What we learned: Niners in midst of QB battle

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  • By Around The NFL staff
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Chip Kelly's playbook in Philadelphia was once affectionately labeled by NFL Media's Gregg Rosenthal as a quarterback-proof offense.

After all, the former Eagles coach milked a 27-touchdown, two-pick season out of Nick Foles before turning the scattershot Mark Sanchez into a solid player for weeks at a time two seasons ago.

While Kelly's new team, the 49ers, aren't seen as a compelling bunch on paper, it will be fascinating to watch how the coach molds his high-speed attack around San Francisco's pair of dueling quarterbacks, Colin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert.

What we learned today is that Kelly plans to give both passers a fair shot at winning the job. Per NFL Media's Steve Wyche, Kelly opened training camp on Sunday by handing Kaepernick and Gabbert an equal 12 snaps apiece with the starters.

Kelly later said that he's "eager" to finally see a post-surgery Kaepernick at full speed, but the one-time Super Bowl starter has plenty of ground to make up after Gabbert was widely praised by teammates for grabbing the leadership reins all offseason.

Gabbert also outplayed Kaepernick for large parts of 2015, a campaign that revived Gabbert's seemingly dead career. Who would have thought back in 2012 that the Jacksonville draft bust would one day unseat the much-ballyhooed Kaepernick for a starting job?

Both of these passers have a tremendous opportunity to lead this young team, while Kelly has the chance to recraft his image after the Eagles rapidly soured on him last season.

Not unlike Bill Belichick -- who learned painful but valuable lessons during his first head-coaching job in Cleveland -- Kelly is already being praised by Niners players for his handling of the team.

"If there are issues, he's a guy we can talk to about it," wideout Torrey Smith told Matt Barrows of The Sacramento Bee. "It's not like he's been a brick wall or someone we feel we can't talk to about issues. He's been very open to us. He's a big communications guy. We've been able to have a lot of open dialogue with him, especially the older guys."

Still, Kelly ultimately will be measured by his ability to flip the switch on offense and draw the most out of his signal-callers. While San Francisco might be far away from competing in the rugged NFC West, this won't be a boring club to follow: Chip Kelly's teams never are. -- Marc Sessler

Here's what else we learned from Sunday's training-camp action:

Hopkins holdout over in a blink


That was quick. One day after choosing not to report to training camp, Texans star wideout DeAndre Hopkins on Sunday ended his brief holdout. Set to make just $1 million in base salary this season, Hopkins on Sunday acknowledged that he isn't happy with the team. Texans general manager Rick Smith, though, made it clear that Houston wouldn't cave into any demands from the Hopkins camp.

It's a hyper-positive development for quarterback Brock Osweiler and the Texans offense, but also a reminder that holdouts -- even by star players -- don't often trigger results.

Injury bug already biting


1. Giants fans saw their quiet Sunday morning nearly bloom into a full-fledged disaster when wideout Odell Beckham suffered "a cut or two" on his leg after colliding with teammate Janoris Jenkins at practice. "He's probably going to be sore for a couple days," said coach Ben McAdoo, who knows that any injury to his star pass-catcher would toss this Big Blue offense into the blender.

"I got stepped on," Beckham said. "It's nothing too bad. It's football, it happens."

2. When the Texans host the Bears in Week 1, there's no guarantee that All-Pro defensive end J.J. Watt will be on the field. "I can't put a solid start date on when I can play. I don't plan on missing my first game, but I can't promise it," said Watt, currently recovering from July back surgery. It's not too early to question how this setback could impact a Texans team that plays the Chiefs, Patriots and Titans after that opener against Chicago. Back injuries are always tricky.

3. The Dolphins have no choice but to keep waiting on a back-from-suspension Dion Jordan.

The defensive end will be ready for Week 1, but Jordan will miss at least the first few weeks of training camp after undergoing recent knee surgery. It's a development that caught the club by surprise, with first-year coach Adam Gase saying: "That was news to us."

4. Super Bowl star Kony Ealy finds himself mired in the NFL's concussion protocol after the Panthers defensive end took a helmet-to-helmet hit on Saturday.

5. We have positive news out of Buffalo, where Sammy Watkins passed his conditioning test on Sunday following April foot surgery. The receiver still remains on the PUP list for now, with NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport noting that Buffalo is staying cautious with his recovery.

6. Chargers wide receiver Stevie Johnson injured his knee during practice on Sunday. The Chargers will update Johnson's status on Monday.

Gronk set to get paid?


1. NFL Media's Mike Garafolo reported Sunday that Rob Gronkowski's agents, Drew and Jason Rosenhaus, are working with the Patriots on a new deal. Don't expect this to happen immediately, but New England clearly understands they're getting Gronk at a bargain. Set to make an affordable $27 million over the next four years, the All-Pro target is primed to break the bank if the Pats agree to pay him what he's worth.

Odds and ends


1. Niners pass rusher Aaron Lynch told reports reporters that he failed his drug test due to drinking too much water.

"It came out unreadable," Lynch said. "I've already been in the program, so that's (suspension) the next step."

The NFL suspended Lynch four games on July 15 for violating the NFL Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse.

"I'll be out for four weeks," he said. "It wasn't something I was trying to do. I could've avoided it, but I got to take it on the chin and go with it.

His loss is a blow to a 49ers defense that has a scarce supply of playmakers. Lynch and Ahmad Brooks had a team-high 6.5 sacks last year.

2. The Cowboys have their own pass rusher shelved for the first four weeks of the regular season. Defensive end Demarcus Lawrence expressed remorse when he talked to reporters about his suspension on Sunday.

"It's on me. I messed up," Lawrence said. "I learned from my mistakes and I have to move on and get everything right."

Lawrence vowed to stay committed while he won't be able to play.

"I just got to come out here and approach each day working hard, making sure the young guys are ready to step up and take over their role," he said. "So coming out here trying to focus on my technique, make sure I'm ready and in shape when I get back and just making sure the young guys are ready."

3. Broncos quarterback Mark Sanchez earned himself a slight lead in Denver's QB competition.

"He did," Kubiak said when asked about Sanchez, according to KUSA-TV in Denver. "That's game day. You're out there playing all day long, everybody's wore out, the quarterback's got to step up and make plays. He did that at the end of practice, made some great plays, great throws."

-- Tyler Dragon

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