Around the NFC South

September, 18, 2012
9/18/12
4:15
PM ET
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Temporary NFC South Blog headquarters are set up back in the Queen City, where I soon will start looking ahead to Thursday night’s game between the Panthers and Giants.

But, first, let’s take a look at the headlines from around the rest of the division:

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

The Bucs re-signed receiver Jordan Shipley, who briefly was with the team in the preseason. Consider that an indication that receiver Preston Parker is likely to miss some time with a foot injury. Shipley showed great promise as a slot receiver with the Bengals early in his career. But he suffered a major knee injury and the Bengals released him during the preseason and the Bucs picked him up. Shipley didn’t look like he had re-gained his full speed in the preseason. But, if he can get back to full health, he could provide a nice boost for the receiving corps.

The replacement officials are getting criticized after Monday night’s game between Atlanta and Denver. But Stephen Holder points out some missed calls might have played a role in Tampa Bay’s loss to the New York Giants on Sunday. This whole situation has gotten out of hand and the quality of the game is suffering. The NFL needs to do whatever it takes to get the regular officials back to work as soon as possible.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Former New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was at the center of the bounty drama early on, but he had seemed to fade in recent months. That now has changed. Williams has been subpoenaed in the defamation lawsuit by linebacker Jonathan Vilma against NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. If that case ever makes it to trial and Williams has to testify, things could get fascinating. Williams and Vilma were very close when they worked together, but Williams reportedly has given the NFL a statement that says Vilma offered a $10,000 bounty for anyone that knocked Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre out of the game in the 2009 postseason.

A day after Vilma met with Goodell in New York, defensive end Will Smith and former New Orleans defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove had their meetings with the commissioner. Former New Orleans linebacker Scott Fujita, now with the Cleveland Browns, also was scheduled to attend. But Fujita backed out of his meeting, saying it was more important to stay in Cleveland.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn isn’t happy about losing his starting job to rookie Josh Norman. That’s understandable. Munnerlyn is a competitor and has lots of pride. But he can still turn this situation into a positive. He still is getting plenty of playing time and is only an injury away from starting again. He also is in the final year of his rookie contract. If he stays focused and performs well, he can get a shot at a starting job elsewhere next season.

Tom Sorensen writes that Carolina’s $89 million investment in contracts for running backs DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert is worth every penny. I agree. Quarterback Cam Newton is the franchise and the passing game is very important, but Newton can be much more dangerous with good running backs behind him.

ATLANTA FALCONS

Mark Bradley writes that the Atlanta secondary might have had its finest game since the NFC Championship Game against Minnesota in the 1998 season. That’s a strong statement, but the secondary was very impressive against Denver on Monday night. The Falcons intercepted Peyton Manning three times in the first quarter. Who does that? What’s more impressive is that the Falcons did it without nickel back Christopher Owens, who missed much of the game after suffering a concussion, and were briefly without Asante Samuel, who was shaken up, but returned to the game. Backups Dominique Franks and Robert McClain stepped in and made big contributions.

Former Falcons linebacker Keith Brooking, now with Denver, did not have a good homecoming Monday. Part of it was because the Broncos lost and part of it was because Brooking drew boos from the fans. That’s understandable because Brooking taunted the Falcons after he went to play for the Dallas Cowboys and fans remember that -- at least for now. However, somewhere down the road (and it will take a few more years), Brooking, who played high school and college football in Georgia, will end up being remembered as one of the most popular Falcons ever.

Pat Yasinskas | email

ESPN Tampa Bay Buccaneers reporter

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