caught a long pass in a one-on-one drill when he pulled up with the injury. Hill conferred with Chiefs medical personnel before walking unaccompanied to the locker room.
Malcolm Jenkins describes his ongoing dialogue with Drew Brees as cooperative and encouraging, and adds that the adversity they went through has brought them, and the team, closer.
Malcolm Jenkins said he believes the dialogue between him and longtime friend and New Orleans Saints teammate Drew Brees this summer was “important for the country and important for us.” Jenkins was one of Brees’ harshest critics after Brees said in June that he would “never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag” by kneeling during the national anthem. But both players have insisted that they had good conversations in the immediate aftermath and the ensuing months. And teammates have praised Brees for his sincere effort to become an ally for the Black community in its fight for racial equality and social justice.
Dez Bryant left his tryout with the Baltimore Ravens without a deal, a source said Thursday. It’s possible the Ravens could add Bryant at some point, but the source said nothing is imminent with the three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver. Bryant, 31, is attempting to become the first Pro Bowl wide receiver to miss two full seasons and then return to the NFL since the 1970 merger, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. He hasn’t played in a game since December 2017.
Browns cornerback Kevin Johnson has been hospitalized after he suffered a laceration to his liver when rookie tight end Harrison Bryant landed on him during practice Wednesday. Johnson, initially diagnosed with an abdominal injury, is expected to be in the hospital for another day for observation, the team said. The Browns signed Johnson to a one-year deal this offseason, with hopes that he would win the starting nickelback job.
— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) August 20, 2020
Someone’s ready for the day!!! 👊 pic.twitter.com/ltJ3qYFMIT
— New York Giants (@Giants) August 20, 2020
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) August 20, 2020
— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) August 20, 2020
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) August 20, 2020
— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) August 20, 2020
— #DUUUVAL (@Jaguars) August 20, 2020
— Buffalo Bills (@BuffaloBills) August 20, 2020
— Tennessee Titans (@Titans) August 20, 2020
Jealousy is when everyone has someone to hit except you. 😒 pic.twitter.com/GjdGRLjAjW
— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) August 20, 2020
Leveling up 👊 pic.twitter.com/XSsnvBgf4D
— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) August 20, 2020
Hungry 🍽 pic.twitter.com/ZKW9FC3Cwa
— Cincinnati Bengals (@Bengals) August 20, 2020
Love at first sight. 🏟
— Green Bay Packers (@packers) August 20, 2020
Out here working ‼️
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) August 20, 2020
Quotes of the day
“I want to be moving like how I was back in the day, no doubt about that. Why else would I want to come back to the game and be moving like poop?” Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski
What our NFL Nation reporters saw Wednesday
Cornerback Josh Norman intercepted Josh Allen for the first time during team drills Thursday, but was slow to get up after being stripped by Stefon Diggs during his return. Norman eventually walked off under his own power but did not participate in drills for the remainder of the practice. The Bills officially announced Norman has a leg injury and is still being evaluated. — Marcel Louis-Jacques
Quarterback Joe Burrow wasn’t fazed by a rookie moment on Thursday. During 11-on-11 drills, Burrow threw an interception to linebacker Josh Bynes, who didn’t have to move very much for the turnover. But the mistake didn’t rattle the rookie. Burrow responded with two deep completions down each sideline — one to the right to Tyler Boyd and another down the left to Mike Thomas. Burrow’s ability to immediately respond well after an error bodes well for the Bengals’ projected starter. — Ben Baby
Let’s call what unfolded at Thursday’s practice Saquon Day. There was a heavy emphasis on the run game early. Later, Saquon Barkley was used heavily in the passing game. He caught four passes in live drills, including one that would’ve gone for a big gain down the seam. Perhaps a harbinger of things to come for this Giants offense? The Giants appear primed to feed their star running back. — Jordan Raanan
Bears coach Matt Nagy wanted to break up the monotony at the end of Thursday’s practice. In front of the entire team — after media had been escorted out — Nagy sent defensive tackle Akiem Hicks and right guard Germain Ifedi out on the field to catch punts off the JUGS machine. “There were some consequences there as to who catches it and who drops it,” Nagy said. “I’ll have the players tell you who won that. There was a clear winner. Those are the things we are doing to try and keep the guys loose and keep them having fun. We’re going to keep doing that stuff as we move along here.” — Jeff Dickerson
Newcomer Dante Fowler Jr. showed impressive speed and power during the Falcons’ first scrimmage. The Falcons signed him from the Rams to get after the passer, and Fowler showed his tremendous first step against the run and pass. Standing up on the right edge, Fowler used his burst to track down Todd Gurley II on a run up the middle. Then Fowler blew past rookie left guard Matt Hennessy on a third-down play and nearly took out Matt Ryan. Ryan gave Fowler a big hug during the scrimmage, probably to let him know how much he appreciates having him as a teammate rather than opponent. Fowler sacked Ryan three times last season when the Rams beat the Falcons 37-10. — Vaughn McClure
Rod Marinelli’s voice is as recognizable as it is piercing on the practice field when he’s ripping a defensive lineman for, well, any number of reasons. His hiring by Jon Gruden this offseason to replace well-respected assistant Brentson Buckner, who did a great job with a young line last season, in particular rookie defensive ends Clelin Ferrell and Maxx Crosby, raised eyebrows. But new defensive tackle Maliek Collins, who played the first four years of his NFL career under Marinelli in Dallas, said he was “thankful” to be reunited with Marinelli. “He’s like an old drill sergeant,” Collins said. “He’s just going to get it out of you.” Collins has been impressive in camp and Gruden called him “the anchor” of the retuned defense. “We’ll go as far as he takes us.” On Friday, the Raiders will be at their new home, Allegiant Stadium, as the team will practice in its new $1.9 billion digs for the first time. — Paul Gutierrez
With starter Bashaud Breeland‘s four-game suspension to begin the season, the Chiefs are going to need at least one of their young cornerbacks to take a step forward. Rookie L’Jarius Sneed might have done that on Thursday. Sneed broke up three passes, one a deep ball where he stayed with Tyreek Hill down the field in coverage. Another would have been an interception had he not dropped it. — Adam Teicher
With Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb, the Cowboys seem set at receiver, but during a two-minute drill, Cedrick Wilson caught three passes from Dak Prescott, including a game-winning touchdown. His first reception came on a defensive breakdown and then he made a nice two-handed grab on a bullet at the 1. Working out of the slot he was able to gain separation on Anthony Brown for the score. “Ced’s a player that we’ve had here for a few years now. Injuries have kind of bummed him out in the past and maybe not allowed him to show what he’s quite capable of,” Prescott said. “He’s been healthy. And he’s been healthy all offseason. He’s been one of the guys that I’ve been throwing with all offseason. It’s nothing. We’ve created some chemistry there and he’s a guy that can come in and show up first.” — Todd Archer
49ers defensive tackle D.J. Jones suffered an apparent shoulder injury early in team drills during Thursday’s practice when he got tangled up with guard Laken Tomlinson. Coach Kyle Shanahan didn’t yet have an update on Jones’ status after practice other than to say Jones was having it checked out. It was unfortunate for Jones, who has been downright dominant in pass-rush drills and was again in Thursday’s practice. Rookie Javon Kinlaw took over at nose tackle in Jones’ stead. The Niners need Kinlaw to have an immediate impact after losing DeForest Buckner, but they can’t afford Jones’ injury to be serious as their depth on the interior of the defensive line is largely unproven. — Nick Wagoner
Jeff Okudah is still running with the second team in practice, but the No. 3 overall pick showed some progress Thursday. He had a nice diving pass breakup on a Chase Daniel pass and also had good coverage in a rep against Pro Bowl receiver Kenny Golladay in one-on-ones. He still had some learning moments — particularly on a deep pass against Marvin Jones Jr. — but even then, it was a play that in real life likely would have resulted in a sack or throwaway before the ball was thrown. — Michael Rothstein
Quarterback Alex Smith took another step Thursday, participating in nine-on-nine work — adding the element of two pass-rushers. Smith took three snaps: On the first, end Nate Orchard jumped offside and applied pressure, forcing Smith to slide a bit to his right. Safety Sean Davis broke up his pass to Antonio Gandy-Golden. On the next snap, Smith stepped up and badly missed Cam Sims down the right side. On his third one, with more pressure, he stepped up and delivered a strike to tight end Richard Rodgers. “As long as he’s feeling more and more comfortable with it, we can go ahead and continue to add more and more,” Washington coach Ron Rivera said of Smith. “It is another milestone for Alex.” — John Keim
Ryan Tannehill threw his first interception of camp on Thursday. Kevin Byard hauled in a high pass from Tannehill that tipped off of A.J. Brown‘s fingertips during team period. Later during that period, Malcolm Butler made a leaping interception when Tannehill tried to find Kalif Raymond deep. Butler staggered to the sideline before going down. It looked like he got the wind knocked out of him. He returned to practice later. Outside of the two interceptions, Tannehill was pretty sharp, including his best throw when he squeezed the ball through multiple defenders for a touchdown to Brown during red zone 7-on-7s. — Turron Davenport
It was a very good day for the offense, particularly the wide receivers, on Thursday, when the Jaguars did a lot of red zone work. DJ Chark Jr. had two touchdown catches, including one in which he laid out for the ball and still managed to get both feet down in the back of the end zone before hitting the turf. Chark also had a TD catch in which he gained separation from veteran CB Tramaine Brock in his last step before the ball arrived. Dede Westbrook had a leaping touchdown catch as well as another catch in which he tipped the ball with one hand and brought it in. Rookie Collin Johnson showed why he can be useful in the red zone when he caught a back-shoulder touchdown throw. The 6-foot-6 Johnson had to go up to make the catch and 5-9 rookie CB Chris Claybrooks had no chance. — Michael DiRocco
Jordan Love‘s first practice inside Lambeau Field also afforded the Packers’ first-round pick his first shot at running the two-minute drill. And he was successful.
Love led a group of backups to a game-winning drive capped by a 48-yard Mason Crosby field goal, but even coach Matt LaFleur admitted afterward he might have allowed Love to cheat the drill a little bit. Love took a sack (although there’s no tackling allowed) on the first play — a no-no in two-minute — and there might have another would-be sack or two that LaFleur let go so that Love could get some work in. The rookie quarterback showed nice touch on two well-placed throws to Darrius Shepherd — one for 17 yards on a post and another for 15 on the left sideline that might have been ruled incomplete because it was juggled. But with no officials at practice, the play stood and Crosby booted the winner. With no preseason games, those drills — and the meetings with Aaron Rodgers and Tim Boyle — are Love’s only chances to learn.
“It was great for me being able to sit there, be in the same room as him, and just hear how he thinks about plays and go out to practice and watch him put it together,” Love said of Rodgers. “It’s really awesome for me to see and take in and evaluate him and evaluate myself and just try and do my best job to learn by watching him. It’s been really good. He’s a great person and been able to help me in the quarterback room on certain things.” — Rob Demovsky
Rookie receiver John Hightower stole the show Thursday. He beat Darius Slay during one-on-ones, made a diving catch across the middle and hauled in a 40-yard bomb from Jalen Hurts. First-round pick Jalen Reagor has been getting all the headlines, but Hightower is flashing pretty brightly in his own right early in camp. — Tim McManus
Russell Wilson and DK Metcalf hooked up for one of the more picturesque touchdowns of the first week of Seahawks camp. Metcalf separated from cornerback Neiko Thorpe, then turned on the jets to haul in Wilson’s heave. His momentum carried him out of the back of the end zone and through the open garage door of a shed that’s adjacent to one of the team’s practice fields. It was reminiscent of Bo Jackson disappearing into the Kingdome tunnel after sprinting for a 91-yard touchdown in in 1987.
“I knew you’d go get it!” offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer yelled at Metcalf in celebration.
It was an otherwise sloppy day for the Seahawks’ offense thanks to drops, trouble lining up and at least one bad snap. One play from 7-on-7 typified how things went. Wilson was forced to hold onto the ball due to tight coverage then threw a low bullet that Metcalf dropped. Bobby Wagner jeered Wilson by yelling, “How much time you got?!” — Tim McManus