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Best of Friday at NFL training camps: A standout Saints WR, the league’s best mullet and more

With the first preseason game in the books, the other 30 NFL teams at 2021 training camps are gearing up for the first full slate of games, starting next Thursday.

Friday was a busy day in the league, with two first-round quarterbacks from the 2018 NFL draft making news, a Steelers wide receiver being unhappy with his role and the Titans seeing their prized offseason signing on the field for the first time. There was also a stellar, flowing mullet caught in the wild at Jets camp, plus Gronk being Gronk at Bucs practice.

Here’s what you need to know from training camps across the league:

Top NFL news of the day

Bills, QB Josh Allen agree on 6-year, $253 million extension

The Buffalo Bills and quarterback Josh Allen have agreed to a six-year contract extension worth $258 million, $150 million of that guaranteed, sources tell ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The Wyoming alum earned the extension after an MVP runner-up season in 2020, during which he set franchise records for passing yards (4,544) and passing touchdowns (37) while leading the Bills to the AFC Championship Game and their first division title since 1995.

Ravens QB Lamar Jackson returns to facility

Lamar Jackson returned to the Baltimore Ravens’ facility Friday, but it’s unknown when the former NFL MVP will come back to the practice field. Jackson missed the previous 10 days of training camp, which is the NFL rule for unvaccinated players who receive a positive result. He is undergoing testing at the facility under the NFL’s protocol, Ravens coach John Harbaugh said.

Source: Vikings WR Justin Jefferson has shoulder sprain

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson sprained the AC joint in his left shoulder, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter, but the injury is not considered serious. The injury happened at the halfway point of Minnesota’s Friday afternoon practice. Jefferson fell onto his left shoulder after he caught a slant from quarterback Kirk Cousins with cornerback Bashaud Breeland in coverage in 11-on-11 drills and immediately grabbed the shoulder. It was the third straight target for Jefferson, who caught a 22-yard pass on a corner route two plays earlier.

More:

  • Third Giants player to retire from NFL in four days

  • Raiders DE Carl Nassib says reaction to coming out as first openly gay active NFL player ‘incredible’

  • Source: WR James Washington approaches Steelers about trade

  • Bengals RB Joe Mixon ‘ready to roll’ after injury-marred season

  • Dolphins don’t want to trade unhappy CB Xavien Howard

  • Titans activate OLB Bud Dupree off PUP list

  • Tom Brady to join Peyton Manning’s section for HOF induction ceremony

What our NFL Nation reporters saw today

Raise your hand if you can play offensive line. The Bears — already desperately thin up front with projected starters Teven Jenkins (back) and Germain Ifedi (hip) sidelined — began Friday’s practice with just 10 healthy offensive linemen after rookie Larry Borom entered the league’s concussion protocol. That number quickly shrunk to nine when backup Lachavious Simmons, who had been filling in on the first team, left practice to be evaluated for a possible concussion. All these injuries mean reserves Alex Bars, Arlington Hambright and Dieter Eiselen are likely to see extended playing time when Chicago opens its preseason schedule next week against the Dolphins. — Jeff Dickerson

Second-year WR Marquez Callaway has been one of the biggest standouts through the first week of Saints camp, taking advantage of his opportunity to serve as New Orleans’ No. 1 receiver while Michael Thomas is out for an extended period and Tre’Quan Smith is missing a few days with an unspecified injury. Callaway (6-foot-2, 204 pounds) has carried himself with confidence while being a go-to guy for both Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston. As Hill said, when Callaway has an opportunity, “he steps up to it” — just like he did as an undrafted rookie last season with eight catches for 75 yards in a game when Thomas and former New Orleans wideout Emmanuel Sanders were both sidelined. — Mike Triplett

49ers defensive end Dee Ford is slowly but surely starting to get back to full strength after missing almost all of last season with a back injury. Ford has been participating in team drills all week and is getting a bit more work every day in practice. He had a would-be sack on one rep Friday and then spoke to the media for the first time since injuring the back last season, making it clear he’s happy with his progress but it’s too soon to celebrate. “It was really just getting my back where it needs to be,” Ford said. “I’m just going to keep working. The breakthrough is going to be when I get sacks.” Niners coach Kyle Shanahan acknowledged that any contributions from Ford would be considered found money for the 49ers but it sure would go a long way in getting San Francisco’s defensive line back to 2019 levels of dominance. — Nick Wagoner

In between drills, while the other skill players were getting water, quarterback Baker Mayfield and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. spent several minutes practicing different throws and routes downfield. OBJ, coming off a knee injury last year, has yet to participate in any team sessions so far in training camp. But coach Kevin Stefanski hinted to ESPN’s Dan Graziano that could change beginning next week, giving Mayfield and Beckham a chance to shine in a scrimmage-like setting. — Jake Trotter

Though Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson wasn’t on the practice field, running back Gus Edwards returned from the reserve/COVID-19 list and looked leaner while still as strong. During one team drill, Edwards ran over 6-foot-3, 239-pound inside linebacker Otaro Alaka. Edwards, who is projected to back up J.K. Dobbins this season, missed the first seven full-team practices of training camp. “You could tell he was working out,” coach John Harbaugh said. Edwards, who signed a two-year extension this offseason, has produced over 700 yards rushing and 5 yards per carry in each of his three seasons. — Jamison Hensley

The Titans had two positive takeaways on Friday. Edge rusher Bud Dupree was activated off the PUP list and took part in all of practice except for team period. He also got some work in with coach Mike Vrabel during individual period. Dupree said he feels good about how his knee responded. The other positive was cornerback Caleb Farley, Tennessee’s first-round pick in April, taking part in 7-on-7s for the first time. Farley’s length and quickness surfaced on a pass he broke up across the middle. He did a great job staying over top of wideout Cam Batson and got a hand in there to knock it down. Even though it was a good play, Farley said he was disappointed that he didn’t pick it off. — Turron Davenport

Friday was an eye-opening day for Giants sixth-round pick Rodarius Williams. With veteran Adoree’ Jackson getting a light workload, Williams was rewarded for his strong start to camp with some first-team reps. He sure didn’t waste them. Williams tipped a pass intended for Sterling Shepard that was intercepted by Jabrill Peppers and had an interception of his own off quarterback Daniel Jones. It was quite the display for the rookie, who has enjoyed a strong start to camp. — Jordan Raanan

Perhaps nobody is looking forward to the first preseason game next weekend more than Kansas City special teams coach Dave Toub, who said the Chiefs released players last season without knowing how good they might be. Toub is eager to get a look at tight end Jody Fortson, a converted wide receiver, and undrafted rookie safety Devon Key. Both have played well in camp. Cornerback Mike Hughes, acquired in a trade with the Vikings during the offseason, will get a shot to return kicks. “We’re going to get him in there to see what he can do,” Toub said. “He’s been real impressive in practice.” — Adam Teicher

It’s unclear if it was a different look the Falcons were going for or something more notable, but rookie tackle Jalen Mayfield moved to the second field for part of Friday’s practice, flipping with Jason Spriggs. Mayfield has been working at right tackle with the No. 1 offensive line throughout camp thus far as Kaleb McGary remains on PUP. Whether or not this is something to really pay attention to will be determined during Saturday’s practice at Mercedes-Benz Stadium and also after it when coach Arthur Smith talks with the media. But Mayfield, to this point, has had a good camp — good enough that Smith mentioned Thursday that when McGary does return, they’ll have to decide whether to keep Mayfield at tackle and let him compete there or have him work inside with Josh Andrews and Drew Dalman to compete for the left guard job. — Michael Rothstein

The most unsettled area on the Jets is cornerback, where rookies Brandin Echols and Isaiah Dunn have received first-team reps in recent days. Bless Austin and Bryce Hall went into camp as the presumptive starters, but others are getting looks. Coach Robert Saleh insists he has no problem with so many unproven players; he might be singing a different tune by the end of the preseason. — Rich Cimini

The Jaguars signed veteran wide receiver Tavon Austin on Friday, a move made because the Jaguars were down six receivers because of injuries other issues. Marvin Jones Jr., missed Friday’s practice because of a personal day, but several others were out with injuries: DJ Chark, Josh Hammond, Josh Imatorbhebhe, Tim Jones, Phillip Dorsett. Chark’s injury is supposed to be minor and he’s not expected to miss much time. — Mike DiRocco

The new FieldTurf at Bank of America got the seal of approval from running back Christian McCaffrey as the Panthers practiced on it for the first time. “I like it. I like it a lot,” McCaffrey said on the team telecast of FanFest. McCaffrey admitted afterward that players were taking it slow to get a feel for the surface, the first time since the stadium opened in 1996 that it hasn’t been grass. Team owner David Tepper made the switch so the field can handle the wear and tear of football, soccer, concerts and other events. Tepper said on the telecast the field was so nice he almost brought a pillow so he could “go to sleep on it.” — David Newton

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