- Pat Yasinskas, ESPN Staff Writer
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METAIRIE, La. -- I'm heading out to watch the New Orleans Saints practice (they’re indoors again, due to weather). I’ll be back after practice and the subsequent interviews are finished.
Meantime, let’s take a look at what’s going on around the NFC South.
First it was center Ryan Kalil taking out a full-page ad to say the Panthers would win a Super Bowl this season. Now, it’s Carolina wide receiver Steve Smith saying the offense can “double’’ its output from last season. That may seem very lofty and I’m sure general manager Marty Hurney is turning red even before he gets too much exposure to the sun in Spartanburg, S.C. What’s wrong with optimism? The Panthers have had a few rough years. Things are looking up due to last year’s strong finish and the play of quarterback Cam Newton. It’s July. I think it’s a good thing that the Panthers are arriving at camp with high hopes.
Stephen Holder takes a look at where the Bucs may turn to replace defensive tackle Brian Price, who was traded to Chicago on Thursday. Contrary to popular belief, Amobi Okoye might not be the automatic new starter next to Gerald McCoy. Okoye is not the traditional nose tackle and could end up rotating in for McCoy. Gary Gibson, who is bulkier, might be a better fit. He’s bounced around the NFL a bit and he played for Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano at Rutgers. Roy Miller also could be in the mix.
The Saints unveiled their “rebirth statue’’, featuring a replica of Steve Gleason’s legendary punt block against the Atlanta Falcons in the first game in the refurbished Mercedes-Benz Superdome after Hurricane Katrina. You can see a picture of the statue here. Please note, the punter is Michael Koenen, who now plays for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Jay Adams writes that Atlanta’s players are giving new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter and defensive coordinator Mike Nolan input on what they think the schemes should include. I hope Matt Ryan is in Koetter’s ear saying something like, “No more rollouts. Oh, and let’s at least try a screen pass now and then."
An autopsy says that former Atlanta safety Ray Easterling had brain damage consistent with signs of repeated concussions.