Let’s take a Thursday evening look at the top headlines from around the division:
Arthur Blank was one of several owners that were instrumental in getting a deal finalized between the NFL and officials. Blank admitted the ending of Monday night’s game between Green Bay and Seattle helped create a sense of urgency. But Blank said the prospect of sending replacement officials into Lambeau Field on Sunday wasn’t why the deal got done. Although Green Bay fans might not have been happy with the result in Seattle, Blank said Lambeau crowds are very polite and there wasn’t concern about the safety of replacement officials.
Defensive end John Abraham attributed being charged with obstructing law-enforcement officials on Monday was due to “bad timing." When pressed by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for his side of what happened, Abraham stayed clear of going into any detail. Abraham obviously still has to deal with legal implications. But his arrest came a week after running back Michael Turner was charged with DUI. The Falcons are very conscious of their public image and recent events can’t be sitting well in some important places. Coach Mike Smith is a genuinely nice man, but he’s also not afraid to be stern. I think it’s safe to say the Falcons have been told there better not be any more trouble.
The Charlotte Observer explains the logic behind Kevin Siers’ cartoon on Carolina quarterback Cam Newton. The newspaper said Siers was just poking fun at the absurd – Newton celebrating a touchdown when the Panthers were losing badly. In other words, Siers simply was doing his job. It might be a difficult concept for fans to grasp, but the media has to look at things from both sides.
Middle linebacker Jon Beason is dealing with knee and shoulder injuries. Coach Ron Rivera said, if Beason can’t play Sunday at Atlanta, the Panthers will not move rookie Luke Kuechly into the middle, a position he played in college. That’s probably a wise move because Kuechly clearly is still adjusting to NFL life as an outside linebacker. Moving him now probably would lead to some mistakes. If Beason can’t go, the Panthers will start Jason Phillips in the middle.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Linebackers David Hawthorne and Jonathan Casillas missed another day of practice with injuries. It’s looking more and more like Will Herring will be starting against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.
Running back Chris Ivory, who has been inactive in the first three games, said he’s received no feedback about how to get some playing time. The Saints appear content to go with Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles and Mark Ingram as their top three running backs. Makes you wonder why the Saints, who certainly could use some help on defense, decided to keep Ivory and rookie Travaris Cadet, who has been active for one game but doesn’t have a carry, on the roster.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
More and more, I think Tampa Bay’s decision to unload tight end Kellen Winslow in the offseason was a smart move. The Bucs traded him to Seattle and the Seahawks ended up cutting him. Winslow recently signed with New England and, on Thursday, asked to be released. Winslow’s always been a free spirit and recent events have shown that hasn’t changed. Coach Greg Schiano doesn’t seem to like free spirits. It’s better the Bucs got rid of Winslow early in Schiano’s first offseason program. If they had kept Winslow around longer, it’s likely things would have ended badly.
Martin Fennelly writes that the Bucs need to free up quarterback Josh Freeman. I couldn’t agree more. This kid has talent and he’s finally got a supporting cast. Let him spread his wings and fly. If that doesn’t happen, Tampa Bay’s offense never is going to take off.