Time for an afternoon drive through the NFC South headlines.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Running back LeGarrette Blount practiced Thursday and said he’s fine to play as much as the Bucs need him on Sunday. I guess the question becomes, how much will the Bucs use Blount as the backup behind rookie Doug Martin.
Right tackle Jeremy Trueblood missed practice with an ankle injury. If he’s not ready to play Sunday, it’s likely Demar Dotson would get the start.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
The attorney for linebacker Jonathan Vilma said he was stunned by the statement the NFL released earlier Thursday and said that the appeals panel specifically said the suspensions were “vacated." You had to expect the war of words to heat up again as Vilma and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell prepare to meet next week.
Receiver Devery Henderson (concussion), cornerback Johnny Patrick (thigh) and defensive end Turk McBride (ankle) each missed their second straight day of practice. It’s looking like the Saints will have to use Joe Morgan and Greg Camarillo behind starters Marques Colston and Lance Moore. Although Patrick is out, Jabari Greer is expected to be healthy for the first time this season.
There suddenly have been a lot of comparisons between Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III and Carolina’s Cam Newton. That’s because the Saints played Griffin last week and face Newton on Sunday. Both were Heisman Trophy winners and both can run. But Carolina coach Ron Rivera said the two quarterbacks aren’t all that similar and said Newton is more of a vertical passer.
There’s been a lot of talk about how the Panthers had only 10 rushing yards in the season opener. But Bryan Strickland makes an excellent point as he writes the Panthers didn’t run the ball well in the first two games of last season. But they went on to rush for more than 100 yards in the final 14 games of last season, a franchise record.
Coach Mike Smith said Thursday at Christopher Owens will take over at nickel back after the Falcons lost Brent Grimes to a season-ending injury. Dunta Robinson, who played inside in nickel situations in the opener, will move outside and start at right cornerback with Asante Samuel starting on the left side. Owens will get the first shot at nickel back, but the Falcons also have Dominique Franks, Robert McClain and Terrence Johnson to turn to if he falters.
There’s a subplot of note to Monday night’s game between Atlanta and Denver. Jack Del Rio is now Denver’s defensive coordinator. He was the head coach in Jacksonville when Atlanta head coach Mike Smith and offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter worked there.