Around the NFC South

Just got home to Tampa and I can assure you Florida’s weather isn’t much warmer than what much of the rest of the country is experiencing. But it’s at least sunny. I saw a few snow flakes at the Atlanta airport earlier today. Anyway, let’s warm up by taking a quick trip through the latest headlines around the NFC South.

Carolina coach John Fox said he’s sticking with rookie Jimmy Clausen as his starting quarterback. Like Fox even has a choice as he just tries to finish up the season? One other thing on Clausen. He got ripped by receiver Steve Smith on Sunday. Smith pointed out Clausen “ain’t in Notre Dame anymore, that’s for sure.’’ That is for sure. But as best as memory serves me, Clausen was at least working with the Panthers in training camp and there were no reports of him letting his teammates down by breaking his arm playing recreation league flag football at the Siskey YMCA.

Roughly 10 hours after Geno Hayes was charged with trespassing and disorderly conduct, Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris said the linebacker will play this Sunday. We don’t know all the legal details on this one yet, but Morris said the team will handle the situation in-house. There could be discipline coming from the league, but the Bucs seem to be walking a thin line when it comes to players getting in trouble. They quickly released tight end Jerramy Stevens after he got into trouble, but they stood by rookie receiver Mike Williams when he had a legal issue. Each situation is different and Stevens had been in trouble before. But Stevens was nothing more than an expendable backup. Hayes and Williams are starters and that raises questions about possible preferential treatment. No matter exactly how Morris and the Bucs handle the Hayes situation over the long haul, it seems like the coach might want to have a stronger talk with his team about avoiding situations that have the potential for trouble. I’m not saying Morris needs to follow the Tony Dungy approach and go only with choir boys. But the reality here is the Bucs are very much in the playoff race and the players should be focusing in solely on that.

Some good news out of New Orleans. Return man Courtney Roby has been released from the hospital after suffering what looked like could have been a major injury Sunday. Roby was carted off the field and taken to a local hospital. But he was resting at home by Monday afternoon.

I’ve yet to see anything on the wires on this. But I talked to a Falcons’ official who said coach Mike Smith said this afternoon the team is hoping running back Jason Snelling can begin practicing Wednesday. Snelling’s been out with an injury the last two weeks and that’s put a heavy load on starter Michael Turner.