Several teams wrapped up their training camps on Thursday, which also happens to be the first of five straight nights of preseason football. Four games are on the docket tonight, including the Philadelphia Eagles and Carolina Panthers, where Chip Kelly will get an up-close look at Cam Newton for the first time since the 2010 national championship game.
• One day after writhing on the ground and grabbing at his left knee, a scene that caused widespread panic in the Boston area, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was back at practice on Thursday. As noted by ESPN Boston, Brady wore a brace on his left knee during the workout, which was a half-speed practice in advance of Friday night's preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
• New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan defended the decision to put second-round quarterback Geno Smith on the practice field so soon after injuring his right ankle.
"I certainly understand that line of questioning, but you have to also realize that we’re installing," Ryan said. "We’re still in the install phase and putting in a brand new offensive system. So we’re still in that install phase right now and obviously with any quarterback, especially a young quarterback, we thought that he would definitely benefit from getting those reps and obviously the trainers were comfortable with him being out there and so that’s why we did it. But I think those reps are valuable, especially when you’re in the install phase."
Smith might not play against the Jacksonville Jaguars, which could hinder his ability to wrestle the starting job away from Mark Sanchez.
• Staying in the AFC East, Miami Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin explained the decision to release veteran kicker Dan Carpenter to go with untested rookie Caleb Sturgis.
"Well it’s been a competition, it’s been ongoing, we’ve been evaluating it closely," Philbin said. "We just felt that it was the right opportunity to do it for both parties. Caleb Sturgis is going to need time to practice and prepare in game like situations, more game like situations he can get in, the better that certainly was part of it. We felt like it was the right time for both to do it."
• According to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the top two running backs on the Pittsburgh Steelers' depth chart exited Thursday's practice with injuries and did not return. Veteran Isaac Redman suffered a stinger, while rookie Le'Veon Bell aggravated a knee injury.
• The Chicago Bears have said they will not extend any player's contract until after the 2013 season, which means quarterback Jay Cutler could hit the free agent market. If that happens, ESPN's Mike Sando has been told by an NFL contract negotiator that Cutler could receive a contract averaging $20 million per season. If that happened, the internet would likely implode, but that's the going rate for franchise quarterbacks, even those without a Super Bowl ring (Matt Ryan).
• One team that would potentially be in on Cutler in free agency are the Jacksonville Jaguars, who will give Blaine Gabbert the start against the Jets on Saturday night. Head coach Gus Bradley expects both Gabbert and Chad Henne to get work with the first-team offense.
• Minnesota Vikings fullback Jerome Felton will miss the remainder of the preseason after undergoing an appendectomy. Felton is expected to be back and ready to play before the season-opener on Sept. 8.
• The Dallas Cowboys have more injury problems at the guard position, Todd Archer of ESPN Dallas reports. Ronald Leary, who fell out of the 2012 NFL draft due to a chronic knee injury, will have a knee scope on Friday that could keep him out for a few weeks. The Cowboys are already without Nate Livings, who underwent knee surgery earlier this month. Without Livings and Leary, the Cowboys may want to up their offer to veteran free agent Brian Waters.
• Denver Broncos Pro Bowl linebacker Von Miller was not at practice on Thursday as Mike Klis of the Denver Post reports he was meeting with the NFLPA in Washington, D.C. about his appeal of a four-game suspension. Miller's appeal will be held on Aug. 20 in New York, but head coach John Fox says Miller will play against the Seattle Seahawks on Saturday night.
"Yeah, he will be back. He’ll definitely play against the Seahawks," Fox said.
• Matthew Barrows of The Sacramento Bee dispels the myth that current Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith, formerly of the San Francisco 49ers, has small hands:
When it comes to American males, his (Smith's) 9 3/8-inch mitts are rather large. And he's right around the average for NFL quarterbacks. Joe Flacco's, for instance, are 9 5/8 inches. Aaron Rodgers' measure in at 9 3/8 inches just like Smith's.
But things like "facts" and "measurements" and "data" have not sunk the myth that Smith has teeny, tiny porcelain doll's hands because, well, because it's hilarious. Even his family thinks so.
"It's still a family joke," Smith said Wednesday. "My little sister still calls me 'small hands.' It won't ever die. If hands come up as a topic, someone's going to make a crack."