After taking the field for Thursday's practice and Friday's walkthrough, Tony Romo was held out of practice Friday to receive treatment on a stye in his left eye. While such an ailment generally heals itself in a couple days, he returned to drills Saturday, connecting with Dez Bryant on a deep touchdown strike at one point. Romo entered training camp with more flexibility regarding his activity from a season ago, when he never practiced more than two consecutive days and regularly missed the initial practice of each week. As a result, consider Friday's absence a blip on the radar as he navigates training camp and the preseason slate.
Moving to the Arizona desert, coach Bruce Arians cleared Carson Palmer for all drills Friday, which came to fruition in the Cardinals' first training-camp practice Saturday. Palmer's first true test won't arrive until the pads come on on Monday, but his reps will be without a "pitch count" as training camp ensues. On another note, everyone from Arians to wide receiver Michael Floyd has expressed an improvement in Palmer's velocity, with the coach describing it as "noticeably better" than last season. If one digs deeply, buried within the archives of 2014 is the mysterious nerve issue that afflicted Palmer from Weeks 2-5 and wiped away three early-season tilts. He proceeded to direct the offense in five more contests before an ACL tear reared its ugly head, pushing the veteran into the second such recovery effort of his career. During this pursuit, he prioritized strengthening the shoulder with equal concentration, and the results have already prompted encouraging declarations from those in his corner. As long as his knee holds up in the coming weeks and months, Palmer's determination this offseason could generate a more varied passing attack, with receiving threats Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, John Brown, and Andre Ellington all direct beneficiaries.
With two aging signal callers holding steady in the early going, the remaining skill positions cannot be ignored. What follows are a handful of quick hits to consider when making upcoming fantasy judgments:
- LaGarrette Blount returned to practice Saturday and immediately was a full-go, intimating that he passed his conditioning test. With that hurdle behind him, he can focus on retaining the role of top rusher for the defending Super Bowl champs.
- After Devonta Freeman handled the first-team reps Friday, Tevin Coleman responded with some of his own Saturday. Freeman's extra year with the Falcons may not matter in the Dan Quinn era, especially if a trend surfaces, one way or the other, in terms of work with the first team. In any case, the battle will be one to watch in order to learn if Coleman, the rookie, can emerge victorious, or at least with an advantage, touch-wise.
- Two of the three backs vying for the Browns' rushing gig, Duke Johnson (hamstring) and Terrance West (calf), departed Saturday's practice due to injury and are expected to sit out "at least a little while." While precaution will likely rule the day with both players, Isaiah Crowell has been presented with unhindered access to RB reps. The development would be a boon to his in-season prospects due to the ever-changing lead dog under coach Mike Pettine, but unfortunately for Crowell, Week 1 remains 43 days in the future.
- One day removed from leaving practice with arm cramps, Jay Ajayi was present at Saturday's practice and made his presence felt on a few plays in particular. In a pass-protection drill, he knocked middle linebacker Koa Misi to the ground. Later, Ajayi corralled a check down with fluidity and stiff armed a defender in the immediate aftermath. As long as his degenerative knee condition stays in the background, he should act as a decent change-of-pace option to Lamar Miller.
- Devin Smith's first training camp got off to an unfavorable start, as he left Friday's practice with what was eventually diagnosed as broken ribs and a partially punctured lung. Handed a 4-to-6 week recovery time line, the Ohio State product is at risk of inactive status in Week 1. Once healthy, he's expected to complement Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker as an explosive threat down the field.
- The Steelers announced Saturday that Martavis Bryant is scheduled for a minor procedure to relieve an elbow infection, which will require 10 days to recover. The Hall of Fame Game versus the Vikings falls within that timetable, but even if he's sidelined, he'll have plenty of time to show off his wares this preseason. The existence of volume playmakers Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell will contain Bryant to an ancillary role in the offense. However, Bryant's size (6-foot-4, 211 pounds) and speed (4.40 40) should result in another touchdown-laden campaign.
- Relegated to the Panthers' practice squad last year after two lackluster seasons with the Jets, Stephen Hill's professional pursuits took another hit Saturday, when he was carted off the field with a heavily-wrapped right knee. Further word on the 24-year-old's health is expected to come down the pike sooner rather than later.
- Although Hakeem Nicks left Saturday's practice with the all-too-familiar, training-camp sensation of cramps, he's expected to return to action Sunday. Projected to settle in as the No. 3 or 4 wide receiver this season, his output will further be at the whims of rookie QB Marcus Mariota. Consequently, Nicks' ceiling is likely closer to the 68 targets from 2014 with the Colts rather than the 100-plus he received during his final four years as a Giant.
- Cramping also afflicted Darren Fells on Saturday, marking the third Cardinals tight end to commence camp on the wrong foot. Offseason addition Jermaine Gresham will reside on the PUP list for the first 2-to-3 weeks due to the latter stages of his recovery from back surgery performed in March, while Troy Niklas is again tending to an injury to his lower extremities (his hamstring rather than ankles). If Fells returns soon, he can forge ahead in the quest for the primary TE snaps in Arizona.
- A personal concern kept Andrew Quarless away from the first few days of training camp, but despite being afforded a long leash to return by coach Mike McCarthy, the tight end arrived in Green Bay on Saturday. McCarthy's concession was extended to practice, as he intends to ramp up Quarless' activity as August continues. This situation – or any discipline levied as a result of Quarless' early-July arrest for discharging a firearm in public – could allow fellow TE Richard Rodgers the necessary wiggle room to take over a large portion of the job, which can be a fruitful endeavor with Aaron Rodgers at the helm.