NFL training camp updates – Mac Jones’ big day, Andy Reid mulls rest schedule, Hall of Fame Game

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Real live football happens tonight when the Pittsburgh Steelers play the Dallas Cowboys in the Hall of Fame Game.

While those teams will be on the gridiron this evening, plenty of other teams spent the day taking part in 2021 NFL training camp practices.

A pair of rookies had notable results in Thursday’s sessions. New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones stood out with more snaps than Cam Newton, and Washington Football Team cornerback Benjamin St-Juste had one of his best days so far.

On the veteran side of things, Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid discussed resting tight end Travis Kelce during the 17-game season, and Calvin Ridley took a veteran’s day off to not overwork his surgically repaired foot.

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

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What our NFL Nation reporters saw today

Rookie QB Mac Jones stood out as the Patriots practiced in a steady rain, getting the majority of the repetitions for the second day in a row and showing an increased command. One example: When the offense was running the hurry-up, Jones showed confidence in his snap count, drawing the defense into the neutral zone. He had 25 overall pass attempts, compared to 17 for Cam Newton, which reflected his extended time operating the offense. — Mike Reiss

Bears second-year receiver Darnell Mooney is hard to miss at practice. The former fifth-round pick out of Tulane made a pair of impressive plays that garnered the loudest ovations at Thursday’s early-morning workout. First, Mooney — one of the fastest players on the team — blew past Chicago’s secondary to connect with Nick Foles on a perfectly placed deep ball. Later, Mooney snagged a touchdown pass in the corner of the end zone and did a standing backflip to celebrate — a move usually performed by injured Bears running back Tarik Cohen. — Jeff Dickerson

Quarterback Sam Darnold put together his second straight solid practice, though he and the first-team offense had to make one run to the “DBO” — Don’t Beat Ourselves — sign that was added this week. An early pass to Robby Anderson in the corner of the end zone, where the wide receiver made a great diving catch, reminded me of the chemistry Darnold and Anderson had with the Jets. The play came right after Darnold connected with tight end Dan Arnold for a touchdown on a red zone drill. That combo will be key this season. We also learned on the Anderson catch that he needs to stick to his day job. To celebrate, he punted the ball away, but it wasn’t enough to give punter Joseph Charlton cause for concern. Anderson had to run to the “DBO” sign after the punt. — David Newton

Rookie corner Benjamin St-Juste had one of his best days in practice. On one play, he ran downfield with Terry McLaurin, and with his back to the quarterback, he read the receiver’s eyes and got his hand inside McLaurin’s to break up the ball. St-Juste was considered too grabby with his hands early in camp, and that remains an issue he must work on. But after getting called for a few flags the first couple of days with officials at practice, he had a flawless day in that area Thursday. He must learn not to get too high on the pads when he uses his hands or it will be called. St-Juste has shown he can be disciplined in zone, but the big question will be whether he can stay with smaller, faster receivers down the field. He’s been mixed in that area but has steadily improved. — John Keim

Saints DE Marcus Davenport was the standout player in Thursday’s practice with three or four potential sacks in full-team drills. The Saints are counting on a big year from the former first-round pick after they parted ways with several veterans this offseason. The biggest key for Davenport will be staying healthy. Meanwhile, Saints QBs Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill each threw his first interception of camp over the last two days as their battle remains close. — Mike Triplett

Andy Reid, mindful of a 17-game regular season, said he hoped to get some breaks during games for selected veteran players but wasn’t certain he will be able to do that. “I’m not sure you can do that with the parity in the league and the way the playoffs are set up,” Reid said. “Every game is an important game. But [with] the competition and the numbers, you should be able to rotate guys if we’re handling things right.” Tight end Travis Kelce, who turns 32 in October, would seem to be a prime candidate. He’s the only key Chiefs player over 30. But Kelce said he would ask Reid for even more playing time and not less. — Adam Teicher

The Falcons gave Calvin Ridley a veteran’s day off Thursday, potentially part of the plan as they make sure to work him back at a certain pace after offseason foot surgery. Ridley proclaimed himself fixed when he spoke with the media Tuesday — and he has looked like it through the majority of training camp. Watching Atlanta’s offense without Ridley for a day, though, showed both his importance and how much tight end Kyle Pitts should be a factor for Atlanta this season. — Mike Rothstein


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Unvaccinated Minnesota Vikings QB Kirk Cousins vows to follow COVID-19 protocols
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins vowed to follow the NFL’s COVID-19 protocols to avoid contracting the virus or being deemed a close contact ahead of returning to practice Thursday after being activated off the reserve/COVID-19 list.

Cousins and quarterback Nate Stanley were subjected to the league’s COVID-19 protocols as of Saturday after rookie Kellen Mond tested positive for the virus. Cousins and Stanley were deemed high-risk close contacts and had to isolate for five days before being eligible to return to practice.

According to NFL-NFL Players Association protocols, a high-risk close contact designates that a player is also unvaccinated.

Chicago Bears TE Jimmy Graham airs frustration with NFLPA on COVID-19 testing, 17th game
Chicago Bears tight end Jimmy Graham vented about the NFLPA on a variety of topics Thursday, including the union’s proposal to increase the frequency of COVID-19 testing for vaccinated players and the addition of a 17th regular-season game.

“I’ve been in the league going on 12 years now, and it’s been kind of frustrating at times with them [the NFLPA],” Graham said. “I’m not going to hold back. I’m a grown man. And I wish somebody would talk to me and speak to me like a grown man and let me have a little bit of say in some things. I’m about to go onto Week 17 playing for free as well. How does that make any sense? Who even petitioned for that? I certainly didn’t.”

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