METAIRIE, LA. -- It should be a long and busy day around the NFC South as the Saints hold their first practice of training camp and other teams begin reporting or get a day closer to it. I’ll be out at practice to watch the Saints on Thursday evening and will provide updates from there.
We also should have lots more throughout the day. But, before that, let’s take a look at the top headlines from around the division.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Before the Saints practice, there will be plenty of activity. A judge will hear linebacker Jonathan Vilma’s request for an injunction that would, at least temporarily, halt his season-long suspension. Assistant head coach Joe Vitt and several players are expected to be called as witnesses. Even if Vilma gets the injunction, I wouldn’t count on seeing him on the practice field Thursday night. He still is recovering from a knee injury that sidelined him for a big chunk of last season.
James Varney has a look at some of the top position battles for the Saints. The most congested one is at weakside linebacker. Four guys -- Scott Shanle, Jonathan Casillas, Will Herring and Chris Chamberlain -- are in the mix. I’m not sure there’s an early favorite. Shanle’s started a lot of games for the Saints through the years, but the team may be looking to get younger and more athletic. I think the guy to keep an eye on is Casillas. He’s flashed some potential in the past, but needs to stay healthy.
New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees said, now that he is the NFL’s highest-paid player, he has to be careful not to put too much pressure on himself. That will be a fine line. Brees always has put a lot of pressure on himself and I think that’s one of the things that has helped him thrive. There have been players throughout the sports world that have regressed after getting huge contracts. I don’t think Brees will be one of them. I’d look for him to put the same amount of pressure on himself as he always has.
D. Orlando Ledbetter has an overview of Atlanta’s situation at quarterback. Everyone knows this is a crucial season for Matt Ryan. But the arrival of offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter could be what puts Ryan over the top. All indications are Koetter plans to use a lot of the no-huddle offense. Through his first four seasons, Ryan has looked at his best when operating without a huddle.
The Falcons made several roster moves as they get ready for camp. The most significant is that they placed defensive tackle Corey Peters on the PUP list. Peters is dealing with a foot injury and could be out for about three weeks. That’s going to give Peria Jerry, who was a first-round pick in 2009 and has dealt with knee issues, a chance to show if he’s fully healthy. It also could give Jerry a shot at significant playing time.
Carolina’s Ron Rivera said he feels much more prepared for the start of camp this year. That’s not necessarily because last year was Rivera’s first as the head coach. He said having an entire offseason provides a big advantage over last year when the NFL went through a lengthy lockout and coaches and players didn’t get to know each other until the start of training camp.
Carolina’s trade of offensive tackle Jeff Otah is now on hold. The deal requires Otah to pass a physical exam in the next seven days. He hasn’t done that yet and, for the moment, is on the active physically-unable-to-perform list. The Panthers traded Otah for a conditional draft pick, but they could end up getting the rights to the tackle back if he doesn’t pass a physical.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Oregon coach Chip Kelly talks about why he turned down the job as head coach in Tampa Bay. Kelly said he chose to stay at Oregon because he wanted to keep his coaching staff together. So why did he interview with the Bucs in the first place?
Greg Schiano, the guy that did take the Tampa Bay job, said he’s excited as the Bucs report to camp Thursday.
Tampa Bay tackle Donald Penn said he wishes the regular season could start now so the Bucs can begin to get rid of the taste of the 10-game losing streak they were riding at the end of last season.