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Friday, December 16, 2011
Around the NFC South

By Pat Yasinskas

ATLANTA – Time for a look at the top headlines from around the NFC South.

New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees said talks about a new contract have been tabled until after the season. Smart move. The Saints are down to crunch time and the team and Brees don’t need any distractions.

Atlanta linebacker Stephen Nicholas, who returned Thursday night after missing two games with a quadriceps injury, suffered a knee injury in the victory over Jacksonville. The severity of the injury isn’t known yet, but the Falcons don’t play again until Dec. 26.

Atlanta coach Mike Smith will undergo a stress test Friday at Emory Hospital. Smith was taken to a Charlotte hospital Sunday after experiencing chest pains. After Thursday night’s game, Smith said he’s fine and politely said he doesn’t want to discuss his health any further.

Carolina receiver Steve Smith said there’s no comparison between Cam Newton and Denver quarterback Tim Tebow. Smith said Newton is a more complete player. No argument here.

The Panthers play at Houston on Sunday. Reliant Stadium was the site of Carolina’s only Super Bowl, a loss to New England in Super Bowl XXXVIII. The only current Panthers who were on that team are tackle Jordan Gross and Smith. Jake Delhomme was the quarterback of that team. Ironically, he now is with the Texans.

Former Tampa Bay defensive lineman Chidi Ahanotu wrote a guest column for that’s very interesting. Not sure I agree with his opinion that the Bucs shouldn’t fire coach Raheem Morris. But Ahanotu is a smart guy and has spent a lot of time in locker rooms. His opinion is at least worth a look.

Gary Shelton has a column that asks a very valid question – if the Bucs fire Morris, does general manager Mark Dominik go as well? Dominik’s had his share of hits and misses and he certainly deserves blame for a season gone awry. But my best guess is Dominik stays. Some coaches and general managers are package deals. I think the Bucs provided a big hint that they don’t view Morris and Dominik that way after last season. They gave Dominik a four-year contract extension and simply picked up two option years on Morris’ contract.