I just arrived back at NFC South Blog headquarters after an afternoon of travel. There have been some significant developments around the NFC South, so let’s take a run through them and I’ll give you my take on what they mean.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Let’s start with the biggest story of all. New Orleans linebacker Jonathan Vilma told a television station that he plans to come off the physically unable to perform list Tuesday and play against Tampa Bay on Sunday. The Saints have been quiet about their plans for Vilma, but he is eligible to begin practicing and as long as his suspension is in the appeals process, he’s eligible to play if he’s put on the active roster. Vilma’s been dealing with knee injuries since last season and I have no idea how healthy he is. I don’t think he’d come in and solve all that’s wrong with the New Orleans defense. But I think Vilma could score a victory in his war with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell if he can just get on the field for a few plays. Plus, I think Vilma should aim to get every game check he possibly can because the suspension could be put back in place at any time. If Vilma does end up serving the suspension, I don't know how many more seasons he has left, if any.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano said the current plan is for cornerback Aqib Talib to re-join the team when his four-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances is up in early November. There was a lot of speculation that Schiano, who follows a hard-line, simply would unload Talib. But I think the Bucs realize Talib is talented and they won’t get another shot at a good cornerback until free agency or the draft. They can bring Talib back and let him finish the season. His contract is up at the end of the season and I sincerely doubt the Bucs will re-sign him.
Atlanta running back Michael Turner expressed a little frustration with the running game. I feel his pain. He was the backbone of this offense the last four seasons. But Turner shouldn’t be surprised with how things have transpired. The Falcons made it abundantly clear all offseason that they planned to reduce his workload. They also made it clear they were going to pass more often. That’s worked pretty nicely with the Falcons off to a 6-0 start. And let’s be brutally honest here. I don’t think Turner has much gas left in the tank. If you’ve seen a bit of explosiveness from Turner this season, please let me know because I haven’t noticed any.
Scott Fowler throws out three theories on why this year’s 1-4 start feels so much worse than last year’s 1-4 start by the Panthers. Any or all of his theories could be right. I’ve got my own. I think fans and even the players, coaches and front office let expectations get way too high in the offseason. If they had treated Year 2 of Ron Rivera and Cam Newton as another step in the process, instead of talking about the Super Bowl, I don’t know that the record would be any different. But I don’t think fans would feel like the sky was falling and I don’t think Rivera and general manager Marty Hurney would be moving closer to the hot seat.