ANDERSON, Ind. -- The Colts strolled into training camp last week with a deep group of running backs on their roster.

Several things have happened since then.

Vick Ballard went down with a torn Achilles and away went Chris Rainey for not following team rules. Oh yeah, Trent Richardson continues to watch training camp practice from the sidelines.

[+] EnlargeTrent Richardson
Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY SportsThe Colts hope running back Trent Richardson can have a bounce-back season.
So the depth the Colts had before?


Injuries and immaturity have left the Colts with Ahmad Bradshaw, Dan Herron, Davin Meggett and Zurlon Tipton as the only healthy running backs taking snaps in practice.

"We're one less, so those other guys are going to continue to get work," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. "(General manager) Ryan (Grigson) and I, again, will look at the roster and see what we need to do. He's always looking at the wire and who is on the street, to see if we need to bring in another set of legs."

Richardson could help stop some of the uneasiness that's going through the organization about depth concerns at running back by showing he's ready to have a bounce-back season. Everybody's waiting -- and waiting some more -- to see if that will happen.

Pagano hasn't given a timetable on when Richardson will practice.

"We're not going to push these guys," Pagano said. "We've seen guys go down and we're always going to err on the side of caution, you know that. But they're doing better and they're getting really close and hopefully they'll be back sooner than later."

Losing Rainey means the Colts miss out on having a player who could handle two roles on the roster for them.

Pagano knows it, too.

He spent several minutes less than 48 hours prior to Rainey's release telling a story about watching a DVD of Rainey in high school in Florida with his daughter. Pagano saw Rainey's "athleticism, the burst, the speed" in the video. But Rainey failed to take advantage of the opportunity to be the Colts' third running back and return specialist. He only has himself to blame for his mistakes.

Bradshaw has been a positive so far in training camp. He's been a regular in practice -- even sprinting down field trying to catch cornerback Josh Gordy after an Andrew Luck interception Monday -- and he's not showing any signs of having a problem with his neck, which caused him to miss the final 13 games of the 2013 season.

"He looks fantastic," Pagano said. "He has found the groove to make it. We know how tough Ahmad is. We know how he's wired, so I'm not going to be pulling back on the reins. He's one of those guys we have to protect them from themselves. It will take care of itself. He's not one of those guys that will think about what he went through.

"He's a football player, tough guy, hard nose. Love to see what we can get out of him. We are putting the pads on today for the first time so we will find some other things out."

Bradshaw can continue to look good and impress, but all eyes will remain on Richardson.

Tyler Gaffney picked up by Patriots

July, 28, 2014
Jul 28
[+] EnlargeGaffney
AP Photo/Nell RedmondRookie RB Tyler Gaffney was claimed on waivers by the Patriots. He will miss the season with a torn lateral meniscus in his left knee.

The New England Patriots have claimed running back Tyler Gaffney on waivers from the Carolina Panthers, ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reports.

Gaffney, a sixth-round draft choice out of Stanford, sustained a season-ending knee injury in a practice Friday.

The claiming of Gaffney is similar to what the Patriots did two seasons ago with tight end Jake Ballard, who was waived by the Giants with the intention of placing him on injured reserve that year. But before the Giants could place Ballard on IR, he had to clear waivers, per NFL rules when teams are under the 90-man roster limit, and the Patriots claimed him.

The Patriots inherit Gaffney's contract, which runs through 2017 and calls for base salaries of $420,000, $510,000, $600,000 and $690,000.

Similar to Ballard, the Patriots are likely to keep Gaffney on their 90-man roster, before moving him to IR when rosters are reduced and a player doesn't have to go through the waiver process. That means the team would pay him $420,000 for 2014 for the chance to work with him in 2015 and beyond. Three of the Patriots' top running backs this year -- Stevan Ridley

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SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- One thing was clear on Monday as the Carolina Panthers held their first practice of training camp without first-round draft pick Kelvin Benjamin, who will miss at least a few days with a bruised left knee.

They need him.

One thing was clear as quarterback Cam Newton talked about limiting his runs in camp as he continues to work the surgically-repaired left ankle back into shape.

[+] EnlargeCarolina's Kelvin Benjamin
AP Photo/Nell RedmondFirst-round draft pick Kelvin Benjamin has emerged as the No. 1 wide receiver during offseason work.
The Panthers need him -- 100 percent.

As much as I've insisted the offense has a chance to be better than a year ago despite the loss of the top four wide receivers from a season ago -- including the team's all-time leading receiver, Steve Smith -- it's a fragile situation.

Benjamin and Newton are the two biggest pieces the Panthers can't afford to break.

Fortunately for Carolina, Benjamin's injury suffered during a collision with a teammate on Sunday isn't anything that will keep him out long term. It's fortunate because at 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds the 28th pick of the draft has looked liked anything but a rookie during offseason workouts and camp.

He's clearly defined himself as the No. 1 receiver and a target that Newton doesn't hesitate to throw to despite his inexperience. He has a chance to be the next Calvin Johnson sooner rather than later. He's looked so good that Smith seems like a distant memory.

Newton, who has a tendency to sail passes high at times, doesn't have to be perfect when throwing to Benjamin. The former Florida State standout showed that during Sunday's practice when he caught a couple of passes on which his height and acrobatic athletic ability came in handy.

When I asked Newton about having that luxury, he said, "For Kelvin, man, he's a playmaker.''

Then he paused and said, "I see where you're trying to go, but I'm not going to go there.''

Newton doesn't want to single any player out, particularly a rookie. He wants to spread his love to all his receivers, tight ends and weapons in general. It's a sign of leadership.

Newton already is showing more signs of being a leader this camp than a year ago before leading Carolina to a 12-4 season.

The ankle has slowed him a bit. He's not running nearly as much in practice as he would have in the past by design. The Panthers don't need him to run now. They're being smart.

They will need him to run once the season begins, and he understands that even though it's not easy holding back.

"The big picture is trying to get back 100 percent,'' Newton said. "The competitive side always tells a person you can go, you can go. The big picture is trying to be 100 percent by Week 1.

"I just know I'm putting myself in a position when it's time for my number to be called in the game, I will be ready to go.''

So Newton is willing to step back as a runner, but not as a leader. Nobody has been more active in pumping up teammates. His longest runs of camp have come while rushing to the player who just made a big play for a flying hip bump as he did after fourth-string quarterback Matt Blanchard had a good scramble on Sunday.

When asked about defensive end Greg Hardy, who said he hated that his legal issue on domestic violence have been a distraction to the team, Newton addressed it head on but with tact.

"I can say this,'' he said. "As a team, we're getting closer. The talks that we need to have, the conversations we need to have, have been great. We don't need to have this conversation about Greg Hardy. I will refuse to have a conversation about Greg.

"Greg understands. He's a grown man. I don't need to remind everybody how important he means to this team.''

Newton is more important. The drop-off from him to backup Derek Anderson -- as well as he's been throwing -- is as big as the one between Benjamin and the rest of the receivers.

The Panthers need them to be a dangerous and productive combination to return to the playoffs and become the first in team history to record consecutive winning seasons. If they click, that will open things up for the rest of the offense.

It's a fragile situation.

That was clear on Monday.

Texans Camp Report: Day 3

July, 28, 2014
Jul 28
HOUSTON -- A review of the hot topics coming out of Houston Texans training camp.
  • The Texans were in full pads on Monday for the first time since training camp started. Per NFL rules, Monday, or the third day of practice, was the first time they were allowed to have a padded practice. "I think the acclimation period really helps," Texans coach Bill O'Brien said. "You kind of ramp it up from shells to pads, from conditioning to shells to pads. I think that helps. These guys went out there and competed. I’m not saying everything was the prettiest brand of football in the world, but I thought these guys got better today."
  • It's often difficult to see the defensive and offensive linemen work because of this year's practice setup, but they worked close to the area of the field where media were allowed Monday and I saw a cool little scene from it. Defensive end Jeoffrey Pagan, a sixth-round pick who missed spring workouts because of shoulder surgery, worked against J.J. Watt on one drill. When the drill finished, Watt stopped Pagan to give him a few tips on hand placement. Watt talked earlier this week about the newness of his being in that veteran role. But he's embracing it.
  • The offensive and defensive lines went one-on-one against each other. There were a few times the defensive player got past the offensive player, only to fall as he passed. Defensive line coach Bill Kollar reminded them they couldn't do much good on the ground like that.
  • Brooks Reed spent all of spring working at inside linebacker. It's a skill he has honed for the past few offseasons. Now that he's in training camp, though, Reed has taken a lot more reps at outside linebacker. "Brooks, you can be rest assured, that he’s going to get a good day's work in," linebackers coach Mike Vrabel said. "He’s going to bring his hard hat and his lunch-pail out and he's going to work for two hours, three hours, however long we're out here, he's going to work and he's going to go back in and study. I appreciate that about him. It's a great example to our whole unit."
  • In addition to Arian Foster, rookie safety Lonnie Ballentine and linebacker Akeem Dent, the veteran the Texans acquired for T.J. Yates, did not practice either. Both suffered some sort of injury during Sunday's practice.
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Chicago Bears Pro Bowl right guard Kyle Long met with doctors on Monday to check the progress of his recovery from a viral infection that’s forced the former first-round pick to miss the opening four practices of camp.

Despite Long’s illness, the second-year guard had been present at every training camp practice until Monday’s excused absence. The Bears next workout at Olivet Nazarene University is scheduled for Wednesday at 9 a.m. CT.

“I expect to hear from [Long] and the doctors today, and we’ll get a better idea where he is at,” Bears head coach Marc Trestman said.

The No. 20 overall pick of the 2013 NFL draft, Long started just five games at Oregon before making the jump to the NFL, where he became a permanent fixture in the Bears’ starting lineup last season at right guard, helping the offensive line achieve its lowest sack total (30) since 2008.

But there is legitimate concern whenever an NFL player misses an extended period of training camp.

“Any player, no matter how long they’ve played the game, needs to practice and needs to work,” Trestman said. “It doesn’t matter who they are or at what level they play at. Kyle is missing time and there is nothing we can do about it. When he gets back here, he is going to have to get back into it and make up for some lost time.”

With Long sidelined, the Bears have experimented with different combinations at guard, including Eben Britton, Michael Ola and Brian de la Puente. Ola and de la Puente finished practice on Monday at guard with the starters in a two-minute drill after left guard Matt Slauson sat out the final period for undisclosed reasons.

“It’s been beneficial that we’ve been able to get some of these other guys in there,” Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer said. “We’ve been able to look closer at our rotation, but we hope to get Kyle back as soon as possible.”

In other Bears injury news, cornerback Tim Jennings (quad) was sidelined for a third consecutive day, Pro Bowl wide receiver Alshon Jeffery sat out due to a sore foot and wideout Terrence Toliver is still out because of a bad toe. Veteran defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff was given Monday off by the coaching staff.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., the New York Giants' first-round draft pick, still hasn't practiced since last Tuesday due to a hamstring injury. But at least he'd been attending practices and moving around on the field a bit. That changed Monday, when Beckham didn't show up at all for the Giants' shorter-than-usual practice.

Giants coach Tom Coughlin said after Monday's practice that Beckham spent the day with team trainers and was being sent to New York for tests on his injured hamstring.

It's unclear what this means for the top pick's prognosis, but it's not a step in the right direction. It's possible an MRI and/or other tests could help the Giants determine the severity of Beckham's hamstring strain, which would help them figure out how to proceed with treatment or offer them a timetable on when they can expect him back. In the meantime, he continues to miss valuable practice time as the Giants install their offense.

The Giants drafted Beckham with the 12th pick in May's draft because they believed he offered them a significant speed threat on the outside from the split end position. But he missed a number of spring practices and minicamp due to a hamstring injury, and he pulled the muscle again in the first practice of training camp last Tuesday. He has not practiced since, and Coughlin's frustration over the injury has been evident.

"It's more than that," Coughlin said after Sunday's practice. "We're trying to put a team together. We saw too much of that in the spring."

But Coughlin went on to say that, of course, the team wasn't going to put Beckham on the field until it was sure he was no longer at risk of further injury. The Giants' first preseason game is Sunday against the Buffalo Bills in Canton, Ohio. Their regular season opens in exactly six weeks, with a "Monday Night Football" game against the Lions in Detroit.
[+] EnlargeKelvin Benjamin
AP Photo/Chris KeaneThe Panthers will be without Kelvin Benjamin for at least a few days after an MRI showed the receiver had a bone bruise in his left knee.

SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- The Carolina Panthers will be without first-round draft pick Kelvin Benjamin for at least a few days after an MRI taken on Monday determined the former Florida State wide receiver had a bone bruise in his left knee.

Benjamin suffered the injury when he bumped his knee on the knee of another player during a late Sunday afternoon practice. He was taken to Charlotte, North Carolina, on Monday morning after experiencing pain and some swelling.

Coach Ron Rivera said there was no structural damage.

"There is no time frame. It's just a matter of time and getting him comfortable with it,'' Rivera said. "... It's really just a matter of days of it calming down, getting the swelling out and then working it back into shape. It could be a few days. Nothing is structurally wrong.''

Benjamin has been working as the No. 1 receiver and quarterback Cam Newton's first read at the start of most team drills and Rivera wants the rookie on the field as much as possible.

"He's had a great camp," Rivera said. "He came in in tip-top shape and ready to roll. He's one of those guys who spent time with Cam [before camp] working out."

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- A day after being pulled from practice due to a lower right leg bruise, Denver Broncos defensive end DeMarcus Ware missed Monday's morning practice, too.

The injury isn't significant, but the Broncos were in full pads so they simply held the 10th-year veteran out as a precaution.

"Just a leg bruise; he’ll be fine," said Broncos head coach John Fox.

Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, who has been excused since Wednesday night after the death of his grandmother, arrived at the Broncos’ complex with about 30 minutes remaining in practice, but did not participate. The Broncos do have a walk-through practice Monday evening.

The Broncos' players have Tuesday off.

Cornerback Chris Harris was also not at practice after he traveled to see Dr. James Andrews, the surgeon who repaired Harris’ ACL. Harris said this past weekend he believed the visit with Andrews was a formality and that he expected to be cleared to participate in practice at some point this week.

The Broncos will have to move Harris off the physically unable to perform (PUP) list before he can participate in practice.

Also not practicing Monday morning were: defensive end Greg Latta (right hip), safety John Boyett (back), tight end Jameson Konz (left hip) and defensive end Chase Vaughn (right knee).
HOUSTON -- Toward the end of practice, Andre Johnson sat on a trainer's table with a towel draped over his head. Beside him was Houston Texans' running back Arian Foster, wearing the sweats he'd worn all practice. Together they watched a team to which their health is paramount go through a training camp practice.

Foster and Johnson are dealing with what Texans' coach Bill O'Brien termed as minor injuries. Nobody seems very concerned with either player's injury, which should be good news for the Texans.

"I just got a little tight," Johnson said. "Just a precaution. I'm going to go in and see what's what. ...It's nothing bad. I'm not worried about it."

Johnson injured his right hamstring while making a diving catch from Texans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. It was a beautiful pass (which isn't always the case with Fitzpatrick's deep balls) and catch while Aloe Blacc's "The Man" blasted from the speakers. Once Johnson hit the ground, cornerback Brandon Harris backed away from him with his arms up in the air. He's not allowed to knock Johnson around and was hilariously trying to show he didn't. Harris was even reluctant to touch him to make him down by contact.

Johnson said afterward that he isn't worried about the injury, but having played football a long time, he's going to make sure to take care of it. He was on his way into the facility to get it looked at just before talking to reporters.

The good news about Johnson is that his on-field rapport with Fitzpatrick seems to be getting better each day -- and that play was a good example of it.

"I definitely felt more comfortable today than I did the past two days," Johnson said. "Hopefully things will get better and better."

Foster did not practice at all on Monday, after only going through half of Sunday's practice. During Sunday's practice, which was open to the public, Foster spent some time having his left hamstring stretched. He then went back into a drill before concluding all activities about an hour before practice ended.

"Those guys have played a lot of football," O'Brien said. "We'll make sure we do a good job of managing them through the season."
[+] EnlargeGolden Tate
AP Photo/Elaine ThompsonThe Lions expect to have Golden Tate -- a prized free-agent addition who played for the Seahawks last season -- at practice on Monday afternoon.

After being declared physically unable to perform last week, it appears Detroit Lions wide receiver Golden Tate will not miss any practices at all.

The offseason free-agent signing was taken off the active PUP list Monday and is expected to participate when the Lions have their first training camp practice of the season in the afternoon.

Tate was Detroit's biggest signing of the offseason, coming to the Lions on a five-year, $31 million deal to play alongside Calvin Johnson and give quarterback Matthew Stafford another target.

The receiver missed part of spring workouts with an injured shoulder, but has since said the injury was "just a little soreness" in June.

Tate had career highs of 64 catches for 898 yards last season and also had five touchdowns for the Super Bowl-champion Seattle Seahawks.

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Kelvin Benjamin sent for MRI

July, 28, 2014
Jul 28
[+] EnlargeKelvin Benjamin
AP Photo/Chris KeaneThe Panthers are taking precautions with first-round pick Kelvin Benjamin, sending the WR to get an MRI.

SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- The Carolina Panthers sent first-round draft pick Kelvin Benjamin for an MRI on Monday after he complained of soreness in his left knee.

The former Florida State wide receiver bumped his knee on a teammate during Sunday's late-afternoon practice.

Team officials said the injury did not appear serious, but there was enough concern to have Benjamin miss Monday morning's practice and travel to Charlotte, North Carolina, purely for precautionary reasons.

"I'm optimistic," coach Ron Rivera said. "He shook it off and he finished practice. It could just be one of those things where if he had iced it right away and not finished practice maybe it would have been better. If it's negative we'll just keep on rolling. I'm optimistic that is what it's going to be."

Benjamin has been working as the No. 1 receiver and quarterback Cam Newton's first read at the start of most team drills and Rivera wants the rookie on the field as much as possible.

"He's had a great camp," Rivera said. "He came in in tip-top shape and ready to roll. He's one of those guys who spent time with Cam [before camp] working out. It's one of those that we want to make sure and be smart about."

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OXNARD, Calif. -- Once again Matt Johnson was unable to make it through a training camp practice because of a hamstring injury.

Johnson has been beset by hamstring injuries since being drafted in the fourth round of the 2012 draft. He missed most of his rookie season with recurring hamstring injuries. He missed most of the offseason program in the spring with a hamstring injury. He has yet to play in a regular-season game.

“You hate it for Matt,” executive vice president Stephen Jones said. “He’s done everything right. ... I’m sure no one is more frustrated than him.”

The severity of the injury is not known. He got hurt in team pursuit drills in the early part of Sunday’s practice. He immediately grabbed his leg and was checked out by an athletic trainer before heading inside for the day.

Johnson wasn’t the only injury. Defensive tackle Terrell McClain left early with an ankle sprain. DeVonte Holloman was having dehydration issues. Linebacker Will Smith (groin) and offensive lineman Darius Morris (hamstring) did not practice.

The Cowboys have their first off-day of training camp on Monday.
[+] EnlargeLaMichael James
Patrick McDermott/Getty ImagesLaMichael James likely will miss the entire preseason with a dislocated elbow.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The San Francisco 49ers began training camp Thursday with running back being a crowded position.

It is suddenly thin after two early injuries.

Running back/returner LaMichael James dislocated his left elbow, a league source confirmed. He is expected to miss about a month, meaning he will likely miss the entire preseason.

Barring a setback, he should be ready to play Week 1 at the Dallas Cowboys.

James, a 2012 second-round pick out of Oregon, was considered a bubble player when camp started. But valuable backup running back Kendall Hunter tore his ACL on Friday and is out for the season. James is expected to take Hunter's place.

Prior to James' injury, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh was high on the young running back.

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PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills can't catch a break at tight end.

Already down Tony Moeaki (hamstring) and Chris Gragg (heat-related symptoms), top Bills tight end Scott Chandler left Sunday's practice early with a groin injury. He did not return.

There isn't an immediate prognosis on Chandler's injury. He was the team's leading receiver last season, catching 53 passes for 655 yards.

Moeaki is expected to miss "significant" time with his injury, while Gragg is expected back by next week. The Bills signed 270-pound Dominique Jones on Saturday to add another player to the mix, and Jones received plenty of reps in Sunday's practice after Chandler left.

In fact, the Bills were down to just Jones and burly blocking tight end Lee Smith by the end of Sunday's practice, so fullback Evan Rodriguez took a few snaps at tight end in a 7-on-7 drill late in the session.

"I don't really get concerned too much about the injury aspect of it," coach Doug Marrone said. "In a way, I look at it as we're going to try to put some different people in there without having to go out and bring another person in."

Sunday's full pads practice spanned 2 hours and 52 minutes, the longest of training camp so far. Marrone said the loss of Chandler plus the afternoon heat caused the offense to slow down and take more time between reps.

The Bills also lost wide receiver Kevin Elliott to concussion-like symptoms during Sunday's practice.

Gragg, Moeaki, and undrafted safety Kenny Ladler (hamstring) watched practice from the sideline.
DENVER -- The Denver Broncos went public Sunday as they held their first training camp practice of the season in front of their loyal followers.

They escaped a fully-padded workout of two hours without any significant injuries and the 21,993 fans on hand got their first up-close look at the changes the team made following the 35-point loss in Super Bowl XLVIII.

'It was exciting to out there in front of them,’’ said linebacker Von Miller. “ ... We all like to show what kind of team we have."

One of those highly-anticipated free-agent signees, defensive end DeMarcus Ware, was held out if the second half of the practice with what Broncos head coach John Fox called a lower leg bruise.

“It doesn’t appear to be serious, but we did hold him out,’’ said head coach John Fox.

Defensive tackle Marvin Austin looked to have suffered a right hand/thumb injury during the workout as well. Austin has his hand taped and did return to the practice, but it appeared to still be bothering him following practice.

Because of the $35 million construction project currently underway at their suburban Denver complex, which includes an indoor practice facility, the Broncos could not have fans at their training camp practices this year. So, Sunday’s practice at the stadium was the first time they had an open practice for fans to see.

They will also have their Wednesday practice inside the stadium and Saturday will hold their annual scrimmage at the stadium. Last summer 44,439 fans attended the team’s scrimmage.