Around NFL training camps: Aug. 11


Tampa Bay quarterback Jeff Garcia returned to practice after being sidelined 10 days by a right calf strain.

Garcia has been unhappy with the lack of progress on a contract extension and didn't try to mask his feelings about the Bucs' interest in Brett Favre when he reported to training camp two weeks ago.

The 38-year-old missed eight practices, plus Saturday's preseason opener at Miami, after straining his calf during a non-contact drill. Although he didn't participate in all phases of practice Monday, just being back on the field represented significant progress.

Coach Jon Gruden said it's too early to predict whether Garcia will see any action in Sunday's preseason game against New England.

"Obviously, he's very questionable. We'd like to get him to the point where he can operate at full speed again," Gruden said. "And until he can, we won't play him. But it's good to have him in the huddle, that's for sure."

Asked if he had any hard feelings about Gruden's attempt to acquire Favre, Garcia hesitated for an instant and deadpanned: "I'm just a journeyman, according to some people. Why should I have any hard feelings? I'm thankful to have this job. I might pay Bruce and Jon."

-- The Associated Press


In search of a spark that could take his team from the bottom of the NFC West Division to the top of the NFL heap, Rams coach Scott Linehan called on a familiar face. And called and called.

For the better part of the past two years, Linehan has attempted to find a way to get former Rams coach Dick Vermeil to come to his team's training camp. Linehan finally got one of the game's finest motivators to give in.

"I heard he misses it, so he wanted to come stay in a dorm again," Linehan joked.

Vermeil arrived on the campus of Concordia University on Sunday evening and spent the night catching up with the many people he still knows from the organization. He dished out plenty of his trademark hugs to players, coaches and staff alike.

Vermeil watched the team's practice Monday afternoon. He was uncertain what he would say to the players at an evening meeting, but he made certain to wear his Super Bowl ring to help get the message across.

"The thing I learned, having been through it ... is it takes the same things to go there and lose that it took to go there and win," Vermeil said. "Getting there is so hard. Everybody works hard; you have to find a way to work harder. Everybody works smart; you have to find a way to work a little smarter. Then you have to be lucky."

At 71, Vermeil seems content in his retirement, although he has plenty to do to keep him busy. He works as a guest speaker and is on the boards of a couple of companies.

And, of course, Vermeil is still working with his wife, Carol, producing wine in California's Napa Valley.

Despite all that activity, Vermeil admits he misses the game and his players.

"It was a great time in my life," Vermeil said. "I made a mistake by leaving, but I can't go back and change it. I thought I was doing the right thing, and I knew shortly after that I wasn't doing the right thing."

Still, he said, "I wouldn't trade those three years for anything."

-- The Associated Press


Buffalo Bills reserve offensive tackle Matt Murphy was driven to a hospital shortly after hurting his left shoulder during practice Monday night.

Coach Dick Jauron didn't have an immediate update on the severity of Murphy's injury. He said the player was having tests.

Murphy was injured during 11-on-11 drills in the team's first practice following a 17-14 preseason loss at Washington over the weekend. Murphy was under a pile of players and was on the field in pain as team trainers and doctors attended to him.

He was helped up and escorted off the field and out of the training camp facility holding his lower left arm.

The Bills' depth at tackle was further depleted when backup Robert Estes left practice after hurting his left leg.

The injuries potentially leave the Bills with three healthy tackles -- starters Langston Walker and Kirk Chambers and rookie backup Demetrius Bell -- available for their preseason game against Pittsburgh at Toronto on Thursday. Jauron said the team will consider adding another tackle this week.

Murphy is a converted tight end. He's competing for a backup spot.

-- The Associated Press


Brian Robison was back on the field to watch part of Monday afternoon's practice, though his leg felt tight and sore. The next step will be running, expected next week. After that it's a return to full practice, perhaps in two weeks.

The Vikings defensive end, slotted as Jared Allen's backup following a productive rookie season, had surgery last week to repair a varicose vein problem in his left leg. Robison said he actually had two blood clots taken out as the entire vein was removed during a procedure that lasted nearly two hours.

He will be welcomed back, whenever he's ready. Jayme Mitchell suffered a season-ending knee injury in Friday's exhibition game, and he was placed on injured reserve Monday along with linebacker Heath Farwell and guard Mike Jones. Defensive end Kenechi Udeze is out all year while he recovers from leukemia and a bone-marrow transplant.

Rookie Chris Norwell, out of Illinois, was signed as a defensive end Monday -- along with offensive tackles Sean Dumford and Brock Pasteur. They took the roster spots of the three players put on IR.

Robison said he will be ready to play in the season opener on Sept. 8 against Green Bay, with a "slight" chance of appearing in the final exhibition game against Dallas on Aug. 28.

Offensive tackles Marcus Johnson (knee) and Drew Radovich (shoulder), defensive tackle Kenderick Allen (wrist), and safeties Madieu Williams (neck) and Tyrell Johnson (abdomen) were all held out of action on Monday, too.

-- The Associated Press


Montrae Holland was winded, rusty and a step slow -- and he couldn't have been happier. He'd much rather be a pulling guard than pushing a sled.

The Denver Broncos' incumbent right guard, who spent the first two weeks of camp pushing sleds on an adjacent field after reporting out of shape and overweight, practiced for the first time Monday after getting down to his playing weight of about 325 pounds.

"I'll tell you what, I'd rather practice any day than push them sleds all day," Holland said, looking back out onto the field that became his personal exile island, where he sweated off more than 25 pounds.

Holland worked with the second team offensive line but fully anticipates he'll regain his starting job by the time the season starts.

If Holland can make up for the time he missed, he could win his job back at right guard with Chris Kuper moving to right tackle, replacing second-year pro Ryan Harris, who had four penalties against Houston on Saturday night.

The Broncos lost their top two strongside linebackers in their loss to the Texans, and both are out indefinitely.

Starter Boss Bailey has a high ankle sprain rather than the lower kind that tend to heal faster and the Broncos are hoping he's back in the lineup for the season opener.

"High ankle sprains, you don't know. Sometimes they're worse than a broken ankle. Other times they're back in a couple weeks," Shanahan said.

Bailey's backup, Louis Green, said he still has tingling in the fingers on his left hand and weakness in his left shoulder following his nasty collision with teammate D.J. Williams that sent Green to a Houston hospital for an examination by a neurosurgeon.

Green said getting strapped to a backboard was just a precaution: "I felt like I could get up and walk off the field just fine. But listening to our doctors and trainer, they said it was just best to go to the hospital and get it checked out."

Green won't play against Dallas on Friday night, when Jamie Winborn will likely get the start. Green is hoping to return by the Broncos' third preseason game, against Green Bay on Aug. 22.

-- The Associated Press


The Miami Dolphins signed former Arena Football League linebacker Maurice Fountain on Monday.

The 6-foot-3, 260-pound Fountain played with the Utah Blaze of the AFL in 2008 and was named to the league's All-Rookie Team.

Charlie Anderson, one of the Dolphins' projected starting outside linebackers, strained his left hamstring dropping back into pass coverage during Saturday's 17-6 loss to Tampa Bay. Starting outside linebacker Joey Porter was held out of the game and Monday's practice with a sore back.

And second-year linebacker Kelvin Smith could miss the entire season after a knee injury in the game.

-- The Associated Press


A.J. Schable was on his side and unable to move after taking a big hit to his head. He heard the crowd grow quiet as Jets trainers surrounded him and his teammates prayed.

"I was thinking, 'Oh, man, I'm done playing,'" the tight end recalled after his first full practice since the scary incident on Thursday night. "I was just thinking of the worst."

Schable briefly lost feeling on the left side of his body when he and Cleveland offensive lineman Cliff Louis slammed into each other on a kickoff return with 12 minutes left in New York's 24-20 preseason victory.

Schable wore an immobilizing collar around his neck that night and had an MRI taken Friday morning. He was back on the field Saturday and Sunday wearing a no-contact red jersey, but was a full participant Monday.

"I feel a lot better," he said. "The neck's just a little stiff, but other than that, it feels pretty good to finally get out here."

-- The Associated Press


Starting left tackle David Diehl missed his first NFL practice in five years because of an injury. The rarity happened on Sunday night when Diehl had to watch practice at training camp at the University of Albany because of bruised ribs. He wasn't happy about it, either.

"I hate missing practice," Diehl said Monday before heavy rain forced the Super Bowl champions indoors for a walkthrough. "I have never missed practice. It is frustrating. It was awkward for me, very awkward. The only thing I can do is try to go back."

The fifth-round draft pick from Illinois has started all 86 regular-season and playoff games since joining the team. He missed a play in Dallas in 2004 when he sustained a cut above his eye after being poked. Diehl also missed a series in the playoff win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in January because of dehydration.

As far as practices, Diehl does not know the last time he missed one. He does not think he missed one in either college or high school.

"God knows when," he said.
-- The Associated Press