QBs take to podiums, including Justin Herbert, Aaron Rodgers, Jalen Hurts and more


Quarterbacks generally don’t have trouble stealing headlines, but hey, we’re just days into 2021 NFL training camps.

Plus, there is big quarterback news across the league, not limited to the Green Bay PackersAaron Rodgers addressing the media Wednesday. Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson has tested positive for COVID-19. Carolina Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold is on his way to being fully vaccinated. And San Francisco 49ers rookie signal-caller Trey Lance signed his deal, leaving the New York JetsZach Wilson as the lone unsigned first-round draft pick.

And if you want something enticing that is off the menu, check out Tennessee Titans wide receiver Julio Jones‘ cleats.

Here’s what you need to know and see from camps across the league:

Jump to the best of the day:
Photos | Videos | Quotes | NFL Nation | Best of rest

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Top NFL news of the day

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Aaron Rodgers says he mulled retiring, wants more say with Packers’ decisions

The Green Bay quarterback admitted Wednesday he considered retirement, detailed his offseason-long standoff with the Packers and still isn’t sure what — if anything — will change. But he’s back for a 17th season and there was plenty to parse from his 32-minute news conference.

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Deshaun Watson ‘very professional’ at Texans training camp

As Houston took the field Wednesday, all eyes were on its quarterback, who reported to training camp this past Sunday after requesting a trade from the Texans in January. Less than two months later, the first of 23 lawsuits was filed accusing Watson of sexual assault and inappropriate behavior. He currently faces 22 active lawsuits. General manager Nick Caserio and coach David Culley addressed the media, and both said Watson’s presence at training camp has not been a distraction.

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News on how COVID-19 is impacting the league

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Ravens QB Lamar Jackson tests positive for COVID-19

The Baltimore quarterback has tested positive for COVID-19 and missed the team’s first practice of training camp Wednesday. Ravens coach John Harbaugh said the team received Jackson’s positive test result Tuesday after he tested negative multiple times in the preceding days. Harbaugh also confirmed running back Gus Edwards has tested positive for COVID-19 and will miss the start of camp.

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Panthers QB Sam Darnold to be fully vaccinated on Friday

The Carolina quarterback will be considered fully vaccinated for COVID-19 as of Friday, a league source told ESPN.com. Darnold created somewhat of a social media uproar in early June when he told reporters on a Zoom call that he wasn’t vaccinated. Some questioned his leadership, particularly because of the restrictions non-vaccinated players are under.

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Raiders QB Derek Carr: Been getting shots since I was a kid

A day after Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden said the team was completely vaccinated, “with the exception of four or five” players, quarterback Derek Carr hinted he had taken the vaccine and said the choice to be vaxxed or unvaxxed remained up to the individual players themselves.

“I’ve been getting shots since I was a little kid,” an unmasked Carr said after practice Wednesday. “I’ve had my mom take me out of school, ‘Hey, we’ve got to go get this shot.’ I remember that as a kid. My kids, too. This one, it’s a little different because it’s new, right? The other ones — with measles, mumps, Hepatitis B, all that kind of stuff — this one is new. So people and families have certain opinions. And if someone wants to ask me my opinion, absolutely, I’m sharing my opinion. Absolutely. But if they don’t want my opinion, I don’t think it’s my right to go tell them what to do, as a man. Especially in America.”— Paul Gutierrez

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NFL quotes of the day

“I was in junior college not that long ago.”

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Bills QB Josh Allen says he still has a chip on his shoulder

“There’s a different type of energy out here in Foxborough … It’s really real, the love and the energy. It was a great feeling coming out here. Guys are making 1-yard catches and they’re going crazy.”

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Patriots TE Jonnu Smith on feeling the presence of the crowd on Day 1

“Dang, I got to wake up.”

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Raiders QB Derek Carr on how he “challenged” his wide receivers to throw the ball around at 5:45 a.m.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that Jeudy can have an All Pro, Pro Bowl season this year. He’s just that good. Everybody wanted to talk about what happened last year, but I’m not even worried about it one bit. I’ve seen the work he’s put in in the offseason, saw what he did in OTAs and we only got a snippet of it today snagging passes out of the air, way outside of the body frame. That’s just the beginning.'”

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Broncos safety Justin Simmons on teammate, wide receiver Jerry Jeudy


What our NFL Nation reporters saw today

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The Falcons open training camp Thursday and among the things to watch will be how much work wide receiver Calvin Ridley does after having minor foot surgery in the offseason. Ridley is Atlanta’s top receiver after the team traded Julio Jones to Tennessee. How Ridley fits into coach Arthur Smith’s offense is one of the keys to success for the Falcons in 2021. — Michael Rothstein

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Dan Campbell says he “didn’t sleep at all” entering his first training camp as the Lions’ coach. Campbell issued four team rules: 1. Don’t be late. 2. Keep your weight in check. 3. Don’t disrespect your teammates, and 4. Don’t disrespect this game. Rookie wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown certainly took those rules to heart as one of the last players to leave the field, catching 202 additional passes on the Jugs machine. St. Brown told ESPN he got the concept to catch more than 200 passes per day from his father, John — a two-time Mr. Universe, who received that advice from another football player. John suggested his son add two more as a challenge, so Amon-Ra now catches 202 passes. — Eric Woodyard

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Rookie quarterback Mac Jones was the third player to take the field for a rainy practice, and the crowd of several thousand cheered his arrival. Jones took No. 2 reps behind Cam Newton, and capped off his day completing less than 50% of his passes in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills while finishing strong with back-to-back TD passes. — Mike Reiss

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Titans wide receiver A.J. Brown was back on the field for the start of training camp after missing OTAs and minicamp. Brown had a knee procedure during the offseason, but was on the field without a band or knee brace. Brown took part in every phase of practice and connected with quarterback Ryan Tannehill for three catches in the end zone during team and 7-on-7 periods.— Turron Davenport

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All eyes were on Carson Wentz in his first training camp practice as the Colts’ starting quarterback. Wentz acknowledged it felt like the first day of school Wednesday. But it wasn’t what Wentz did on the practice field that was eye-popping, it was what he said after. The quarterback’s final season in Philly ended with him being benched and reportedly having a rocky relationship with teammates. Wentz has already noticed a difference in Indianapolis. “I’ve always been wired that way to have high expectations and coming in here, I could feel it in the spring right after the trade, the culture was different,” he said. “It’s a family. It truly feels like a family.” — Mike Wells

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Team rules mandate players stay 10 feet away from reporters and fans. But there he was, quarterback Justin Herbert, so caught up in the excitement, high-fiving fans lined along the fence, posing for photos and thoroughly enjoying himself. “I wasn’t aware [of the 10-foot rule]. I just wanted to thank them for coming out. I’ll make sure to wash my hands and keep my distance, so I apologize.” It’s somewhat understandable because Herbert didn’t have fans last season. He didn’t have training camp, and he didn’t even have a practice game. (For the record, Chargers fans did have to be vaccinated to to attend training camp.) — Shelley Smith

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Broncos quarterback Drew Lock recounted Wednesday just how “intense and scary” it was earlier this month, when on his way back to Denver from Kansas City a large lug nut off a car that lost a tire on Interstate 70 got stuck in his front windshield. At the time, Lock was heading back to Denver from his parents’ home in suburban Kansas City to hold workouts with some of the team’s wide receivers.

“That was insane, I was extremely scared, I took a moment there for like 30 minutes to kind of like realize what happened, how severe it could have been … it was pretty scary,” Lock said after the Broncos’ first training camp practice. Lock said he was traveling west on I-70 when “I saw [the tire] come off their car… it went into the grass and popped up out of the grass on to our [side of] the highway … slammed on the brakes, dodged the tire, right when the tire by me I turned around and the bolt hit the windshield.” — Jeff Legwold

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Coach Urban Meyer has a hands-off policy in place for his wide receivers for the first five days of camp. Meyer was fined $100,000 and the team $200,000 in the spring for excessive contact during OTAs and when he reviewed the film of the eight plays the league sent that showed the violations, he said each one involved a defender going for a ball. So he made it a rule early in camp: No press coverage and defenders can’t go after balls during 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills. The policy ends when the Jaguars go full pads for the first time Tuesday. “We don’t want to have any issues,” CB Shaquille Griffin said. “We don’t want to have any trip ups, any injuries — no fines at all. … Once it gets to pads and get to really competing, we’re going to get right to it.” — Michael DiRocco

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The first day of Giants practice was almost what you would expect from the first day of practice. Sloppy, lots of balls hitting the ground, wide receivers running into each other. With that kind of result, it’s no wonder QB Daniel Jones was on the field after the practice getting some extra work with Kenny Golladay, his new No. 1 receiver. They were the last two players on the field after the connection looked, well, new. It’s what you want to see if the Giants’ offense hopes to get better. — Jordan Raanan

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Rookie first-round pick Najee Harris got his first take of Mike Tomlin’s signature backs-on-backers drill in the team’s first padded practice — and first open to the fans since 2019 — Wednesday. The running back was initially paired with safety-turned-inside linebacker Marcus Allen for the first three reps, and he slowly made progress on keeping Allen in check. Allen had the advantage in the first two reps, but by the third go between the pair, Harris looked like he beat Allen, keeping him from getting past him. The group, who opened the drill with the Harris-Allen pairing, closed it with Harris, this time taking on starting ILB Robert Spillane. This time, Harris knew exactly what to do and stood up the third-year player.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, watching from the side, rushed over to his running back, and the two of them jumped in the air toward each other, celebrating as Roethlisberger yelled, “Put ’em down!” Tomlin was equally pleased with the rookie’s performance in the drill. “His demeanor was telling,” Tomlin said after practice. “It was exciting that he had an appetite for that action.” — Brooke Pryor

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Max Kellerman outlines why he sees the 49ers having the perfect quarterback situation with Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance.

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The 49ers’ first training camp practice had all eyes on quarterbacks Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance, but there wasn’t much to differentiate the two as both came out sharp in the first session. Garoppolo worked exclusively with the starters and Lance with the second unit. There were a couple of hiccups in team drills as Garoppolo was nearly intercepted by Jason Verrett and Lance overthrew an open Brandon Aiyuk, but otherwise, both had solid first days. After practice, coach Kyle Shanahan refused to make sweeping conclusions from a single, non-padded practice but acknowledged he was encouraged by how both quarterbacks looked after a 40-day layoff. — Nick Wagoner

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Quarterback Baker Mayfield opened training camp the way he ended last season, completing a variety of passes during 7-on-7 drills. The highlight came on a TD pass to Jarvis Landry, who beat Denzel Ward with a double move down the sidelines. Mayfield also got plenty of work in with Odell Beckham Jr., who looked especially sharp with his cuts and routes coming off last year’s season-ending knee injury. In Mayfield, Landry and OBJ — combined with one of the top rushing attacks in the league — the Browns figure to have enviable firepower this season. — Jake Trotter

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It seemed like a mismatch when Trenton Cannon was paired against starting cornerback Donte Jackson during a one-one-one drill in the first practice of camp. It was, except Jackson was the one that was outmatched as Cannon made a double-move that left the 2018 second-round pick grasping for air as the pass went for a touchdown up the middle. Cannon is listed as a running back, but he’s been working with the wide receivers since offseason workouts and is putting himself in the mix for what will the toughest position cut on the roster. Starters DJ Moore and Robby Anderson are a given. So should be 2021 second-round pick Terrace Marshall Jr. Former Seattle Seahawks slot receiver David Moore also figures to be a fixture, and Ishmael Hyman is a talent waiting to happen. Cannon ran a 4.4 40-yard dash at his pro day in 2018 and looked even faster blowing past Jackson, who ran a 4.32 40 at the 2018 combine. He’s one to keep an eye on.— David Newton

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Quarterback Jalen Hurts took all the first team reps Wednesday. Coach Nick Sirianni, who has yet to name a starter at QB, citing the importance of creating competition, said Hurts has earned the right to be in the pole position. General manager Howie Roseman, meanwhile, tried to throw some water on all the QB trade speculation, saying the hope is Hurts “takes the reins” this summer. While that is good news for Hurts, the defense largely got the better of the offense on Day 1. — Tim McManus

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Bears veteran pass-rusher Robert Quinn, 31, was technically limited at Wednesday’s practice, but having him back on the field in any capacity is a step in the right direction. Quinn, sidelined most of the offseason program with a back injury, is coming off a bad season, by his own admission. Quinn, who the Bears signed for $30 million in guaranteed money, finished his first season in Chicago with two sacks. “I’ll be honest: Just a terrible year for me, personally,” Quinn said. “No excuses, but last year is last year. You can’t change it. So I’ll leave that where it’s at and move on to 2021.” Quinn said the Bears are being cautious with health, and he feels in good physical shape. — Jeff Dickerson

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Wide receiver Terry McLaurin worked a lot on his release this offseason, knowing that, with a lot of film on him after two years, it’s one way he can improve. He wants to increase the ways he can get off the ball. In the opening practice, McLaurin did get stopped by one physical jam by corner William Jackson III. It took him out of his route. But, later, Jackson went to jam him but McLaurin’s inside release, thanks to quick feet that got the defender leaning outside, easily defeated him and he sprinted up field. As Jackson raced to recover, McLaurin broke to the outside for an open catch. Later, he got open on a deep crosser for a pass from quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. It was hard for other corners to get their hands on McLaurin at the line — and prevent his release — on Wednesday. — John Keim


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QBs take to podiums, including Justin Herbert, Aaron Rodgers, Jalen Hurts and more

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