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#pounditWednesday, April 21, 2021

5 biggest storylines from NFL training camps

Daniel Snyder

The NFL offseason has been far from normal due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but the league has rolled full-steam ahead nonetheless. After months of facilities being shut down, things re-opened as training camps began, and there was no shortage of interesting and noteworthy storylines. Now, the regular season is nearly upon us.

Here’s a look at five of the biggest stories across the NFL since camps began opening in July.

5. NFL’s COVID-19 success

The NFL did not mandate bubbles for their 32 teams, but each organization developed and implemented its own approach to containing the coronavirus and limiting its spread. To say that the league has been largely successful in that endeavor would be an understatement. On a week-by-week basis, positive tests for COVID-19 have remained extremely low. From August 30-September 5, the NFL administered 17,519 COVID-19 tests to 2,641 players. They only had one positive. While that number may rise once regular season games get underway, the NFL and its many executives, coaches and players deserve a round of applause for a job well done so far.

4. Cam Newton takes center stage in New England

The Carolina Panthers did their best to trade quarterback Cam Newton earlier this year, but they found no takers. As a result, the team opted to release the former NFL MVP, who then sat on the open market for what felt like an inordinate amount of time. But his patience paid off as Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots came calling in late June. Now, Newton finds himself in perhaps the best possible scenario, surpassing under-performing veterans for the opportunity to replace the G.O.A.T., Tom Brady, at the helm for one of the league’s most successful franchises. And while Belichick, in typical form, has not formally named Newton the starter, we all know he’s going to be under center come Week 1.

3. Seahawks cut rookie for COVID-19 violation

One of the most bizarre stories of training camp took place in Seattle, where Seahawks rookie cornerback Kemah Siverand was released after violating the team’s COVID-19 rules. Sounds simple enough, right? Well … not exactly. Siverand didn’t just violate team rules and potentially put his coaches and teammates at risk. He did so by attempting to disguise a woman in Seahawks gear so that onlookers would think she was a player. The entire act, which took place at the team hotel, was caught on camera, and Siverand was immediately sent packing. The undrafted rookie, who has since apologized, remains a free agent.

2. Giants’ Joe Judge too intense?

Many former Bill Belichick assistants have attempted to channel his style to little success. Will first-time head coach Joe Judge be the next to stroll down that path? Right out of the gate, Judge’s approach went viral across the football world, with some former players calling it “imbecilic” and vowing that the “tough-guy act” simply won’t work. That criticism came on the heels of Judge removing player names from jerseys, making the team run penalty laps, and putting his players through intense and violent practices. But while the outside world finds fault in his process, Judge’s players seem to love it. Nate Ebner, who played under Belichick for eight years, went so far as to call it “refreshing.” You have to wonder what that says about Belichick.

1. Everything in Washington

It was a long and tumultuous offseason for the Washington Football Team. Headlines include a name and culture change, stories of sexism and abuse, players being released over acts of domestic violence and substantial changes in the front office. Adding to those woes was the revelation that head coach Ron Rivera, hired earlier this year, had been diagnosed with lymph node cancer. It’s been an all-around nightmare for the team in Washington, and that rough road is far from over. Minority owners are now reportedly pressuring Daniel Snyder to sell the team, so who knows where this roller coaster in DC goes next.

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