NFC Roundup: Training Camps, NFL Kickoff Days Away
By Christian S. Kohl
The past week has not been a stellar one for the NFL, with arrest warrants and substance abuse violations dominating the off season news. Here’s a look at the latest developments around the NFC as we head into July.
Washington Redskins: In Washington, all eyes remain on QB Robert Griffin III and his recovery from a torn ACL last season. In an effort to mimic the Herculean recovery of Adrian Peterson, RGIII may well be ready to go for week 1, leaving Rex Grossman’s standing with the team in jeopardy. Roy Helu is also rehabbing his legs in hopes of securing a spot as a supplemental back.
New York Giants: After remaining absent throughout OTA’s, Hakeem Nicks has been working with Eli Manning to get their timing down again. Jason Pierre-Paul is in the full swing of rehab, and has a good chance to be ready to go for week 1 after back surgery. Meanwhile, sources indicate the Giants and Cruz are closing in on a long term agreement.
Dallas Cowboys: Sources indicate the Cowboys have for the moment broken off contract talks with 30 year old DL Anthony Spencer. Miles Austin will likely see a lot of action in the slot this year, and Dallas has managed to sign Center Travis Frederick to a four-year deal.
Philadelphia Eagles: Controversy abounds in Philadelphia. Beyond the controversy of who will start as the Eagles quarterback, coach Chip Kelly found himself punished by the NCAA due to his time at Oregon. In addition, RB Bryce Brown had dogs of his seized this week due to suspicion of dog fighting. Brown claims innocence, and it appears the matter will be resolved without incident shortly. Lastly, Philadelphia looks reluctant at the moment to extend the contract of WR Jeremy Maclin.
Green Bay Packers: Sources in the Green Bay area are more than content to toss the names of both D.J .Williams and Clay Harbor as possible tight ends for New England trade bait. While nothing indicates interest from the Patriots, their press seems more than willing to part with them. In other slow news from Green Bay, retired WR Donald Driver indicates he is available mid-season should the Packers want him to un-retire. Again, nothing indicates traction or interest from the Packers in their 38 year-old former wideout.
Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings recently agreed to a deal with linebacker Desmond Bishop. Just $50,000 is guaranteed, but is worth up to $1.35 million in incentives. We also learned more about star running back Adrian Peterson this week, most notably that he suffered a nearly fatal allergic reaction last year, and that his 2000 yard season involved an initial five weeks that he “kind of sat out” while easing back after ACL surgery.
Chicago Bears: Business as usual is taking place with the Bears, particularly working with Jay Cutler. All involved are working with him to speed up his release to prevent him from taking so very many sacks. Also, Devin Hester is thought to be in the mix but not a sure thing to secure return jobs at age 31.
Detroit Lions: In a week filled with legal wrangling, DB Amari Spivey received good news, as charges against him were dropped this week. Mike Thomas is currently struggling to crack the Lions depth chart, and Israel Idonije inked a one year agreement for $840,000.
Atlanta Falcons: The addition of Steven Jackson, and the lack of Michael Turner has left the RB situation unclear for Jacquizz Rogers. Jackson is 30 years old, and fully accustomed to both a full workload and a spotty injury history. How Rogers fits into the scheme is still unclear. Meanwhile, Oregon WR Drew Davis is impressing early, and is a good bet to supplement the already formidable Falcon receiver corps.
Carolina Panthers: Not surprisingly, the primary news from Carolina pertains to work on talented and polarizing quarterback Cam Newton. Coaches are attempting to use statistical analysis and also simplifications to optimize his abilities. He also mentioned this week a commitment to a stronger on-field demeanor. Among other players battling for attention is WR Ted Ginn, who hopes to secure more offensive snaps in the Panther attack.
New Orleans Saints: With limited personnel activity this week, Drew Brees and the Saints are focused on rebuilding their image and recreating their identity. Having endured costly suspensions after being waist-deep in the Bounty Gate scandal the past few years, the greatest challenge for the Saints this upcoming year will likely involve a heavily revitalized perspective and a fresh start.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Josh Freeman enters the season with one year left on his contract, and is determined to perform either to prove it’s not a distraction, or for the very reason listed above. Tampa has high hopes for a better season from DL Da’Quan Bowers, and Mike Williams secures his spot for “least major surgery” of the week to have his tonsils removed.
San Francisco 49ers: Rookie TE Vance McDonald continues to impress, offering SF the option of lining up star TE Vernon Davis at receiver this year as well. As the Niners continue to swim in options, they continue to cultivate another in RB Marcus Lattimore. While Lattimore is expected to spend extended time on the NFL list, the chance remains he might contribute midway through the season.
Seattle Seahawks: As off season moves go, generally the noteworthy moves involve players. However, this week Seattle extended its GM John Schneider through 2016. No surprise, given his success in such a short period. Meanwhile, Russell Wilson continues to build on his positive image by touring the country to run quarterback camps he set up for aspiring youth.
St. Louis Rams: Optimism abounds in St. Louis, an NFL city which could badly use some. Versatility appears to be the name of the game, maximizing the potential of TE Jared Cook as well as elite receiver Tavon Austin. Expect the Rams to have a lot of tricks up their sleeve this year, for better or worse.
Arizona Cardinals: Ryan Swope’s concussion issues are still lingering, leaving the Cardinals at a loss. Arizona hopes that RB Rashard Mendenhall will revitalize the hopes of the franchise, along with the addition of aging gunslinger Carson Palmer. A lot will have to click, and fast, for Arizona to present a strong challenge in the NFC this season.
As the preseason, fantasy drafts, and most importantly kickoff weekend approach, check in again next week for the latest developments around the NFL.
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Christian S. Kohl is a sports contributor for CBS Local Digital Media.