Monday, May 14, 2012
Around the NFC South
By Pat Yasinskas
Lots to catch up on as several NFC South teams held rookie camps over the weekend. Let's take a quick spin through some of the headlines from around the division.
- Carolina first-round draft pick Luke Kuechly went through the team’s rookie camp working at weak-side linebacker. He could end up staying there, but I don’t think anything is set in stone right now. The Panthers want to get a look at middle linebacker Jon Beason and outside linebacker Thomas Davis in training camp before making any firm decisions. Beason and Davis each are coming back from major injuries. Beason has played a little on the outside in the past and Kuechly spent most of his college career in the middle.
- Receiver Plaxico Burress caused a stir last week when he mentioned the Panthers as a team he’d be interested in playing for. I think the real question is, do the Panthers have any interest in Burress? I strongly doubt it. Burress will turn 35 in August. I just don’t see general manager Marty Hurney signing a receiver that’s about to turn 35. Besides, the Panthers have lots of young options -- Brandon LaFell, David Gettis, Kealoha Pilares and Joe Adams -- to go with Steve Smith. Also, Carolina history has shown that it’s not always a wise idea to bring in big-name receivers (see Keyshawn Johnson). There only has been one guy who has truly fit well opposite Smith and that was Muhsin Muhammad.
- Speaking of Carolina receivers that never really worked out, Dwayne Jarrett has signed to play in the Canadian Football League. Maybe Armanti Edwards can follow?
- Mike Triplett has a good overview of the contract standoff between Drew Brees and the Saints. He points out this situation isn’t all that unusual, it’s just unexpected because many fans thought the team would give Brees a blank check or the quarterback would give the Saints a hometown discount. Don’t be surprised if this one drags on until close to the July 16 deadline for Brees to sign his franchise tag.
- New Orleans fifth-round draft pick Corey White caused a bit of a stir when he said he was looking forward to intercepting passes from Brees in practice. Brees had a good-natured response, but made it clear he doesn’t expect the rookie defensive back to be picking off very many of his passes.
- With middle linebacker Curtis Lofton leaving for New Orleans as a free agent, Atlanta outside linebacker Sean Weatherspoon said he needs to become a more verbal leader. That’s a good idea. It’s pretty obvious new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan has big plans for Weatherspoon. He’s Atlanta’s most athletic linebacker and the Falcons believe he can be a playmaker. They wouldn’t have let Lofton go if they didn’t think Weatherspoon was ready for the next step.
- Defensive end Jonathan Massaquoi showed up at Atlanta’s rookie camp weighing about 260 pounds. That’s about 15 less pounds than Massaquoi carried in his final season at Detroit. The weight loss was by design. The Falcons believe Massaquoi can make more of an impact as a pass-rusher if he’s not carrying as much weight.
- After his first practice with the Falcons, rookie offensive lineman Peter Konz broke into the “Dirty Bird’’ dance that was popular when the 1998 team was on its way to the Super Bowl. Although Konz grew up in Wisconsin, he became a fan of the Falcons during their Super Bowl run.
- Keeping with the league-wide trend of getting draft picks signed much earlier than in past years, Konz and the Falcons agreed to contract terms. The Falcons also signed three other draft picks.
- Bradley Handwerger writes that the NFL should show all its evidence related to the Saints’ bounty program. Fans have been screaming for more evidence after the team was hit hard by suspensions of coaches and players. I understand the frustration and I also would like to see more evidence. But the fact is, this isn’t a court of law. The NFL isn’t required to show all its evidence. If grievances, appeals or lawsuits (or some combination of the three) can get this situation into a court of law, that’s the only way we’re going to see all of the NFL’s evidence.
- Those of you that have been reading this blog regularly through the years know that I’m forever indebted to legendary former Tampa Tribune sports editor and columnist Tom McEwen. He gave me my first job in this business. As the one-year anniversary of McEwen’s death approaches, McEwen’s family and friends are making sure his legacy of helping young journalists continues. University of Florida journalism student Emily Padgett is the first recipient of a scholarship established in McEwen’s name.