As 2020 NFL training camp continue, today marks the NFL’s deadline for players to declare if they will opt out this season.

Coming into today there were more than 50 players who chose to opt out of the 2020 season, but today that number increased to 66, after a flurry of them came in before the 4 pm deadline. Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White started the day with a sort of announcement on Twitter this morning. By the end of the day, White ultimately had decided on playing this season. Keep track of all the NFL players who opted out by clicking here.

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

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Top news of the day

Big Ben has good velocity after surgery
After watching Ben Roethlisberger throw for two days at Heinz Field, Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is pleased with his quarterback’s progress following elbow surgery to repair three torn elbow tendons. “I didn’t see anything that was alarming in any way,” Tomlin said on a Zoom call Thursday morning. “His velocity is excellent. Maybe his spiral could be a little tighter. I’ve seen it tighter, but nothing to alarm you in any way. We’re going to continue to proceed appropriately with him in an effort to have him ready to go when we step into a stadium.”

Chiefs third-round pick Niang opts out of season

The Kansas City Chiefs lost one member of their 2020 draft class after third-round draft pick Lucas Niang told the team he would opt out of the 2020 season. Niang, from Texas Christian, is an offensive lineman. He figured in the playing picture at guard as a rookie but eventually could be moved to tackle. The Chiefs have several candidates to start at guard, including veteran free-agent additions Kelechi Osemele and Mike Remmers, and Andrew Wylie, a part-time starter last season.

Texans’ Brandin Cooks fears nothing

Despite missing two games last season after sustaining two concussions in a 25-day span, Houston Texans wide receiver Brandin Cooks said he has zero concerns about his concussion history. “For me, I’m not worried at all,” Cooks said on Thursday. “If there is any hesitation or worry, I wouldn’t be here right now. But at the end of the day, things happen in this game that you wish don’t happen. But when you start to learn through this process, you really start to get an understanding on what this is. There’s so much out there that people just don’t understand that goes into it. Cooks has suffered five known concussions in his six-year NFL career, three of which came in the past two seasons when he was with the Los Angeles Rams.

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Quotes of the day

“I’d take myself, yeah. I would always take myself in fantasy.”

Christian McCaffrey on who he’d take in fantasy football

“You can tell. He’s physically stronger. He’s a lot stronger.”

Anthony Boone, Giants QB Daniel Jones’ longtime mentor

What our NFL Nation reporters saw today

Like most NFL teams, the Steelers’ team meetings look a little different in the COVID-19 era. Thursday morning, coach Mike Tomlin met with his veterans in person at Heinz Field, while the rookies and assistants joined the meetings remotely from locations around the stadium. They tuned in via phones, tablets and in-stadium televisions. “That’s just part of normal procedure for us in 2020,” Tomlin said. “We’re not going to run away from that. We’re going to try different things to become familiar with all the technology at our disposal in an effort to have the best learning and teaching environment. That process is ongoing.” — Brooke Pryor

Leading up to Thursday’s opt-out deadline, Browns center and NFLPA president JC Tretter cautioned that every player should at least consider the choice, given the risks. Tretter didn’t opt out, but he is currently staying at a hotel, away from his family, with his wife expecting their first child. “I definitely consulted medical experts. … Just want to make sure everything is running properly and there are no outbreaks,” he said. “I will stay here until I feel comfortable going back to my house. … I think everybody has their own unique circumstances, needs to kind of sort through the information and gather more information and then just make the best decision on what they feel most comfortable with.” — Jake Trotter

It’s hard to imagine this year — with the possibility of losing players to positive COVID-19 tests — that any team would keep just two quarterbacks, like the Packers did last season. Coach Matt LaFleur essentially confirmed he plans to keep the three currently on the roster: Aaron Rodgers, Tim Boyle, Jordan Love. Boyle was Rodgers’ lone backup last season, and they had a third quarterback (Manny Wilkins) on the practice squad. The Packers recently cut Wilkins and undrafted rookie quarterback Jalen Morton. “Right now we’re at 80 in the building, and so that played a part of it,” LaFleur said of having just three quarterbacks in camp. “Certainly it’s the lack of the preseason games. I think any time throughout a training camp it’s really, really difficult to get four guys reps and especially meaningful reps where they can go out and you can see that improvement. So [we’re going] with the three guys we wanted to focus on, the three that we have that we know we’re going to have, I believe, on our roster.” — Rob Demovsky

With right tackle Ja’Wuan James having opted out for the season, left guard Dalton Risner said Thursday he expects to get some work at tackle at times during practices to be ready if the Broncos needed to make a move due to injury during the season. Risner started three seasons at right tackle to go with one season at center in his time at Kansas State, but he was moved to guard when he arrived to the Broncos as a second-round pick last season and started 16 games there. But his versatility and the awareness he shows when he plays makes him a likely candidate to play at least some at tackle if left tackle Garett Bolles or right tackle Elijah Wilkinson ever have to leave a game. — Jeff Legwold

Jets left tackle Mekhi Becton hasn’t played a single snap yet, but his mere presence is creating a stir around the team. The dude is 6-foot-7, 363 pounds, and he carries it exceptionally well. “I call that rookie the ‘Great Wall of Green,'” guard Alex Lewis said. Coach Adam Gase said, “Seeing him and — it is hard to say it — I want to say ‘lean,’ but, I mean, the guy is a big man.” Becton, drafted 11th overall, is the odds-on favorite to be the Week 1 starter, but he still has to prove himself in practice. The Jets can’t wait to see him when the pads go on Aug. 17. — Rich Cimini

Looking at Daniel Jones at camp this year there is a difference. He put on 8-9 pounds of muscle this offseason and believes he’s as “strong as I’ve ever been.” Jones was 221 pounds at last year’s combine and played around 220 last season. His mentor Anthony Boone from QB Country North Carolina, who worked with him most of the offseason, thinks the change is noticeable. “You can tell,” Boone told ESPN. “He’s physically stronger. He’s a lot stronger.” The thinking is it will help in the pocket and with his ball security. Jones led the NFL last season with 18 fumbles. — Jordan Raanan

Cornerback Donte Jackson had a disappointing 2019 season, from being benched for his inconsistent play to having to apologize to interim coach Perry Fewell for criticizing the defensive playcalling. He spent the offseason getting stronger mentally and physically, and still believes he can be one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. He spent a lot of time talking to new coach Matt Rhule and defensive coordinator Phil Snow during the offseason. As one of only four returning defensive starters, Jackson believes he has gained their trust. “I know what I can do. They know what I can do. They trust me to lead the cornerback room.” — David Newton

One prominent Niner who gave little to no consideration to opting out? Left tackle Trent Williams. Williams hasn’t played in a game since Dec. 3, 2018, and made it clear Thursday that just being back in a training camp — even a COVID-19 modified version — has him feeling like a kid again. “Just so ecstatic, just to get back in the building, put a jersey on, put my helmet back on, just being around the guys, feel the camaraderie in the locker room,” Williams said. “You know, that friendship, that bond you get that comes with a team. I think I missed a lot over the last 12, 14 months. It just felt too good to be true. And honestly, I know we have a lot of known, I was so excited to get back in the swing of things, I kind of overlooked it.” Williams arrived in shape and said he’s 100% healthy. While he will have some rust to knock off, the bigger challenge for him as camp opens will be controlling his emotions and not getting too excited to be back on the field. — Nick Wagoner

When Bill O’Brien was asked if he considered renting a hotel where players could choose to stay for training camp, similar to the optional team bubble the Saints created in downtown New Orleans, he said the team “considered everything,” and have hotel rooms available for players who want to stay there. “We took everything into account, but I think what we did was we followed the protocols that were sent to us to a T,” O’Brien said. “In those protocols, they talked about hotels and how you cannot require anybody to stay in a hotel. … We’ve made our hotel, where we’re staying, we’ve made it available if a veteran wants to stay in there, if a rookie wants to stay in there. But nobody can be required to stay in the hotel, so I think that’s the key.” — Sarah Barshop

Washington’s receivers group will be young, just like it was last year. Outside of Terry McLaurin, it also lacks anyone from whom the coaches know what to expect. Steven Sims Jr. could be tough in the slot, but he hasn’t done it for a full season. Antonio Gandy-Golden might help outside opposite McLaurin, but he’s a rookie. They at least added some experience by signing veteran Dontrelle Inman this week. But it’s still a mystery group to a degree. “We understand Terry can play,” said new receivers coach Jim Hostler. “We know that his role is there. The rest of the guys are all in a competition. I have no idea who the next two guys are right now.” — John Keim

Do you think Leighton Vander Esch believes his neck injury that limited him to nine games a year ago and required surgery in January is still an issue? “That’s all behind me. I’m not worried about my neck anymore. I don’t talk about it. It is what it is, and people can think what they want to think,” Vander Esch said. “I’ve been training for four months hard and I’m already better than I was before I got hurt with the injury. It doesn’t affect me. I just don’t talk about it. It’s not worth wasting time about.” — Todd Archer

Eagles safety Rodney McLeod gave us a peek into the mindset of the new-look secondary, which added an elite corner in Darius Slay and is under new leadership in coach Marquand Manuel. There’s an edge to this group after getting beaten up on the field and by public opinion last season. “As a secondary, I felt we were a little disrespected at times. I think now it’s time to live up to that standard — a standard that has been set by people that have played before us: the Brian Dawkins of the world, the Troy Vincents, Malcolm [Jenkins]. The people who have put on the jersey before us, we owe them that. We want to get back to this secondary taking over this defense and putting the game on our back.” — Tim McManus


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