What we learned: Trouble brewing in Houston?

Print

The Houston Texans have been a trendy Super Bowl sleeper this past offseason, in no small part because they boast two of the NFL's top 20 players in defensive end J.J. Watt and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins.

As the team reported for training camp Saturday, though, neither superstar was available.

Already reeling from Watt's recent back surgery, the Texans were greeted Saturday with news of Hopkins' holdout.

The Pro Bowl wideout said last week that he wants to be paid "what I'm worth," which is quite a bit more than the $1 million salary he's due to receive this season.

The former Clemson standout still has two more years remaining on his rookie deal, however, and most teams make it a policy not to renegotiate contracts until the final year.

Hopkins carried Bill O'Brien's smoke-and-mirrors offense last season, becoming the first wide receiver in NFL history to break the 100-yard barrier with four different starting quarterbacks in the same season.

"We don't know what the ceiling is," Hall of Famer Michael Irvin said from the Pro Bowl in February. "You see the skill set, where he can catch footballs from anyplace in the world. There is no telling what the ceiling can be. He'll be rewriting a lot of records in the NFL."

If Hopkins' holdout lasts into the regular season, the Texans will be in danger of falling behind the competition in a rising AFC South.

Here's what else we learned from Saturday's action in training camps around the league:

The dotted line


1. While Hopkins awaits his pay day, the first pick in his draft class landed a lucrative new contract. Chiefs left tackle Eric Fisher signed a four-year extension with a whopping $40 million in guarantees. It's quite a turnaround for a player largely viewed as a draft bust at this time a year ago.

2. Speaking of turnarounds, Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie has gone from the hot seat to the catbird seat in Oakland. Owner Mark Davis revealed that McKenzie has been rewarded with a four-year contract extension after drafting nucleus players Derek Carr, Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper and surrounding them with quality veterans. McKenzie earned the new deal by proving that he could reconstruct the roster after deconstructing it following the passing of Raiders legend Al Davis.

3. The 49ers signed guard Joshua Garnett, the 28th overall pick in the draft, leaving the Chargers' Joey Bosa as the last remaining unsigned first-round pick.

4. Veteran pass rusher Willie Young signed a two-year extension with the Bears after finishing second on the team with 6.5 sacks in 2015.

Coming and going


1. Rising above his contract complaints, Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett reported to camp with his teammates on Saturday.

"I just wanted to show up and be a great teammate," Bennett said. "No distractions for the team. I just want to be a Seahawk for the rest of my life. That's the most important thing."

2. The 49ers received a mix of good news and bad. Offensive tackle Anthony Davis reported to the team on Saturday, ending his one-year hiatus from football. In a corresponding move, San Francisco placed nose tackle Ian Williams on the Reserve/Non-Football Injury List, ending his season. The most disruptive force on the 49ers defensive line last season, Williams underwent multiple surgeries on his left ankle during the offseason.

3. It's fair to wonder if tailback Tre Mason has played his final snap with the Rams after he failed to report for the start of camp on Saturday.

4. Reggie McKenzie conceded that Aldon Smith's future with the team is up in the air. The troubled pass rusher reportedly checked himself into rehab this week.

"We're going to support Aldon from the standpoint of the person," McKenzie explained. "Whether he comes back to us or not, it has no bearing. We told him from Day 1, we care more about you than the player. So whatever he does to ensure his health, we're going to stand behind him."

Odds and ends


1. Not for the first time, Ben Roethlisberger is sending messages of tough love to suspended wide receiver Martavis Bryant.

"I just think the approach, the denial of everything. Looking me in my eye and denying everything, it's tough," Roethlisberger said of Bryant. "It disappoints you as a man and a guy who cared so much about him. I obviously care a lot about him as a person and a football player."

2. Don't sleep on the Falcons as an offense that will join the Colts, Cowboys and Packers as the league's most improved this season. In fact, Matt Ryan believes Atlanta can score 30 points per game in 2016.

3. Andre Johnson won't be handed a starting job in Nashville. The Titans' first-team wide receivers on Saturday were Rishard Matthews and rookie Tajae Sharpe on the outside with Kendall Wright in the slot.

Print