NFL training camp updates: Deshaun Watson, Saquon Barkley return; Lamar Jackson dealing and more

ByESPN staff via ESPN logo
Tuesday, August 10, 2021
ESPN

With the first full slate of preseason games kicking off on Thursday, teams continued to work in training camps across the NFL on Monday.

That included Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, who practiced for the first time in five days, and running back Saquon Barkley, who was activated off the physically unable to perform list and returned to practice Monday for the first time since tearing the ACL in his right knee early last season.

And at the Ravens' camp, Lamar Jackson is still iffy on getting vaccinated, but he didn't waste any time getting back on track with his favorite target in the quarterback's second practice since returning from COVID-19.

Here's what you need to know from training camps across the league:

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Lamar iffy on vaccine despite second bout of COVID

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson was noncommittal on whether he would get vaccinated after being infected with COVID-19 twice in the past eight months, saying it was a "personal decision." "I just got off the COVID list," Jackson said after Monday's practice when asked if he would get the vaccine. "I got to talk to my team about this and see how they feel about it. Keep learning as much as I can about it. We'll go from there." Does that mean he's thinking about getting vaccinated? "We'll see," Jackson said. "Talking to the doctors. We'll see."

Giants' Barkley hopeful he'll be ready for opener

New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley returned to practice Monday for the first time since tearing the ACL in his right knee early last season, and he expressed optimism afterward that he could be ready for Week 1. Barkley said he sees it as a positive that he has more than a month to get ramped up for the season opener on Sept. 12. "I guess you can say, with my mindset, I'm definitely hopeful," Barkley said. "It's definitely better being able to practice now than later on in camp."

Source: Pats' Henry injures shoulder, set for MRI

New England Patriots tight end Hunter Henry sustained a shoulder injury in Sunday's practice and is having an MRI, according to a source. While initial indications are that the injury doesn't appear serious, it is painful and Henry could miss time in the preseason, sources say.

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What our NFL Nation reporters saw today

Receiver Curtis Samuel has yet to practice this summer with Washington -- he opened camp on the physically unable to perform list because of a groin issue and has been on the COVID-19 list since July 29. But coach Ron Rivera said he's not concerned because his staff had Samuel in Carolina for three seasons. There's no timetable for Samuel's return. However, his only experience with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick occurred in OTAs. Without Samuel, though, other young receivers have received more opportunities. Rookie Dyami Brown has stood out. Samuel's absence also has given second-year wideout Antonio Gandy-Golden more chances. The 2020 fourth-round pick struggled last season, although injuries didn't help. He has been more active in camp, but he also still must prove he can get off press coverage. Because he has had more chances to work against the starters with Samuel out, it has provided both him and the coaches a good barometer of what he can do.-- John Keim

Marcus Mariota, a former No. 2 overall draft pick and Heisman Trophy winner, has been content to back up Derek Carr while healing numerous injuries. But Mariota is not content to hold a clipboard. He is keeping an eye on potential starting gigs around the NFL. "Yeah, absolutely," Mariota, who has started 61 of 64 career games, said in only his second media conference since joining the Raiders in March of 2020. "It is my goal [to start again] and I do keep tabs on what's going on. For us as players, it's kind of important to see what the landscape is. But with that being said, I enjoy this team. It's a great organization to play for and this quarterback room is awesome. I think Derek leads the charge. He's a great guy to be around. It's just a lot of fun to learn and grow together. Each and every single day I try to approach it the same way and try to just get better." Mariota was off to a strong camp before getting picked off on consecutive days last week by linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski, and then cornerback Damon Arnette got him on the third day. -- Paul Gutierrez

Outside linebacker Dante Fowler Jr. and right tackle Kaleb McGary returned to Falcons practice Monday. Fowler came off the COVID-19 list and McGary was activated off of PUP. While neither was made available to the media, both participated in varying levels during practice. Fowler was back with the first team for parts of 11-on-11 work and got at least one pressure on quarterback Matt Ryan. In individual work, he tied with Jake Matthews on one rep. The difference in potential explosion between Fowler and the other Falcons outside linebackers is pretty clear. As for McGary, he was more limited and worked with the second unit. Willie Beavers continued to work with the first group. Jalen Mayfield also worked with the second group. -- Michael Rothstein

Pass-blocking at training camp hasn't always been pretty for Orlando Brown Jr., who is trying to become a full-time left tackle after his trade from the Ravens. Brown isn't as athletically gifted as many left tackles, something he has acknowledged, so he's struggling at times with the speed rush in one-on-one drills. Brown has mostly been better in team drills. "The thing that I'm impressed about is that the mistakes he does make, he doesn't repeat them,'' offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy said. "That's a great sign.''-- Adam Teicher

It didn't take long for the Lamar Jackson-Mark Andrews connection to get back on track. In Jackson's second practice since returning from COVID-19, he hit Andrews on a couple of 20-yard passes down the middle of the field. Jackson lofted one pass over the linebackers, and Andrews pulled it in with one hand. Andrews has caught 135 passes from Jackson since 2018. No other Ravens player has more than 98 receptions over that time.-- Jamison Hensley

Second-year Saints WR Marquez Callaway was already highlighted in this space last week. But then he continued to one-up himself with a TD catch from Taysom Hill in red zone drills on Saturday and a TD catch from Jameis Winston in red zone drills on Monday. Callaway has stepped into the No. 1 receiver role with confidence over the past week while Michael Thomas and Tre'Quan Smith have been sidelined by injuries (Smith's unspecified injury is not expected to be a long-term issue). Although Callaway caught just 21 passes as an undrafted rookie last year, he appears poised for a much bigger role.-- Mike Triplett

You couldn't help but notice that right tackle Taylor Moton took most of the snaps during team drills at left tackle with Cameron Erving out nursing a shoulder injury. But what stood out more was coach Matt Rhule didn't notice Moton, which in the coaching world means Moton wasn't making mistakes. In fact, the offense moved almost flawlessly for a touchdown during a two-minute drill in which quarterback Sam Darnold completed 5 of 6 pass attempts. He did so with a mismatch of a line that included Moton at left tackle, Trent Scott at right tackle and starting left guard Pat Elflein at center. Starting center Matt Paradis had the day off. At worst this shows the depth on the line is better than it was at any point last season. -- David Newton

After Saturday's practice against the Los Angeles Rams, the Cowboys have just one full practice remaining in Oxnard, California, before their second preseason game. Having played the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Hall of Fame Game and then practicing against the Rams in a 48-hour span, Mike McCarthy wanted to make sure his players could recuperate. He feels better about where his team is at this stage of camp than a year ago. "At the end of the day it's about the team moving forward and making progress," McCarthy said. "This football team is making progress in training camp. You can see it. We are getting better. We still have a ways to go. This is why you have training camp, but I like where we are so far."-- Todd Archer

Wide receiver James Washington wasn't at practice Monday, a day after he appeared to sustain a lower left leg or knee injury. Washington participated in a few team periods Sunday, but finished the day on the sideline with a bag of ice taped around his lower left leg. Coach Mike Tomlin said Monday his third-year receiver, who ESPN's Adam Schefter reported requested a trade because of decreased usage, was being medically evaluated, and he would likely have an update Tuesday. Tomlin also refuted that Washington expressed dissatisfaction with his role on the team. With Washington and fellow receiver Ray-Ray McCloud out, Anthony Johnson got more reps with the first-team offense late in Monday's practice. Johnson, who spent time on the Steelers practice squad last season, has been a fixture in the second-tier receiver group.

With Aaron Jones sidelined because of a hamstring injury, rookie RB Kylin Hill got the chance to work with the starters more than ever. He might have gone up in Aaron Rodgers' mind, too, after he hung for a touchdown catch during a red zone period. The seventh-round pick from Mississippi State ran a slant and caught the ball just over the goal line. Even though the Packers weren't in pads, cornerback Josh Jackson drilled him. Hill's helmet went flying but the ball stayed safely tucked in his arms. Hill looks like a good candidate for the No. 3 RB spot behind Jones and AJ Dillon, and he's also their No. 1 choice as a kickoff returner. -- Rob Demovsky

Offense not so hot? That's what coach Sean McVay described following Monday's training camp practice when asked about the film from the weekend's combined workout with the Cowboys. "We didn't game plan it, but I still expect more from that group," McVay said of the unit that includes quarterback Matthew Stafford, receivers Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp and DeSean Jackson, as well as tight end Tyler Higbee and running back Darrell Henderson. "We've got enough guys that have played a lot of football that I want us to be sharper in our overall execution from one snap to the next. You might have a good play, but the good offenses, they consistently stack good plays after one another and I didn't think we did as good of a job as I expect us to do." Monday's practice lacked consistent energy throughout the workout, but second-year pro Van Jefferson produced a highlight-reel play when he beat cornerback Brontae Harris for a deep reception in the middle of the field from Stafford. The Rams have one more practice at UC Irvine before they break training camp and return to the team facility in Thousand Oaks. -- Lindsey Thiry

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