NFL mandatory minicamps 2022: Bears pay tribute to fallen legend; Saints break out new helmets

While many NFL teams decided to finish minicamp business on Wednesday, several teams practiced through Thursday, using the final day of mandatory activities to have some fun and pay tribute to the past.

The Chicago Bears did the latter on Thursday, as every player wore No. 41 as a remembrance of fullback Brian Piccolo, who died of cancer on June 16, 1970, and was the subject of the movie "Brian's Song." As far as fun is concerned, the New Orleans Saints unleashed a brand-new alternate helmet, while the Carolina Panthers celebrated the end of minicamp with some bouncy-house fun.

This week has been the busiest of the minicamp season, as 17 teams conducted their workouts. Last week saw 12 teams participate in minicamps, with the Miami Dolphins going earlier and the Cincinnati Bengals and Philadelphia Eagles choosing not to have mandatory minicamps.

Here are some snapshots -- many by ESPN's NFL Nation reporters who are on the scene at this week's activities -- from Thursday's minicamps:

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Bears players wear Brian Piccolo jerseys at minicamp on anniversary of his death
On the final day of mandatory minicamp, all 90 Chicago Bears players wore No. 41 jerseys at practice to honor Piccolo, who died 52 years ago Thursday from cancer. Piccolo, who played for the Bears from 1966 to '69, was 26 years old at the time of his death in 1970. His close relationship with Bears Hall of Fame running back Gale Sayers was the subject of the movie "Brian's Song," which chronicled their friendship as the first interracial roommates in the NFL. The Bears initially planned to honor Piccolo on the 50th anniversary of his death, but the COVID-19 pandemic eliminated offseason practices in 2020.

Lamar Jackson not saying how he'll handle training camp, season without new contract
Jackson said he spoke with the Baltimore Ravens about his contract situation this week, but the former NFL MVP was noncommittal about whether he would report to training camp or play at the start of the season without a new deal. Jackson, though, expressed confidence when asked if he believed he would play in Baltimore for the rest of his career. "I expect so," Jackson said Thursday. "So, yes, I do."

Patrick Mahomes says he was 'surprised' by Tyreek Hill's critical comments
Mahomes said Thursday he was surprised by the comments made by Hill on a recent podcast that were critical of him and the Chiefs. "I'm surprised a little just because I feel like we love Tyreek here,'' Mahomes said as the Chiefs finished their offseason program. "We've always loved him. We still love him. I saw him out at Formula One in Miami. I'm sure it had something to do with trying to get his podcast some stuff and get it rolling."

Jadeveon Clowney re-signed with Browns so he could play again with Deshaun Watson
Clowney said Thursday he ultimately decided he would be re-signing with the Browns once he knew quarterback Deshaun Watson was headed to Cleveland, too. "I thought I played well here last year, and I feel like I can get better and pick off from what I did last year," the defensive end said, listing the reasons why he returned to the Browns. "Then my boy came here, Deshaun."

Steelers' Minkah Fitzpatrick: My duty to perform after signing big new deal
After just a few weeks of negotiations, the Steelers made Fitzpatrick the NFL's highest-paid safety with a four-year extension worth more than $18.4 million per year. Not only is Fitzpatrick, 25, the highest paid at his position, but the Steelers' defense is among the league's most expensive in both cash and cap value. But that money doesn't motivate the defense to perform, Fitzpatrick said Thursday. Instead, it affirms the players' duty to perform to a standard expected with a paycheck that large.

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"The money is a blessing, the money creates opportunity for everyone around us and in our families, but it's more what they're saying with the money. They're trusting you to be the best and prepare to be the best and compete against the best and play A++ on a consistent basis." Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, on being made the highest-paid safety in NFL history
"I was all about where my boy Deshaun [Watson] was going. I just wanted to go play with him and see what I can do with him again." Browns edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney, on why he re-signed with Cleveland

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