Ongoing discussions about social injustice dominated NFL training camps again Friday. Among the most vocal players were Tennessee Titans safety Kenny Vaccaro, who vowed not to discuss football with the media this season and Green Bay Packers tackle Billy Turner, who is determined to find the best approach to produce the desired changes in society.
Said Vaccaro: “For me and my platform, my duty is to speak on things that are happening, and that’s just my stance. I’m just not going to talk football this year.”
Several squads, including the Miami Dolphins and Minnesota Vikings, held team meetings to discuss the issues.
On the field, a few teams held live scrimmages with Dak Prescott and Tom Brady among the quarterbacks making a good impression.
Here’s what you need to know from camps across the league:
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Packers tackle Billy Turner: Boycotting NFL games won’t bring needed societal change
Turner wants societal change as much as much anyone, but he doesn’t think players skipping NFL games is the way to bring it about. Turner, who has been outspoken on social injustices throughout the offseason, said Friday that he and his team have discussed a wide array of options to help promote change but questioned whether not playing in the regular season would be effective.
“The system that is so brutally and utterly ruining everything that is freedom in this country is what needs to change,” he said.
Titans’ Kenny Vaccaro: No football talk this season in light of police shootings
Vaccaro started his virtual news conference by informing the media that he is shutting down all football talk this season. Vaccaro feels that it’s only appropriate to discuss social injustice, systemic oppression, racism and police brutality in light of the recent events involving the shooting of Jacob Blake by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
“I don’t think sitting out a practice is going to stop police from killing Black men. The next step is getting into communities,” Vaccaro said.
Source: Ravens alter routine, but don’t cancel practice
Baltimore altered its routine on Friday, holding meetings ahead of an afternoon walk-through, but did not cancel a practice despite an announcement that indicated that was planned, a team source told ESPN’s Jamison Hensley.
Tom Brady ‘fired up’ in first scrimmage at Bucs’ stadium
Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady led three scoring drives — two culminating in touchdowns — in the Bucs’ first scrimmage of training camp, Brady’s first time playing at Raymond James Stadium in a Bucs uniform.
There were no fans, but there was crowd noise and cannons fired as Brady’s team — the first-team offense and defense — defeated Blaine Gabbert’s second-team units, 15-6.
“He was fired up. He was ready to go,” coach Bruce Arians said. “It was his first time in a game atmosphere. He had great command.”
Broncos RB Melvin Gordon emotional about native Kenosha
Of all the Denver Broncos players and coaches who spoke during a day’s worth of discussions about social justice, police shootings and potential work the players and team could do in the community, running back Melvin Gordon’s words might have resonated the deepest.
Gordon, a Kenosha, Wisconsin, native, stood up in a full team meeting Thursday to reveal what he was feeling about the Jacob Blake shooting, and his teammates said Gordon’s words will long be remembered.
“When Melvin got up there, it just hit so much closer to home than, I think, people expected,” Broncos safety Justin Simmons said Friday.”
Reflection, discussions continue
Following practice inside U.S. Bank Stadium, the Vikings met as a team in the endzone and moved their message forward after an emotional two-hour meeting on Thursday when players aimed to find real solutions to issues of social and racial injustice.
Running back Ameer Abdullah spoke for his teammates and called for the proper prosecution of ex-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who is on trial for the killing of George Floyd after kneeling on his neck for nearly eight minutes, along with the other officers responsible for Floyd’s death.
“Right now, we’re going to put the pressure on the bureaucratic system to implement a proper [prosecution] of Derek Chauvin,” Abdullah said. “I’ll repeat his name again — Derek Chauvin. I’m not going to just say ‘the officer.’ His name is Derek Chauvin, along with the other officers who murdered George Floyd in the streets of Minneapolis. I speak for my entire team right now. I appreciate them allowing me to come up and be the voice. But just know, I’m just one man but the army behind me is stronger when we’re together.” — Courtney Cronin
Several players and coaches including Byron Jones, Bobby McCain, Brian Flores, Christian Wilkins, Ryan Fitzpatrick spoke at length in a group huddle about social injustice for nearly 25 mins at the start of practice. pic.twitter.com/5i0Rjo01jh
— Cameron Wolfe (@CameronWolfe) August 28, 2020
“I can’t be at home right now, so this Denver Broncos [organization] is my family, and I just wanted to let them know that we are behind them in every way and every shape and form.”
Kenosha native @Melvingordon25 reacts to shooting of Jacob Blake » https://t.co/8hPxpLXrS4 pic.twitter.com/TkjdrKEFnc
— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) August 28, 2020
Together we are hurting.
Together we work for change. pic.twitter.com/jE1WXbN1DA
— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) August 28, 2020
What our NFL Nation reporters saw Friday
During Dallas’ scrimmage, Prescott threw to Cedrick Wilson, who shook free from Chris Westry at the goal line for a touchdown with no time on the clock in the Dallas Cowboys’ scrimmage. Needing the 2-point conversion to tie the game, Prescott ran it in himself, although in a true game he would have had to force his way through a defender.
Prescott had converted a fourth down with a scramble and hit running back Ezekiel Elliott with a short pass to set up the TD throw to Wilson.
Trevon Diggs dropped a game-clinching interception on a Prescott throw to Michael Gallup during the drive. Had Diggs, who had a good day otherwise, come up with the takeaway, Prescott would not have had the chance to tie the game.
A big point of emphasis: Getting rookie running back Antonio Gibson involved. But that means him having to learn a lot of different areas, because Washington will line him up all over — from the backfield to out wide and in one- and two-back sets. Gibson only works with the running backs during practice, but must sit in on meetings to learn what he must do when aligned wide (as other backs have been, too).
Ron Rivera said it’s led to Gibson being confused. They could lessen his role “but when you do that he only has a limited amount of plays,” Rivera said. So they’ll keep putting as much on him as possible for a simple reason, Rivera said: “Having him on the field helps us be a good team.” — John Keim
Due to heavy rains, the Browns moved their practice up three hours and moved it inside. Because the team moved all its weight equipment into the indoor practice facility, to allow for the weight room space to become a second locker accommodating social distancing, the Browns had about half as much field space as in the past for practice. — Jake Trotter
The Steelers circled Thursday and Friday as practices to walk through some game-day procedures. They treated the first half of Thursday’s practice as a Saturday walk-through before moving on to kickoffs and returns with live tackling. On his first kickoff return rep, Ray Ray McCloud found a hole and burst through, running all the way to the tunnel on the opposite end. Tonight, they continue the mock-game weekend with a 6 p.m. practice at Heinz Field. — Brooke Pryor
On a day when team owner David Tepper made an appearance and first-round pick Derrick Brown went down on a 1-on-1 pass rush drill with what coach Matt Rhule called a “nagging ankle” injury that isn’t serious, the most intriguing thing might have been Kaare Vedvik doing all the kicking. And Joey Slye was not.
Perhaps Rhule was giving Slye some rest before Saturday’s “big scrimmage” at Bank of America Stadium. Perhaps he was sending a message that Slye needs to be more consistent. Vedvic was claimed off waivers last week to give punter Joseph Charlton some competition and an occasional break. Stay tuned for exactly what this all means. Rhule did say he wouldn’t keep three kickers on the 53-man roster, but could stash one on the practice squad. — David Newton
Once again, Bengals running back Joe Mixon was nowhere to be found at practice. Coach Zac Taylor confirmed the star tailback is dealing with migraines, which has kept him out of recent practices. When asked if Mixon’s absence was related to the lack of a contract extension, Taylor said he didn’t believe that was the case and that Mixon has been honest and open with the coaching staff. Mixon is entering the final year of his rookie deal. — Ben Baby
If the first nine practices have been a struggle for rookie quarterback Jordan Love, then perhaps practice No. 10 was a breakthrough.
Love, the Packers’ first-round pick and potential heir apparent to Aaron Rodgers, made perhaps his best throw of camp, hitting receiver Malik Turner in stride on a deep corner route to his right. He came back on the next throw and fired a ball just behind receiver Reggie Begelton over the middle and while he narrowly missed his target, at least Love fired the ball with some velocity. He’s been throwing mostly touch passes in camp.
“I thought today he was much better,” coach Matt LaFleur said after practice. “He was more aggressive. I thought he was more decisive, and that’s what we want to continue to see.” — Rob Demovsky
The Titans had two players leave practice early. Receiver A.J. Brown jogged inside with a trainer after the first team period and didn’t return. Tannehill found Brown on a deep pass along the sideline and across the middle.
Isaiah Wilson went down during team period, but got up and limped to the sideline before walking inside. Tennessee’s offense struggled in the next team period without Brown. Harold Landry got a would-be sack and Derick Roberson also pressured Tannehill. — Turron Davenport
Running back Todd Gurley looked fresh and rejuvenated as he stood out during the Falcons’ “mock game” at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Gurley had seven touches on the first team’s first two drives, including a 9-yard run on his first touch and then a 2-yard touchdown when he ran to the outside and beat linebacker Edmond Robinson to the end zone.
Gurley got the corner on cornerback Isaiah Oliver on a 9-yard run and had a solid block on linebacker Mykal Walker. Gurley also caught a pass over the middle where he was met by two linebackers. He didn’t seem to have any issue with his left knee while being involved in three drives, although he had no touches on the last drive. — Vaughn McClure
The 49ers practiced inside Levi’s Stadium for the first time this season Friday in hopes of getting a feel for what a game day will be like. The practice was lively but it was also defense-dominant as the first-team offense struggled to gain any traction. Without fullback Kyle Juszczyk, tight end George Kittle, receivers Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel and center Ben Garland, the offense couldn’t get much going after a strong opening drive led by the run game.
At one point, center Daniel Brunskill snapped the ball over quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo’s head and into the end zone. Exasperated coach Kyle Shanahan could be heard voicing his frustration in no uncertain terms as the second unit on both sides came on to the field. The good news for the Niners? They’re expecting more or all of those injured players back in time for the opener against Arizona. — Nick Wagoner
Do ya dance @JdMckissic 😂 pic.twitter.com/IRNKGD0V28
— Washington Football Team (@WashingtonNFL) August 28, 2020
DB depth 💨#SaintsCamp pic.twitter.com/QoSLZqbyw7
— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) August 28, 2020
We can confirm ⬇️ https://t.co/ooAyjIuJQL pic.twitter.com/j7UXUnCA7K
— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) August 28, 2020
[email protected] is in the building 🙌#GoBucs pic.twitter.com/qgZR7ln1fc
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) August 28, 2020
Back at it. 🤲 pic.twitter.com/UjAU8qwpET
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) August 28, 2020
9️⃣➡8️⃣5️⃣ is BACK pic.twitter.com/sQnz7WyiOL
— Cincinnati Bengals (@Bengals) August 28, 2020
Taysom on becoming a dad this week 😃 pic.twitter.com/TsgenPuWsU
— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) August 28, 2020
It feels good to be back 🙌 pic.twitter.com/IXa3X1LnpB
— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) August 28, 2020
Back at it. #PackersCamp pic.twitter.com/Yi2d0TLLIS
— Green Bay Packers (@packers) August 28, 2020