Training Camp Roundup: Aug. 18


The Chargers received good news Tuesday regarding top draft picks Larry English and Louis Vasquez, both of whom had missed almost two weeks of practice.

Vasquez, a right guard drafted in the third round, took the field after missing 12 straight practices with a sprained foot. A hamstring problem kept English from practicing, but he ran well on a side field and on a hill above the Chargers practice fields.

Both said they were optimistic about playing in Saturday's exhibition game at Arizona. Vasquez was encouraged by his practice session and said he felt fine.

"It has been progressing every day," Vasquez said. "I came out and felt good, so I kept on rolling through practice and was able to finish out. I felt pretty good on my assignments. I obviously have a lot of work to do, but I'm going to go out and keep grinding."

Coach Norv Turner described English's practice prospects as day to day, but the outside linebacker taken No. 16 overall hopes to play against the Cardinals as well. To do so, he'll have to be cleared for practice by Thursday at the latest.

Outside linebacker Shawne Merriman skipped both practices as part of his scheduled rest.

-- The Associated Press


Titans rookie cornerback Ryan Mouton sprained his left ankle Tuesday morning and had to be carted off the practice field. Coach Jeff Fisher called it a "significant sprain" but said it should not keep Mouton out for the rest of the preseason.

Fisher said Tuesday night they would treat Mouton aggressively but did not set a timetable for his return, saying some players respond quicker than others. Mouton was seen wearing a boot, and Fisher said team officials initially worried the ankle might have been broken.

Mouton was the Titans' second pick in the third round out of Hawaii. The 5-foot-9 rookie had been competing to be the team's backup nickelback, which is a fifth defensive back in passing situations. Mouton also has been working as a backup outside cornerback and handling both kickoff and punt returns.

He intercepted a pass and ran it back 29 yards for a touchdown in the Titans' 27-20 exhibition win last weekend over Tampa Bay.

"Fortunately, we got to see quite a bit from him the last couple weeks. He is coming along," Fisher said. "When he comes back, I'm sure he'll pick up where he left off."

-- The Associated Press


Colts cornerback Kelvin Hayden is going to miss three to four weeks after injuring his hamstring.

Indianapolis coach Jim Caldwell provided the update Tuesday following the Colts' final night practice of training camp.

Hayden signed a $43 million contract during the offseason.

The Colts' other cornerback, Marlin Jackson, trimmed his workout Tuesday night because of tendinitis in his surgically repaired right knee. He did finish practice.

Indianapolis also re-signed defensive end Josh Thomas, who has spent his NFL seasons with the Colts.

To make roster room, running back Walter Mendenhall was released.

-- The Associated Press


It was back to the movies for the Arizona Cardinals.

A year ago, coach Ken Whisenhunt called off practice one day late in training camp and sent his players to the movies. What followed was a season that ended in a surprise run to the Super Bowl.

Being a bit superstitious, the coach decided to stick with the movie break. This time, his players were expecting it, and the coach says it wouldn't have been pretty if he had changed his mind and tried to hold practice.

The choice of fare: "District 9," "G.I. Joe, the Rise of the Cobra," "The Ugly Truth" and "Funny People."

Whisenhunt chose the alien thriller "District 9." His verdict on the No. 1 box office hit: "It was different."

In other news, the Cardinals signed wide receiver Steve Sanders and waived injured safety Dennis Keyes.

Sanders appeared in five games for the Cleveland Browns last season, catching one pass for 18 yards. He signed with Detroit in January but was released on May 4.

Three of Arizona's receivers are out with injuries -- Steve Breaston (knee), Early Doucet (shoulder) and Michael Ray Garvin (knee).

--The Associated Press


Tony Romo can talk about doing a better job of protecting the football. He can also do certain things in practice to work on that.

Next comes trying to make that translate into games for the Dallas Cowboys quarterback who had 21 turnovers (14 interceptions and seven lost fumbles) in 13 games last season, not counting six fumbles recovered by him or a teammate.

Like he has throughout training camp, Romo on Tuesday deliberately and consciously tucked the ball into his body with two hands during team drills when under pressure from defenders who aren't allowed to hit him.

Surrounded in the pocket on one play, he pulled the ball in tight until just before throwing a completion. Romo did the same thing while rolling out to his right near the goal line a few snaps later, instead of holding the ball away from his body with one hand while running like he so often has done in the past.

The only indication that he might do it in a game came on his touchdown pass in the preseason opener against Oakland. Flushed out of the pocket, Romo moved to his left and pulled the ball into his body before spotting Jason Witten.

"I was wondering during the game and it came true. I was able to protect the ball. ... I started to move to the left and kept it inside my core," Romo said. "It was good to have that instinctful thing happen to see something that you've practiced come to fruition."

--The Associated Press


Rookie James Casey was drafted to play tight end for the Texans.

Less than three weeks into camp he's working at that position but also learning long-snapping and filling in at fullback because of an injury to backup Boomer Grigsby.

His versatility is no surprise after he played tight end, fullback and quarterback as well as returned punts at Rice. And that came after he spent three years playing professional baseball.

As a fifth-round draft pick, Casey isn't picky about where he plays, he simply wants to be on the field.

With four tight ends on the roster, mastering long-snapping might be the key to Casey securing a place on this team. Houston's current long snapper, Clark Harris, isn't likely to contribute at another position, so it would save a roster spot if Casey could play both offense and take over long-snapping.

Quarterback Alex Brink rejoined the Texans on Tuesday after being released in June. He'll work as Houston's third quarterback while Rex Grossman recovers from a hamstring injury.

--The Associated Press


Frank Gore nearly got himself sent to the bus early by Mike Singletary for going so hard.

The coach was only kidding -- yet the last thing Singletary can afford is to have San Francisco's star running back get unnecessarily banged up by bashing himself into the Oakland Raiders during an August practice.

Singletary asked Gore to tone down his intensity just a touch.

Oakland and the 49ers kicked off two days of joint practices Tuesday -- four sessions total -- at the Raiders' wine country training site. They then meet for an exhibition game Saturday night at Candlestick Park.

Under close watch by running backs coach Tom Rathman, a fired up Gore clobbered Oakland linebacker Ricky Brown and stood over him to make a point.

"Back, back, back!" Rathman hollered when Gore was slow to let the play end.

Later, Gore tried to jump in against undrafted rookie David Nixon. Rathman wouldn't let that happen, knowing full well Gore might hurt the guy.

"Give me another back in here!" the coach yelled, pushing Gore away.

Al Davis watched the morning workout while sitting in a golf cart -- a rare appearance by the 80-year-old owner for a morning session. 49ers owner John York showed up, too, socializing and doing his meet-and-greet.

--The Associated Press


On Tuesday morning undersized rookie defensive end Nick Reed as the last guy on the field, learning a few more tricks to try to make up for his small stature.

Just how small is the rookie from Oregon? Well, a running back -- T.J. Duckett -- and a linebacker -- Aaron Curry -- are both bigger than the Seahawks' seventh-round draft pick.

Standing just 6-foot-1 and weighing less than 250 pounds, Reed looks more like the typical NFL inside linebacker than a power rusher expected to cause havoc in the offensive backfield. But that's just what Reed was able to do in his career at Oregon despite his lack of size. Reed left Eugene as the school's all-time leader for sacks in a career with 29.5, and was a Pac-10 first-team selection.

Now he's trying to dispel the notion that he's too small for the NFL.

If his first exhibition game is an indication, Reed is on his way. Last Saturday against San Diego, Reed had two sacks and a heady interception, getting to play a chunk of the second half in Seattle's 20-14 victory over the Chargers.

Now the Seahawks get three more weeks to figure out if Reed will make the active roster and play a role this season. He's one of three rookies on the Seahawks defensive line, joining free agent signings Michael Bennett and Derek Walker. Both Bennett and Walker are bulkier and heavier, making them more valuable in stopping the run, and Reed's ability to hold leverage against run blocking is a concern because he lacks the weight.

But Reed's motor draws raves from everyone on the Seahawks defense. The coaches hope to test him out in the coming weeks against some more established veteran linemen to see if the performance against the Chargers was a one-time thing or a trend that could make Reed a late-draft steal.

--The Associated Press


The Bengals have waived injured center Dan Santucci, the first step toward putting him on a season-ending injury list.

If Santucci clears waivers Wednesday, he will move onto the injury list. Santucci suffered a foot injury on Aug. 5.

Santucci, a seventh-round draft pick in 2007, missed all of last season after he severely sprained his ankle during the preseason. He was the backup to Kyle Cook when he hurt his foot.

--The Associated Press


Rex Ryan's mouth is at it again.

A day after using an expletive during his news conference to criticize his former team, the New York Jets' brash coach took a swipe at New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick.

Ryan said during a radio interview a few months ago that he didn't come to New York "to kiss Bill Belichick's rings." He explained Tuesday what he meant, and might have provided more bulletin board material.

"When I said that about Belichick, I'm just letting him know I'm not intimidated by him," Ryan said Tuesday. He added that his team isn't going to beat a Belichick-coached team by tiptoeing around them, and if an opponent needs a coach's comments for motivation, "Hell, we're probably going to kick your [butt]."

--The Associated Press


Pittsburgh Steelers running back Mewelde Moore remains out with the hamstring injury that has kept him from practicing since Aug. 4, although coach Mike Tomlin said he is getting closer to returning.

Moore, whose primary role last season was as a third-down back, is certain he will be ready for the Sept. 10 opener against Tennessee.

"Fortunately, or unfortunately, I've been in a situation like this before where I had something and I wasn't able to get as many [practice carries] throughout the preseason and I still managed to play the season," Moore said Tuesday. "I've always taken pride in that [playing a full season]."

Moore ran for 588 yards and five touchdowns last season. He averaged 90 yards in four starts while filling in for the injured Willie Parker, and had a season-high 120 yards and scored three times against Cincinnati.

-- The Associated Press


"Some rookie" is not too happy with New York Jets coach Rex Ryan.

On Monday, a week ahead of next week's preseason game between the Jets and Baltimore Ravens, Ryan, the Ravens' ex-defensive coordinator, said he was disappointed that the Ravens "gave [Michael McCrary's No. 99] jersey to some rookie who hasn't proven" anything in the NFL.

Tuesday, that rookie, Paul Kruger, responded to Ryan with criticism of his own.

"In my opinion, it's kind of childish," Kruger said, according to The Baltimore Sun. "He doesn't know me. He doesn't understand what I can do. He's never seen me. So I think it's a little unprofessional, but it really doesn't affect me. It doesn't bother my game. I'm still going to work hard every day.

"If he's focused on stuff like that, then I think we've got a pretty good chance [Monday]," Kruger said, according to the report.

-- ESPN.com news services


Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis will be in the lineup Saturday against the Pittsburgh Steelers after sitting out last week's loss to Baltimore, according to Washington-area media reports.

In the past, Portis has been less than enthusiastic about preseason games and has played sparingly in them. "Why would I not be [excited]? Don't I look ecstatic?" he said Monday after practice, according to the Washington Times. "I'm good. I'll be in there this weekend."

Portis said the Redskins offense can improve from its performance in the preseason opener if it eliminates mistakes, according to the report.

"Our No. 1 thing is just to focus," he said, according to the report. "After watching the Baltimore film, we had a lot of mental mistakes and we have to cut that out. Of course we need to score more points and we want to come out of these games with wins, but at the same time you need to see progress."

-- ESPN.com news services


With Orlando Pace gone, Alex Barron is getting used to playing on the other side of the St. Louis Rams offensive line.

The 6-foot-7, 315-pound Barron made the move to left tackle from right tackle after Pace was not re-signed in the offseason. Pace, a seven-time Pro Bowler, signed a two-year deal with Chicago.

Barron has started 58 games since arriving in St. Louis. He enters the final year of his contract with the opportunity to show what he can do at left tackle, the premium offensive line position since it usually protects the quarterback's blind side.

Barron played 15 games at left tackle in 2007 when Pace was lost for the season after an injury in the season-opener. His strength is as a pass blocker. In the preseason opener, a 23-20 win over the Jets, Barron was in for about 14 plays and termed his performance "OK."

"It's going all right," Barron said of the transition. "I'm just trying to hone in on some techniques and stuff like that. That's the main part of it anyway. Everything's just flipped over. You've still got the same job -- block your man."

-- The Associated Press


The Indianapolis Colts' offensive line still has plenty of work to do after watching three-time league MVP Peyton Manning get sacked three times in six plays during Friday's preseason loss to Minnesota.

"A lot of the conversations about the problems were communication errors," three-time Pro Bowl center Jeff Saturday said Monday. "There were different things on the sacks and the pressures and we just can't play like that."

To be fair, the Colts were nowhere close to full strength. Right tackle Ryan Diem sat out with a back injury and new left tackle Charlie Johnson was held out after having offseason shoulder surgery. Diem's replacement, Tony Ugoh, was playing in his first NFL game on the right side and most of the regulars left after the first series.

The good news is that the preseason games don't count. The bad news: They've got three weeks to get it right.

"We saw some guys who were fairly young, in their first time out that didn't perform out of the blocks extremely well," coach Jim Caldwell said after viewing the tapes. "But as time went on, they settled down and were able to come together and perform decently -- not at the level we like, we had a few spurts here and there, we were not consistent enough."

-- The Associated Press


At 6-foot-3 and 234 pounds, Chris Brown could be the big back the Houston Texans need to complement starter Steve Slaton in short-yardage situations.

He showed that skill on a 2-yard touchdown run in Houston's preseason opener. Now the Texans are hoping they can count on him in that role this season after a back problem kept him out all of last year.

Slaton established himself as the starter by rushing for more than 1,200 yards as a rookie last season, but the Texans are looking for another back to ease his workload this year. If Brown can contribute, he should be able to help Houston's offense near the goal line, a place where Slaton struggled last season.

"I feel like I can do that," Brown said. "I can go out there and get the job done, especially in the red zone. We've got two totally different styles and I think we complement each other very well."

-- The Associated Press


Detroit Lions GM Martin Mayhew says quarterbacks Daunte Culpepper and Matthew Stafford both "made a statement" in the Lions' 27-26 exhibition win over Atlanta, the Detroit Free Press reported.

Culpepper, who started five games for the Lions last season, went 5-for-6 for 41 yards and scrambled three times for 12 yards.

"It's good to see he's got that mobility back that he had several years ago," Mayhew said, according to the report. "It's good to see that it's back. He's lost the weight. He made some good throws. He made some good decisions. I think his game is coming back."

Stafford, the overall No. 1 pick in the 2009 NFL draft, went 7-for-14 for 114 yards, leading the Lions on an 80-yard scoring drive, including a 25-yard touchdown pass to Derrick Williams.

"Frankly, I wasn't surprised by that play at all," Mayhew said, according to the report. "He's done things on the practice field, and that translated to game day for him. I don't think the game is really fast for him. I think the game seems pretty slow for him, and he made some good plays. Glad to see that."

-- ESPN.com news services


Chicago Bears cornerbacks Charles Tillman and Zack Bowman, both of whom are recovering from injuries, were seen running sprints and performing agility drills on Monday at Bears camp. Their returns could come just in time for a defensive backfield that struggled at times against the Buffalo Bills in the team's preseason opener.

"My goal is to be out there for the first game," Tillman said Monday, according to the Chicago-area media reports. "If I'm not [ready], I'm not. But I'm just taking it one game at a time. ... I'll play when I'm ready. I'm not going to try and hurt myself for the long road by trying to get out there too early when I'm not ready."

Tillman is recovering from offseason back surgery, while Bowman pulled a hamstring earlier this month. The Bears open their season Sept. 13 at Green Bay.

'[Tillman and Bowman] don't have to come out here and prove to us that they can play,'' coach Lovie Smith said, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. ''So we'll just do what we need to do. Everything we do in general is to set up our play for [Green Bay]. Yeah, we would like to have them out here practicing, but as long as we can get them back around in time, we'll be OK.''

-- ESPN.com news services