Cardinals’ Wells, Breaston nursing injuries

The Cardinals were among the teams that wrapped up training camp Thursday, and they exited with just two notable injuries.

First-round draft pick Chris Wells is nursing a gimpy ankle that prevented him from playing in the preseason opener against the Steelers. Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt was uncertain about Wells’ status for Saturday night’s home game against the Chargers, but the coach said he would like to have the rookie in for a few snaps.

Cardinals WR Steve Breaston injured his knee against the Steelers and hasn’t returned to practice. He’s expected to miss the game against the Chargers and likely will be replaced Jerehme Urban as the No. 3 receiver.

A couple of other training camp notes:

  • While it’s not camp news, per se, it’s worth passing along that WR Larry Fitzgerald restructured his contract to help the team create some extra salary-cap room, according to Darren Urban of azcardinals.com. “I volunteered,” Fitzgerald said. “I told them if they needed something I wouldn’t hesitate. They said they needed it.”

Season in question for Seahawks LT Jones

Perennial Pro Bowl LT Walter Jones hasn’t been on the field much during the Seahawks’ training camp. And after having a second knee procedure, he might not be on the field again anytime soon.

Jones underwent arthroscopic surgery Thursday to remove loose fragments and scar tissue left over from a December microfracture knee surgery. The Seahawks will re-evaluate Jones, 35, in a couple of weeks to determine his status for the 2009 season.

Jones also was hampered by back spasms during camp.

Several of Jones’ teammates didn’t show much doubt that the nine-time Pro Bowler would be back this season.

“I expect him back,” LG Rob Sims told Seahawks.com. “He’s got the heart of a lion. He’s always hung in there with us. He’s always been there. When he gets back, we’ll roll.”

With Jones out indefinitely, Clare Farnsworth of Seahawks.com examined the offensive line Thursday. Usual RT Sean Locklear will slide to LT, with Ray Willis at RT. At RG, it will be Mansfield Wrotto or second-round draft pick Max Unger, who started the preseason opener. Wrotto will start in Saturday night’s preseason game against the Broncos.

Big Ben injured during Steelers’ final camp practice

It looks as though the Steelers narrowly avoided a major injury during their final practice of training camp.

As reported earlier by The Associated Press, Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger injured his right foot or ankle Thursday when LT Max Starks stepped on him. The Steelers’ official Web site reports that Roethlisberger “injured his foot.” NFL.com’s Steve Wyche has followed up on the injury, reporting that it’s not a torn or ruptured Achilles tendon, although more tests could be done.

Roethlisberger spent the remainder of practice sitting on a cooler with an ice pack on the back of his ankle, but he was able to walk to midfield for an end-of-practice huddle before leaving the field on a golf cart. There is no official word from the Steelers on the severity of the injury.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin declined to speak with reporters, according to The AP, and team spokesman Dave Lockett confirmed that someone stepped on Roethlisberger’s foot but gave no other update.

In a more light-hearted move on the team’s final day of camp, veteran kicker Jeff Reed pulled a fast one on his teammates, duping the entire team into believing it was headed to the movies — a training-camp ritual — instead of having morning practice.

Lions’ Johnson will be held out against Browns

Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz announced Thursday that WR Calvin Johnson won’t play in Saturday’s preseason game against the Cleveland Browns. Schwartz said that Johnson, who has been sidelined with a sprained thumb, will probably be held out another week.

Schwartz is targeting to get Johnson back for the team’s third preseason game against the Colts.

“He’ll probably come out of his little splint fairly soon — an idea toward Indianapolis getting him back,” Schwartz said.

As for his starting QB against the Browns, Schwartz said he had a rotation in mind for Daunte Culpepper, Matthew Stafford and Drew Stanton, but declined to reveal it to reporters.  Culpepper started and played three series the preseason opener against the Falcons, with Stafford entering during the second quarter and playing until Stanton entered during the third quarter.

Schwartz is in no rush — he said he has no timetable set on when he’ll make the final decision.

“We’re trying not to rush to things; let’s be objective with it,” Schwartz said. “I’ve seen some other coaches around say, ‘Hey, we’re making a decision after the second game or whatever. I don’t know if that’s the strategy that I would take.”

Hard-hitting Lions won’t get pushed around in 2009

ALLEN PARK, Mich. –- One of the first impressions that you draw from the Lions’ training-camp practices is that this looks like a much tougher and more physical club than the one they had last year.

Former coach Rod Marinelli often boasted that he had a tough squad, but the Lions were routinely pushed around by opponents on the way to their 0-16 season.

That doesn’t seem likely to happen this year. Not after seeing the intensity of the Lions’ contact drills. There are plenty of hard hitters on defense, including a solid trio of linebackers in Ernie Sims, Julian Peterson, and Larry Foote, as well as rookie S Louis Delmas.

Even RB Kevin Smith falls into the tough-guy category with his willingness to take on tacklers as well as avoid them.

– Vic Carucci

Kids help the kids at Lions camp

ALLEN PARK, Mich. – Winning back fans after an 0-16 season isn’t easy, but you have to give the Lions credit for trying.

They’ve started a new ritual they hope will put them closer to younger people –- and their families. The first 10 or 20 children in line for practice are chosen as helmet-carriers, which is the opportunity to walk with a player to the practice field while carrying his helmet.

Most of the carriers aren’t any older than about 13 or 14. However, with a quarterback as young as 21-year-old rookie Matthew Stafford on the team, there can be awkward moments.

“Actually, the first guy that carried out my helmet was like 20 years old,” Stafford said with a smile. “I said, ‘I’m only a year older than you … you don’t have to carry my helmet.’ But he was cool. And it’s fun. You get a chance to hang out with these kids and you get a chance to see the impact that you can have on them. They’re star struck in a lot of cases and just having a great time walking out onto a practice field. And we sign stuff for them and then send them on their way and let them watch practice.”

– Vic Carucci

Lions huddle up with NFL.com’s Brandt

ALLEN PARK, Mich. — Gil Brandt, NFL.com contributor and Sirius NFL Radio co-host, was invited by coach Jim Schwartz to address the Detroit Lions at midfield after their first practice on Wednesday.

Schwartz has had a long friendship with Brandt, who was here at camp for an on-site Sirius broadcast. The Lions’ rookie coach wanted his players to hear from the former vice president of player personnel for the Dallas Cowboys. In particular, Schwartz thought it would be valuable for them to listen to the architect of a team that appeared in five Super Bowls and produced 13 Hall of Fame players — including Roger Staubach and Tony Dorsett – during his 28-year tenure. Brandt received a nice ovation after his short speech.

“Any time that Bill Belichick calls somebody for advice, they’re going to be in my Rolodex, also,” Schwartz said. “Gil’s helped me along the way, but more than that, he gives perspective to the players. So many times our players don’t understand the history of the National Football League. They’re very, very young. They only know what’s going on around them. But they need to know the history of the National Football League. The players need to recognize (Brandt’s accomplishments) and respect that, and I think that was important.”

–Vic Carucci

Camp roundup: Bills will hold out T.O.

Bills coach Dick Jauron announced WR Terrell Owens’ sprained toe will keep him out of Saturday’s preseason game at Green Bay.

Owens isn’t expected to return until “next week some time,” according to Jauron. Owens has missed two consecutive days of practice following a brief 20-minute workout on Monday.

First round-draft pick DE Aaron Maybin never made it to Bills camp, which closed on Wednesday. Bills.com lead writer Chris Brown notes there has been little progress of late in contract talks with Maybin, and also posted his 2009 camp awards.

As training camps close shop and teams return home, here are a few other notes from around the league:

  • NFL.com’s Thomas George was at Giants camp, and also posted his camp report. Giants.com writer Michael Eisen posted a feature on WR David Tyree, one of the five featured players on our On The Fringe series. The Giants got removed DT Rocky Bernard from the non-football injury list, ahd he returned for limited practice activities with CBs Corey Webster (hip) and CB Aaron Ross (hamstring). Giants coach Tom Coughlin said he had no update on when DL Chris Canty would be back.
  • The Dolphins released veteran CB Eric Green, leaving rookies Sean Smith and Vontae Davis to contend for a starting job. NFL.com senior analyst Pat Kirwan observed on a recent visit to Dolphins camp that Smith, the team’s second-round pick, appeared to be ahead of Davis, a first-round pick.
  • Browns coach Eric Mangini is still keeping his starting quarterback a secret. Zac Jackson noted on Clevelandbrowns.com that the coaching staff has tracked every snap between Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn throughout camp, and just four snaps separate the two.
  • Redskins TE Chris Cooley (back) and DE Phillip Daniels missed Wednesday morning’s practice, but both are expected to play against the Steelers on Saturday night. OT Mike Williams, who has not played in the NFL since 2005, is questionable for Saturday after spraining an ankle in practice this week. Williams is competing for the starting right tackle spot with Stephon Heyer and Jeremy Bridges, according to Redskins.com.

Notes from Giants practice

ALBANY, N.Y. — The New York Giants began Wednesday morning’s practice with most of the team stretching while the defensive linemen met in a separate group. It is a distinctive group in many ways. As for the practice, here are some observations:

» The team began practice working on kickoff returns. Receivers Shaun Bodiford, first-round pick Hakeem Nicks, Sinorice Moss and RB Ahmad Bradshaw were among the group fielding kicks. A nice, capable quartet. The Giants use a jugs machine to save wear and tear on kickers for this drill. It also ensures each kick gets a desired height.

» Coach Tom Coughlin yelling to his running backs in a pass-catching drill: “Everyone talks about how much talent we have! Let’s see it!”

» Running back Allen Patrick — cut by the Jets in a spring minicamp and signed quickly after by the Giants — looks lean yet powerful in early drills.

» The Giants receivers are working on quick-post patterns. Nicks and Steve Smith ran the sharpest routes in this drill, closely watched by offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride.

» Moss is rising in the drill, in which Coughlin took a long look at his receivers.

» The team worked 11-on-11 in walk-through form. There was an emphasis on the short passing game.

» Gilbride emphasized to his tight ends to create space, not run into defensive traffic.

» It is obvious in these drills how much Eli Manning puts into the cerebral part of his craft.

– Thomas George

Favre signing tops Tuesday’s training camp news

The biggest news of an eventful Tuesday was Brett Favre reporting to Vikings training camp and immediately signing a two-year contract. As always, our analysts and writers wasted no time in chiming in about it.

Pat Kirwan suggests it won’t take long for Favre to feel comfortable in the Vikings’ system. Likewise, NFL Network’s Mike Mayock believes the Vikings have enough offensive weapons to allow Favre to be successful. Solomon Wilcots is one analyst who believes Favre’s return actually might favor his former team, the Packers, who know a thing or two about the quarterback’s tendencies. NFL Network’s Jason La Canfora examines the ripple effect that Favre’s arrival will have on the rest of the Vikings — specifically the quarterbacks — and reports that several team sources believe Tarvaris Jackson could be on his way out of town. Lastly, fantasy guru Michael Fabiano writes that Favre immediately increases the fantasy value of his teammates, specifically RBs Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor, WRs Bernard Berrian, Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin and TE Visanthe Shiancoe.

Some other training camp news from around the league:

  • Just as Lions WR Calvin Johnson returned to practice while recovering from a thumb injury, the team announced that K Jason Hanson underwent minor knee surgery. Hanson is expected to recover quickly, the team said.
  • Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said RB Mewelde Moore is close to returning to practice as he recovers from a hamstring injury that has sidelined him since Aug. 4.

Falcons DE Davis pushing younger Anderson

Falcons third-year defensive end Jamal Anderson could be in jeopardy of losing his starting job. Anderson, the eighth overall pick in 2007, is being pushed by fifth-year veteran Chauncey Davis, who has been consistently better against the run and pass during training camp, a team source said.

The Falcons did not say that Anderson had been demoted. Any move with Davis could be experimental — although Davis could emerge as a starter should he outplay Anderson.

Atlanta has expected more from Anderson, who has just two career sacks in 31 starts. Davis, entering his fifth season with the Falcons, signed a four-year, $14 million contract this summer.

– Steve Wyche

Packers fans react to Favre news

GREEN BAY, Wis. — “Oh, my God!”

That was what a 20-something-year-old woman, wearing a Packers jersey and hat as she watched her favorite team go through a walk-through practice this morning, yelled into her cell phone after hearing reports that Brett Favre was on his way to Minnesota to sign with the Vikings. News on the Favre development could be seen on television monitors throughout the Lambeau Field Atrium.

Most fans at practice reacted with only mild surprise. They seemed to know that this day would eventually come for the man who once quarterbacked their team. Although they already had been through a season of watching Favre play for the New York Jets, seeing him in the purple of the arch-rival Vikings is a different story.

“If he wants to play, so be it,” said Larry Leiterman, as he watched this morning’s workout. “But I’d rather see him retire as a Packer and not tarnish his reputation. It was hard watching him last year. He was breaking down (physically) at the end of the year, and he should have stayed retired.”

Jeremy Swanson, who watched practice wearing a No. 4 Favre Packers jersey, had mixed feelings.

“For me, I’ve always been a Packer fan, but I’ve grown up a Brett Favre fan,” Swanson said. “So as much as I’d love to see him in green and gold, I still respect him as a football player. Hopefully, he does well … and I hope that, when he comes to Lambeau, we can beat the Vikings.”

– Vic Carucci

Packers showing some fight in camp

GREEN BAY, Wis. — There have been about a half-dozen fights in practice — including three in one session — since training camp opened on Aug. 1.

Most NFL coaches will express obligatory disapproval of such altercations, pointing out that they show a lack of discipline and would draw penalties during a game.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy had a different take. He recalled that there were no camp fights last year … and the Packers went 6-10.

– Vic Carucci

Fairly light turnout for Packers’ walk-through

GREEN BAY, Wis. — This summer, the Packers have been using the newly renovated Ray Nitschke Field for training camp.

It’s located behind the Don Hudson Center; camp practices previously were held in front of the building.

The new area used to only have one small field — which would be used periodically during the season if the fields in front of the building needed a break — and a parking lot. Last spring, the lot was removed and the field was expanded to include 175 yards of workout space on upgraded natural surface and stands with seating for about 1,500 fans. A 75-yard stretch at one end of the field is heated to keep snow and ice from disrupting practices late in the season.

Camp practices have consistently seen the stands full, although today’s walk-through had a fairly light turnout.

– Vic Carucci

Kirwan: Notes from Buccaneers camp

TAMPA, Fla. — Some notes and observations from my visit with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week:

  • Buccaneers defensive backs have developed an appreciation for QB Byron Leftwich‘s deep ball. Leftwich told me he will get five or six shots a game to go deep in this offense and he’s looking for them all the time.
  • Rookie QB Josh Freeman is clearly running with the second- and third-team offense as he patiently learns the offense. He does not have to make the protection calls in this offense, which helps his growth — but there still is a lot to learn. Freeman said he loves the pro hashmarks because “there are two wide sides of the field,” and he has the arm to easily reach both boundaries.
  • Rookie coach Raheem Morris already has declared that third-round pick Roy Miller is in the rotation at defensive tackle. Some of the defensive players say he plays like a veteran and has the instincts to contribute early.
  • There is clearly a battle for the third-down running back spot. Cadillac Williams thinks second-year pro Clifton Smith has the upper hand because of the things he can do as a receiver. But none of the other backs is surrendering the fight.
  • Linebacker Barrett Ruud said there will be less Tampa 2 coverage in the Jim Bates‘ scheme and a lot more matchup coverages. Ruud will be great in the new scheme. Based on his film study, he will have the leeway to rush the quarterback or drop and help out other defenders.
  • There is genuine excitement about seventh-round WR Sammie Stroughter, who has demonstrated the ability to be a good slot receiver. He separates on his breaks and has some YAC (yards after catch) skills. All three quarterbacks mentioned how impressed they were with Stroughter.
  • Veteran DT Chris Hovan has changed his body for the new defensive scheme. He played at 290 pounds last year; after seven months of heavy lifting, Hovan has his weight up closer to 320. The changes are in his shoulders and upper body.

– Pat Kirwan

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