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Thursday, December 22, 2011
Hitting the NFC South links

By Pat Yasinskas
ESPN.com

Lots of ground to cover in the NFC South on this Thursday. We’ll start it off with one that’s close to my heart.

Carolina cornerback Captain Munnerlyn has been selected as the winner of the Tom Berry Good Guy Award by the Carolinas chapter of the Pro Football Writers of America. For those who didn’t know him, Tom Berry was the long-time Panthers beat writer for the High-Point (N.C.) Enterprise. I had the pleasure of being around Tom frequently in my days on the Panthers beat and he was a true pro’s pro and a good friend. When we decided to start this award soon after Tom passed away at the start of the 2009 season, we wanted it to reflect what Tom stood for. That’s why this award goes to the Carolina player who is most helpful to the media in doing its job. Munnerlyn was a unanimous choice this year. Jordan Gross was the 2010 winner and Brad Hoover won the inaugural award in 2009.

New Orleans guard Jahri Evans sat out Thursday’s practice with a knee injury. Defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis (hamstring), linebacker Jonathan Vilma (knee) and running back Mark Ingram (toe) also were held out.

Carolina coach Ron Rivera said he believes Jordan Senn has a chance to be a full-time starter at outside linebacker next season. Senn has done a nice job since getting a chance to play after the Panthers went through a slew of injuries at linebacker.

Tampa Bay cornerback Ronde Barber will play in his 224th career game Saturday at Carolina. That will tie the franchise record set by Derrick Brooks. Barber could break the record when the Bucs play the Falcons the following week.

Here’s a bit of a strange one. Atlanta offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey said New Orleans fans caused the Falcons to have communications problems in the previous meeting between the teams. But that game was in Atlanta. If the Falcons had issues with noise from Saints fans in the Georgia Dome, they better have some new ways to communicate in place before they get to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Monday night.

Although there's still hope veteran cornerback Kelvin Hayden (toe) might be ready for Monday, he wasn’t cleared to practice Thursday. Starting cornerback Brent Grimes, who is coming back from knee surgery, did practice. If Hayden isn’t ready to go against the Saints, the Falcons likely will use Dominique Franks as the nickelback. Running back Michael Turner (groin) and linebacker Stephen Nicholas (toe) missed practice.

Martin Fennelly writes that it’s time for the Glazer family, which owns the Buccaneers, to make some noise on what the future holds for Raheem Morris. I know a lot of Tampa Bay fans feel that way. But I think you’re going to have to wait just a bit. If the Glazers are going to make a move, and I think they have no other choice, I don’t see it coming until after the season is over.