NFL training camp 2020 — Fans get first glimpse of Chiefs; Rams test SoFi Stadium turf

The sports world is largely playing without fans in attendance, but the Kansas City Chiefs are one of the few teams testing how feasible it is during the coronavirus pandemic.

The reigning Super Bowl champs held practice Saturday in front of what they said was a maximum of 2,000 fans at Arrowhead Stadium. The coaches and players, in a year without preseason games, got a feel for game-day procedures. It also gave the business operation a chance to practice for the regular season.

The Chiefs say they will allow an attendance of 22% of stadium capacity, or about 16,000, for the Sept. 10 opener against the Houston Texans. Even with the stadium only fractionally filled, fans made a good share of noise at times on Saturday, reported ESPN Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher.

Several teams had intrasquad scrimmages on Saturday, including the Los Angeles Rams, who had theirs on the turf at the brand-new Sofi Stadium. Here’s what you need to know from camps across the league:

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Top news of the day

Earl Thomas sent home for fighting in practice
Baltimore Ravens safety Earl Thomas was sent home Friday after a fiery on-field argument with teammate Chuck Clark. The incident was sparked by a missed assignment by Thomas, he confirmed in an Instagram post. Thomas and Clark yelled at each other on the sideline and had to be restrained by teammates and coaches, a source said. Thomas put up his fists at one point, according to the source.

Ron Rivera acknowledges struggles ahead, asks team to step up
Washington coach Ron Rivera gathered his players after practice Saturday and delivered a five-minute sermon, his voice rising throughout, on what it takes to win. It was a much different post-practice talk than he had with his players Thursday night, when he told them about his squamous cell cancer diagnosis, a conversation that left them silenced. But his message Saturday was necessary — a reminder that, no matter what he’s enduring, the show must go on.

CB Kevin Johnson released from hospital
The Cleveland Browns received some good news as cornerback Kevin Johnson was released from the hospital and running back Nick Chubb returned to practice. Johnson suffered a laceration to his liver during Wednesday’s practice and will be evaluated on a week-to-week basis to determine when he can rejoin the Browns on the field. Chubb had been in the concussion protocol since Monday, when he was brought down by a horse-collar tackle.

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Quotes of the day

“I’m not being rosy about this. I’m being honest. I know I’m going to struggle, so on days I do, I ask the coaches to step up and the players to step up and take ownership.”

Washington coach Ron Rivera, on carrying on during his cancer treatment

“They coach you to make plays, not cover grass.”

Jets QB Quincy Wilson, on why he’s a better fit with the Jets than his old team, the Colts

“Straight up was bad. I failed miserably.”

Panthers QB Will Grier, on being a backup for the first time last season


What our NFL Nation reporters saw today

Reigning NFL MVP Lamar Jackson was a surprise absence for the Baltimore Ravens, getting a rest day for his arm. “What he’s getting right now is a day he normally gets,” Ravens assistant head coach David Culley said. “He’s been throwing the ball all training camp, and the arm gets tired every now and then. This is just part of the rest that he has gotten in previous camps.” With Jackson not practicing, Robert Griffin III ran the first-team offense. — Jamison Hensley

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The Detroit Lions were down a couple of running backs Saturday as both Bo Scarbrough and D’Andre Swift missed the day of work with undisclosed injuries. It left room for Kerryon Johnson to see even more work as he enters his third season as a key part of the Lions’ backfield, and so far, he’s feeling healthy. He has also gotten much more comfortable with wearing a brace on his right knee, which he injured last season. “Me and the knee brace are one. We’re one person,” Johnson said. “I work with it. It works with me. I’ve used it all offseason, used it all when I was coming back last season. So that’s just the new me. I’m the knee-brace guy, everybody jokes about it. It feels great. I like having the knee brace on. It helps me out a lot. It gives me a little peace of mind as well.” — Michael Rothstein

Through nearly a week of padded practices, it’s clear Washington will try to incorporate a lot of its running backs. The team has rotated backs with the first unit, though Adrian Peterson usually is the first one to take a snap. But the others have all spent time with the first group. It’s possible that Peterson carries the load early, but it’s evident that they like Peyton Barber and that they want to get rookie Antonio Gibson involved. J.D. McKissic will handle third-down duties, and Bryce Love is the wild card; if he shows he can return to his Stanford ways after tearing his ACL late in 2018, then they have yet another backfield option. — John Keim

Ahead of Saturday night’s televised practice at Heinz Field, Pittsburgh Steelers backup quarterback Mason Rudolph, who had surgery to repair a dislocated collarbone in January, said he struggled as the starter at times last season, and said he took the offseason to watch every one of his reps multiple times and seek advice from people in and out of the Steelers’ organization. “When I look back last year, I didn’t run our offense at the level to meet the Pittsburgh Steelers’ standard,” he said. “You look at the film and you look at your deficiencies and the way to improve. There is a lot of meat on the bone there. … I am confident that I will be a starting quarterback in the NFL, and right now, my job is to prepare and push Ben [Roethlisberger] and help our guys in any way that I can.” — Brooke Pryor

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New Dallas Cowboys defensive line coach Jim Tomsula is impressed with his players through the first six practices of training camp. “These guys work. I mean I’m getting in arguments with [Tyrone] Crawford out there, I’m trying to get him off the field, get him some substitution, get him a break in some drills, and I mean we’re going to get into a fight there because he don’t want to come off the field,” Tomsula said. “They’re all that way.” Does he really want to fight Crawford? “Hey, I didn’t say I’d win,” Tomsula joked. “Didn’t say I’d win, but I would give him a go.” — Todd Archer

Remember when Marquez Valdes-Scantling was a big part of the Green Bay Packers’ offense — with a 99-yard game and a 133-yard game in the first seven weeks of last season — and then disappeared? Well, it looks like coach Matt LaFleur and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett are trying to replicate the first part. The third-year deep-threat receiver caught a pair of passes from Aaron Rodgers on Saturday in team periods — one on a deep cross and another on a stop route in the middle of the field. It’s a tight battle between Valdes-Scantling, Allen Lazard and Equanimeous St. Brown for the spots behind No. 1 receiver Davante Adams. “I’ve seen him stack two great practices back to back,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said of Valdes-Scantling. “That’s the challenge to him on a daily basis. He’s got to go out there and do it.” — Rob Demovsky

The New York Jets activated LB Avery Williamson (knee) and TE Ryan Griffin (ankle) from the physically unable to perform list — two players who will have key roles in 2020. Williamson, who missed last season after ACL surgery, will be one of the starting inside linebackers. His value to the linebackers has increased with the loss of C.J. Mosley, who opted out due to COVID-19 concerns. On Saturday, Williamson and Griffin were limited to individual drills. They will be eased into team drills and should be ready for the season, barring setbacks. — Rich Cimini

Some cool “teaching moments” during Saturday’s New Orleans Saints practice. RB Alvin Kamara took time to pull undrafted rookie LB Joe Bachie off to the side and show him a good technique for turning and getting his eyes on the ball during one-on-one passing drills. And Drew Brees took time to explain to new WRs Emmanuel Sanders and Bennie Fowler what he was looking for on fade routes before rerunning each of the plays to get it right. Brees and Sanders are making up for lost time in this abbreviated offseason, but this was an example of how they’re making the best of the time they do have to get a feel for each other. — Mike Triplett

Saturday’s Carolina Panthers scrimmage at Bank of America Stadium began with a mic’d up Matt Rhule shouting “Live! Live!” over the PA system. For the first time in camp there was live tackling. There was a lot to like, such as backup QB Will Grier leading the second-team offense to a TD against the first-team defense on the opening drive. There was a lot not to like, such as the first-team offense with Teddy Bridgewater struggling against the first-team defense with two penalties and a sack. There was a lot of fun after practice, such as punter Joe Charlton attempting to kick the ball into the upper deck and coaches having to do sprints — twice. — David Newton

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It looked like the Jacksonville Jaguars were going to avoid any other potential issues along the defensive line, at least for a day — until late in Saturday’s scrimmage. Defensive tackle Taven Bryan went down with a leg injury during the 11-on-11 live tackling segment of the scrimmage. He was treated off to the side then walked under his own power to the equipment building at the practice fields, where he was examined again. That put a bit of a damper on a day in which several defensive linemen stood out during the scrimmage. Bryan blew up a run play, and Timmy Jernigan powered through the right side of the line for what would have been a sack on rookie Jake Luton. — Michael DiRocco

It was interesting to see Dante Fowler Jr. and Takkarist McKinley spending a lot of time together away from the team working on aspects of the pass rush for the Atlanta Falcons. Fowler, the newcomer with an outstanding first step, has been a standout from the outset of training camp; McKinley is a prove-it year after having his fifth-year option declined. Both worked on their get-offs and spent time huddling with senior defensive assistant Bob Sutton. McKinley said it has been amazing working with Fowler already. Running back Todd Gurley (knee) and center Alex Mack (rest) got their second load management days of training camp, both during padded practices. — Vaughn McClure

The Houston Texans don’t have a lot of question marks on their roster, but one position where there is competition is at tight end. Darren Fells returns after setting the Texans’ franchise record last season with seven touchdowns, and Jordan Akins, a third-round pick in the 2018 draft, has stood out in the first two weeks of training camp. If Houston keeps only three tight ends, the final spot should come down to Jordan Thomas (sixth-round pick in 2018) and Kahale Warring (third-rounder in 2019). Thomas showed up to training camp in shape. Warring, who hasn’t played in an NFL game after spending last season on injured reserve, has worked hard this offseason, but coach Bill O’Brien said he has a lot to learn about this Texans offense. — Sarah Barshop

New England Patriots players were off Saturday. There have been five practices in training camp (three in full pads, two in shorts/shells). Bill Belichick said Friday that the team “had a pretty solid week of practice.” Next week ramps up as everything repeats a second and third time, which is important “so that we’re closer to where we want to be in terms of understanding, not just what we want to do, but how we want to do it and what are some of the variables that can come up.” — Mike Reiss

San Francisco 49ers nose tackle D.J. Jones is in the concussion protocol after suffering a head injury earlier this week. While that’s no small thing, it did come with the good news that his shoulder, which was suspected as an issue, is fine and there is no long-term concern there. Solomon Thomas and Kentavius Street have been standouts over the past few days and have the versatility to play both spots on the inside. It’s a big year for both, as Thomas heads toward a contract year and Street aims to make an impact for the first time in his third season. — Nick Wagoner

Saturday was the best practice of Miami Dolphins padded camp so far, particularly with the offense and QBs bouncing back from a rocky Friday. None of the three threw interceptions. Ryan Fitzpatrick lit it up after a one-day absence to deal with a personal matter. Meanwhile Tua Tagovailoa looked solid, too, and delivered his best throw of padded camp: a laser 20-yard seam to Chester Rogers. Fitzpatrick, the expected Week 1 starter, is showing off great chemistry with Preston Williams and DeVante Parker — the two co-stars of camp thus far. — Cameron Wolfe

Coach Pete Carroll and QB Russell Wilson were pleased with how the Seattle Seahawks’ No. 1 offense fared on third down in Saturday’s scrimmage. One of that group’s two drives against the No. 2 defense had four conversions on third down. Those were via two catches by Greg Olsen, one by Tyler Lockett and one for a touchdown by DK Metcalf in the back of the end zone. “They were pretty sharp on third down,” Carroll said. “DK’s touchdown catch, that route and concept and the throw by Russ was definitely there.” Olsen has looked spry and healthy at 35 years old. He continues to draw strong reviews, with Carroll noting several times that the work Olsen and Wilson got together this offseason has been evident in their first training camp together. “I’m really, really fired up about Greg,” Carroll said. — Brady Henderson

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