NFC South: Jeremy Shockey

Observation deck: Bucs-Redskins

August, 29, 2012
8/29/12
10:08
PM ET
Tampa Bay’s 30-3 loss to the Washington Redskins on Wednesday night didn’t make for great viewing.

Blame much of it on Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano. But, more importantly give Schiano lots of credit for making one of his best decisions since taking over the Buccaneers in January.

The Tampa Bay starters did not play. Instead, they stood on the sidelines after going through a full practice at Georgetown University earlier in the day.

It’s not unusual for an NFL coach to use his starters lightly or sit some of them in the final preseason game. But Schiano took this to an extreme. He even sat long-snapper Andrew Economos and a few guys that are likely to be key backups.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. After watching Pro Bowl guard Davin Joseph go down with a season-ending knee injury last week, Schiano wasn’t taking any chances. He wants his starters healthy for the regular-season opener, which comes Sept. 9 against Carolina.

That game is going to be a lot more important -- and, hopefully more entertaining -- than the preseason finale.

Some quick observations from Wednesday night’s game:
  • The Bucs still are trying to figure out how they’re going to replace Joseph. Jamon Meredith started at right guard, but I don’t know if that means he’ll be there for the Carolina game. Meredith surrendered a sack and was called for two penalties in the first half. The Bucs are experimenting with their options at that spot. Ted Larsen, who got the start at center, and Derek Hardman, also are possibilities from the current roster. But the Bucs also could scan the waiver wire for help in the coming days. After watching all the backup offensive linemen, I’d suggest the waiver wire might be the way to go.
  • Defensive tackle Wallace Gilberry might have helped his chances of landing a roster spot. He batted down a pass at the line of scrimmage early in the game. The Bucs are expected to use Gerald McCoy and Roy Miller as their starters. Amobi Okoye is expected to be part of the backup rotation, but he’s missed a lot of time with an injury. Gilberry likely is in the mix with Gary Gibson and Frank Okam to be part of the rotation.
  • I remember a preseason or two back in the 1990s when third-stringer quarterback Scott Milanovich was the most popular quarterback in Tampa Bay. After watching Brett Ratliff get the start and play the entire game, I don’t think starter Josh Freeman or backup Dan Orlovsky have anything to worry about. In fact, I think there is at least a chance the Bucs could follow the path a lot of other teams have taken in recent years and go with only two quarterbacks on the regular-season roster. In fairness to Ratliff, he got no help from his offensive line.
  • Broadcaster and former Buc John Lynch might have stirred up some speculation when he said the Bucs should try to sign tight end Chris Cooley, who recently was released by the Redskins. Usually, I try to shoot down speculation about the Bucs signing guys in their 30s because that really doesn’t fit the profile of a team that’s doing most of its building through the draft. But I’m with Lynch on this one. I think the Bucs could use a little more depth to go with Dallas Clark and Luke Stocker. If Cooley’s healthy, he might be worth a shot. I think he’d be a better lockerroom fit than Jeremy Shockey, who still remains unsigned. General manager Mark Dominik said during a fourth-quarter interview with the broadcast team that there had been contact with Cooley's agent, but said the team is now aggressively pursuing the veteran tight end.
  • Rookie safety Sean Baker still might be a long shot to make the 53-man roster. But he intercepted two passes and recovered a fumble Wednesday night. That might help Baker land a spot on the practice squad.
  • Nice to see Bucs’ co-chairman Joel Glazer hugging Raheem Morris before the game. Morris coached the Bucs the last three seasons and is now Washington’s defensive backs coach. Morris had a good relationship with ownership, but it was obvious to all that a move had to be made as the Bucs lost their final 10 games of last season. I’m just guessing here, but I doubt any members of the Glazer family were exchanging hugs with Washington general manager Bruce Allen, who once held the same role in Tampa Bay.

Observation deck: Panthers-Jets

August, 26, 2012
8/26/12
11:03
PM ET
One of the nicest moments of the preseason came early in the Carolina Panthers’ 17-12 victory against the New York Jets on Sunday night.

Carolina linebacker Thomas Davis sacked quarterback Mark Sanchez with one minute, 54 seconds left in the first quarter. It wasn’t the kind of jarring sack you’ll see on the highlights and it was in a meaningless preseason game. But this one was significant.

Consider it a strong sign that Davis has something left in the tank as he tries to make NFL history. Assuming Davis makes it to the regular season (and the sack was an indication that’s pretty much a certainty), he will become the first player in NFL history to make it back from three torn anterior cruciate ligaments.

If that happens, it will be a nice reflection on Carolina’s medical and training staff, but it will say even more about Davis. Coming back from one ACL is an accomplishment. Coming back three times takes a special person.

Davis, who had missed some preseason time with a calf injury, fits that description. I’ve covered him since he came into the NFL as a first-round pick in 2005 and the guy is a class act. Davis has worked hard and he deserves to make history.

I don’t know that Davis, who also showed signs he can still be a factor in pass coverage and against the run, ever will be the same player he was before the injuries started, but he’ll have a role. The indications I’ve gotten are that the Panthers plan is to start Jon Beason in the middle with James Anderson and rookie Luke Kuechly on the outside and use Davis as a situational role player in certain nickel packages. There also could be some situations where the Panthers go to a 3-4 defense and Davis would be used as the fourth linebacker.

Some other observations on the Panthers:
  • Captain Munnerlyn, who is fighting to keep his job as a starting cornerback, intercepted Sanchez late in the second quarter. Then again, Munnerlyn also dropped what should have been an easy interception a bit earlier and also was flagged for hands to the face on the same play.
  • At least for the moment, there’s some reason for concern. Running back Jonathan Stewart was carted off the field near the end of the first half with an apparent lower-leg injury. There was no immediate word on the extent of Stewart’s injury. If he’s going to miss any regular-season time, the Panthers have solid running back depth with DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert. But the Panthers, who signed Stewart to a five-year contract extension a few weeks ago, appear to have big plans for a three-headed backfield. Tolbert also left the game and was seen on the sideline with ice on his knee. There was no immediate word from the team on Tolbert’s condition.
  • I continued to be impressed with Kuechly. He had a reputation for being a tackling machine in college and, so far, it looks like that will transfer over to the NFL. Kuechly seems to be near the ball on every play. He also looks pretty decent in pass coverage.
  • Quarterback Cam Newton had an unspectacular night. He completed six of 15 passes for 60 yards and a touchdown and also lost a fumble. I wouldn’t be too concerned about Newton’s performance. Newton had a few nice passes and also ran twice for 16 yards. Newton was without wide receiver Steve Smith, who is recovering from a foot infection, and offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski obviously kept things pretty bland -- at least by his standards.
  • Carolina’s first-team defense wasn’t perfect, but it was very good, holding New York’s first-team offense to three field goals. That’s a whole lot better than last year, when Carolina’s defense wasn’t stopping much of anything.
  • Did you see that 43-yard catch by the backup tight end Gary Barnidge at the start of the fourth quarter? Who needs Jeremy Shockey? Barnidge also followed that up with a short touchdown catch.

Around the NFC South

August, 20, 2012
8/20/12
10:12
AM ET
Time for a Monday morning look at the headlines from around the NFC South:

ATLANTA FALCONS

Through two preseason games, Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan has yet to be sacked. That’s highly encouraging because improving the pass blocking has been one of the most important goals of the offseason. Ryan was pressured too much last year and often did not have enough time to make the down-field throws the Falcons wanted.

The Falcons have ended the training camp portion of their preseason. They’ll remain on a similar practice schedule for the remainder of the preseason, but players get to go home at night.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Little by little we keep finding out about all the plans the Panthers have for fullback/running back Mike Tolbert. In addition to have him blocking, running and catching passes out of the backfield, coach Ron Rivera said Tolbert can do some of the same things that tight end Jeremy Shockey did last season. Shockey has not been re-signed. I’m not sure you’ll see Tolbert lined up at tight end a lot, but I think you could see him picking up some of Shockey’s blocking duties to make the load a little lighter for tight end Greg Olsen.

After starters Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell, the competition for the backup receiver jobs remains strong. Louis Murphy, Seyi Ajirotutu and Kealoha Pilares all looked good in Friday night’s preseason game. The Panthers also are hoping David Gettis can get healthy and be a factor.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

After running into all sorts of injury troubles at wide receiver, the New Orleans Saints reportedly have added veteran receiver Greg Camarillo. Nick Toon, Adrian Arrington and Andy Tanner, who were in contention for the final roster spots at receiver, have been injured.

Jeff Duncan writes that offensive line coach Aaron Kromer is the favorite to take over as the temporary coach when Joe Vitt begins his six-game suspension at the start of the season. I agree that’s the logical choice. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo or offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael also could do the job, but it makes the most sense to elevate Kromer and let the two coordinators continue to focus on their side of the ball.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Apparently the Bucs are using a rose-colored lens in their projector because coach Greg Schiano said he saw some positives in Friday’s 30-7 preseason loss to Tennessee.

Defensive tackle Roy Miller may be in the best shape of his career from a physical standpoint. He’s healthy after dealing with injuries last year. More importantly, the Bucs might be using him properly. Miller will be used as a tilted nose tackle, which should allow him to maximize his strength. This is a huge year for Miller and fellow defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. If they can play well, the interior of Tampa Bay’s defensive line could turn into a strength.

Observation deck: Panthers-Texans

August, 11, 2012
8/11/12
10:12
PM ET

This should come as absolutely no surprise, because it’s what the Carolina Panthers envisioned on draft day and what they’ve seen so far in training camp. But the world got to see the impact of rookie linebacker Luke Kuechly in Saturday night’s preseason opener, a 26-13 loss to the Houston Texans.

It didn’t take long for Kuechly to do what he’s done in practice every day -- make a big play. On Houston’s second drive of the night, Kuechly put a big hit on running back Arian Foster and forced a fumble that was recovered by safety Sherrod Martin. That turnover helped set up a field goal for the Panthers.

Kuechly left the game after the first quarter, but finished with two solo tackles, two assists and the forced fumble. Spread that out over four quarters and over an entire season, and it sure looks like the Panthers have found a playmaker at linebacker.

Some other observations on the Panthers:
  • It was hard to really get a read on quarterback Cam Newton’s performance. Statistically, it wasn’t great. He completed two of six passes for 16 yards, and also ran twice for 16 yards. But Newton didn’t get blocking from his offensive line and also had at least one pass dropped. Newton led the Panthers to a field goal before leaving the game after three offensive series. It also was pretty obvious the Panthers weren’t showing anything close to their full playbook.
  • Speaking of running back depth, rookie Tauren Poole, who had a short touchdown run in the second quarter, has a decent chance to make this team. At worst, he’s probably a guy the Panthers would like to keep on the practice squad.
  • The Panthers held middle linebacker Jon Beason out as he recovers from a minor injury that’s not related to the torn Achilles tendon he suffered last season. Jason Phillips started in Beason’s place and came up with an interception late in the first quarter. If Phillips continues to progress and Thomas Davis can get healthy, the Panthers could have some very nice depth at linebacker.
  • Speaking of linebacker depth, the Panthers have plenty on the outside as well. Jordan Senn, who was a part-time starter last season, is going to be a backup this season. But Senn was very productive Saturday night, leading the Panthers with 13 tackles.
  • The Panthers went to great lengths to try to improve their special teams in the offseason. So far, that’s not paying off. Carolina allowed Trindon Holliday to return a kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown.
  • I'm not sure rookie Joe Adams will have much of a role as a receiver, because there's so much depth at the position. But, after watching his spectacular third-quarter punt return, I'm thinking there's a good chance Adams has a big role in the return game.
  • I think Louis Murphy already was in the mix to be the No. 3 receiver. But he might have moved into the lead for that job Saturday night. Murphy had a nice leaping catch on the sideline in the second quarter, and also caught another pass where he put a nice move on the defensive back that resulted in some yards after the catch.
  • Forget any chance of Jeremy Shockey being re-signed by the Panthers. Gary Barnidge sure looks like he’s ready to be the No. 2 tight end.
  • Be sure to check out the Camp Confidential profile on the Panthers. It's scheduled to pop up on the blog early Sunday afternoon.

Around the NFC South

August, 7, 2012
8/07/12
8:56
AM ET
SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- Let’s take a look at the Tuesday morning headlines from around the NFC South.

ATLANTA FALCONS

Just about everyone acknowledges this is a big year for quarterback Matt Ryan. Well, he’s off to a good start. In a joint workout with Tennessee on Monday, Ryan completed 16 of 17 passes.

Former Atlanta linebacker Keith Brooking has signed with Denver. Brooking had spent the last three seasons in Dallas, after playing high school and college football in Georgia and joined the Falcons in 1998. There had been some speculation Brooking could return to the Falcons after they lost Lofa Tatupu to injury, but I don’t think that ever was a consideration. The current regime didn’t feel Brooking fit the scheme before letting him leave for Dallas and there was no indication that thinking had changed.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Jeff Duncan writes that it would be best for all parties if New Orleans linebacker Jonathan Vilma takes the reported settlement offer that may or may not have been put on the table by the NFL that would reduce his suspension from all season to eight games. Duncan might be right. This thing has gotten uglier and it sure looks like pride and ego have emerged on both sides. It might be time for a compromise that would settle this situation and allow the Saints and the NFL to move forward.

The Saints will have a padded joint practice with New England on Tuesday, before playing a preseason game with the Patriots. But that will come after New Orleans assistant head coach Joe Vitt and New England coach Bill Belichick reportedly will attend the funeral of Garrett Reid, son of Philadelphia coach Andy Reid.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Since coach Greg Schiano has been guarded with injury information, Stephen Holder’s list of the Bucs’ injuries is worth a look. Cornerback E.J. Biggers and receiver Arrelious Benn seem to be the two biggest concerns right now and it’s possible their absences could last into the regular season.

Defensive tackle Amobi Okoye said the new coaching staff treats players like it’s their first time playing football. Okoye meant that as a compliment. His point is that there is a strong emphasis on fundamentals. That’s nothing but a positive because we haven’t seen that in Tampa Bay in several years.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

With Jeremy Shockey still a free agent and not expected back in Carolina, Greg Olsen said he’s looking forward to getting the bulk of the receiving targets at tight end for Carolina. All indications are the Panthers are counting on Olsen to take on a much bigger role than he played last season when he had 45 catches. Fantasy players might want to take note.

Defensive end Charles Johnson said he believes coach Ron Rivera is asking him for more consistency. That became pretty apparent when Rivera said Johnson needed to do more than what’s required of him. This is a classic nudge of a coach nudging a player that’s been good, but has a chance to be great.
SPARTANBURG, S.C. – We already knew the Carolina Panthers were filled with optimism. (See Ryan Kalil’s newspaper ad promising a Super Bowl title before the start of training camp).

Well, the latest can’t be construed as a “guarantee," but head coach Ron Rivera had a very strong answer Monday when asked if tight end Greg Olsen could be as productive as New England’s Rob Gronkowski and New Orleans’ Jimmy Graham.

For context, Gronkowski had 90 catches for 1,327 yards and 17 touchdowns last season. Graham had 99 catches for 1,310 yards and 11 touchdowns.

“I think he can be right in there with them,’’ Rivera said. “This will be his first real opportunity with us to step up and be the starting tight end and be the guy. You watch him catch footballs and you watch him run routes and you see those traits that say you can fit right into that group. We’re excited about it.’’

That may sound a little grandiose, especially when you consider that Olsen had 45 catches for 540 yards and five touchdowns last season. But I get Rivera’s point and I don’t think he’s totally off base.

First off, Olsen shared time with Jeremy Shockey last season. Shockey had 37 catches, but he hasn’t re-signed with the Panthers and that doesn’t seem likely. Project those 37 catches over to Olsen and it at least puts him in the same ballpark as Graham and Gronkowski.

But there’s more than that. Olsen was traded to the Panthers from Chicago last year and got thrown right into coordinator Rob Chudzinski’s offense. Rookie quarterback Cam Newton also was picking up the scheme on the fly.

Olsen and Newton have had a full offseason in the system. Plus, Chudzinski’s a former tight ends coach, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s put in a few more wrinkles for Olsen.

NFC South afternoon roundup

July, 24, 2012
7/24/12
3:37
PM ET
We’ll hear more from the New Orleans Saints later on Tuesday. They’re the first NFC South team reporting to camp and interim coach Joe Vitt, quarterback Drew Brees and safety Roman Harper are scheduled to talk to the media Tuesday evening. We’ll check in on the highlights of that later on. Meantime, let’s take a run through some other NFC South notes.
  • Jeremy Shockey’s name is starting to pop up around the league. That’s probably exactly how the veteran tight end, who spent last season with Carolina, has planned it. Shockey already could have signed with Carolina or another team. But he’s the kind of name player that could have more value once teams get into training camp and some of them realize they still have a need at tight end. I think the door is still open in Carolina. But I don’t think Shockey returns there unless the Panthers suddenly become willing to pay more than the veteran minimum. I think Shockey is waiting for something to come open in a place he views as a better destination. I’m still not ready to completely rule out a return to the NFC South for a guy that played for the Saints before joining the Panthers, but I think there’s at least a chance Shockey could land in an NFC South port he hasn’t been in before -- if there is room for him.
  • Carolina defensive tackle Andre Neblett said a dietary supplement caused his four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. Neblett can still go through camp and the preseason with the team. But he’ll need to make a really strong impression -- and beat out Frank Kearse -- to have a chance to get back on the roster when his suspension ends.
  • Pete Prisco predicts the record for every NFL team in the 2012 season. Fans of the Buccaneers, Saints and Panthers aren’t going to like what he has to say, but Atlanta fans would be pretty happy if the season plays out the way Prisco sees it.
  • Tampa Bay defensive end Da'Quan Bowers, defensive tackle Amobi Okoye and linebacker Adam Hayward will begin the preseason on the physically-unable-to-perform list (PUP). Players can come off the PUP at any time during the preseason and I think that’s the hope for Okoye (knee) and Hayward (foot). But Bowers suffered a torn Achilles tendon in the offseason and is likely to miss significant time. If a player starts the regular season on PUP, he has to sit out at least the first six games.
  • Falcons owner Arthur Blank will talk about how he built his empire at an upcoming business leadership seminar.

Film of the NFC South chat

July, 20, 2012
7/20/12
2:46
PM ET
Friday marked our final NFC South chat before the start of training camps. Let’s take a look at some team-by-team highlights.

Atlanta Falcons

Chris (Atlanta): How's the battle for MLB playing out with the Falcons? Have you personally seen who's taking snaps with the 1st unit?

Pat Yasinskas: I'll let you know when I get to Atlanta's camp. I'll be arriving there a week from Saturday. My guess is they'll open with Tatupu with the first team, but I think they really are hoping Dent can step up and win the job.

Scott (maine): If everyone knows the falcons have a line issue why havent the falcons fixed it already i dont see the complication could u please explain?

Pat Yasinskas: Not saying this is how I feel, but I think the Falcons feel they have enough talent on the offensive line already. If they didn't, they would have done more already.

Tony (Richmond, CA): Will Kroy Biermann or Ray Edwards be able to give the Falcons some pass rush opposite and Abrahams this year?

Pat Yasinskas: Think Edwards will be better than he was last year. Not saying he'll get 10 or 12 sacks, but thing he could deliver something like eight. He wasn't ever completely healthy last year.
CAROLINA PANTHERS
Andy (NC): will Jeremy Shockey be in the league this year?

Pat Yasinskas: Wouldn’t be surprised if he signs somewhere right before camps start.

Rob (Houston): Will Kealoha Pilares and Armanti Edwards be on the Panthers' final roster? I believe one of them may be gone with the addition of Joe Adams.

Pat Yasinskas: Think Pilares will be there. Doubt it on Edwards.

Patrick (Charlotte): Why is the media making a story out of Cam signing autographs for money but we hear nothing about when other QBs like Brees do it? Seems like there is some double standard there.

Pat Yasinskas: Can't speak for others. I personally don't have a problem with it. I think Cam has a right to do what he wants. If people don't want to pay for his autograph, they don't have to.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Ryan (CHARLOTTE): The Saints might have a tough going at first, but they should have the pieces putt together at some point, maybe by Oct. is my guess. Do you see them being a formiddable opponent from the start or do you mostly agree with me?

Pat Yasinskas: Actually, I think they may get off to a fast start because I expect them to come out highly motivated after what they've gone through in the offseason. The challenge might be keeping that emotion going all season.

TKS (Princeton, NJ): Ok, Pat, here's a chopped down version:Nicks over Evans by you=fine. But the players and many general managers/scouts still have Evans #1. So why is Nicks treated by you as the undisputable #1 player at his postion?How is Colston behind the overrated Vincent Jackson who he has outshined and Julio Jones who is there on potential? If the list is about potential, why no Patrick Robinson (4 ints and held QBs to a pass rating of 65, which ranked him #9 in the league)?

Pat Yasinskas: Thanks. Nicks and Evans are both excellent. But the scouts I talk to say Nicks is a notch above Evans. True on Julio being there on potential, but the list is my projected top 25 players for 2012. Think Jackson will fit in well with Bucs and that's why I put him a little higher. I'm not trying to sell Colston short. He's very good, but they spread the ball around so much that sometimes it's easy to sell him short. On Robinson, your point is taken. I think he has a chance to be very good.

No Sleep Til (Brooklyn): Role Reversal:Which total will be higher in 2012... Malcolm Jenkins' sack total or Roman Harper's INT total?

Pat Yasinskas: Hmm, I'll go with Harper's INT total since I don't think Jenkins will be blitzing very often in this system.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Ben (parkland,fl) [via mobile]: o you think the bucs should draft a better franchise qb next year?

Pat Yasinskas: No, let's see what Freeman does this year.

Chris (Winter Park): The other day I read an article on NFL.com about Michael Bennett having a breakout season stepping in for Bowers. What's your take on the subject?

Pat Yasinskas: Possible. I don't think Bennett's a bad player at all. If he and Clayborn get some help from the inside guys, that could be a pretty good defensive line.

James (Vero Beach): How is Lavonte David looking? Heard reports that he could be the next Derrick Brooks, is that true?

Pat Yasinskas: Not ready to declare that just yet. But I think he'll have an impact right from the start of his career.

Here’s the complete transcript of Friday’s NFC South chat.
PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Although his franchise quarterback, Cam Newton, was one of four players named as specific targets in the Saints’ bounty program, Carolina coach Ron Rivera doesn’t anticipate further problems with the Panthers and Saints.

“I'd be surprised if there's any retribution, I really would,’’ Rivera said during a breakfast for NFC coaches Wednesday morning at the owners meetings.

Payton
Rivera
The NFL report announcing the Saints’ punishment, listed Newton and Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers as well as retired quarterbacks Brett Favre and Kurt Warner as players that specifically were targeted for injury. As NFC South opponents, the Saints and Panthers play each other twice a season.

“When we play them it's not going to be about that,’’ Rivera said. “It's going to be us playing them trying to win our division. And that's what it should be. It should be about the game, and not what happened.’’

That’s a good message, and I’m sure Rivera will share it with his team before playing the Saints next season. Rivera’s a coach that is respected by his players and his words could keep things from getting out of hand on the field. But NFL players are intense competitors and I’m sure at least some of the Panthers will have added motivation against the Saints because they know that team was trying to injure their quarterback.

Rivera also weighed in on another issue related to the Saints’ bounty program. Former New Orleans tight end Jeremy Shockey was accused by former NFL defensive lineman and current television analyst Warren Sapp of being “the snitch’’ that started the investigation into the bounty program. Shockey, who played for Carolina last season and currently is a free agent, has issued strong denials.

“If you know Jeremy Shockey, you know that's not Jeremy Shockey,’’ Rivera said. “I know there was an insinuation that he had been the guy. But that's not Jeremy's makeup. That's not who Jeremy Shockey is. Jeremy Shockey's a guy that, if there was something going on, that's their business. I would be surprised, I really would. It wouldn't hurt him in my eyes either way because first of all I think Jeremy Shockey's a tremendous person. I think he's also a very good football person -- a football personality who understands this game.’’

Around the NFC South

March, 27, 2012
3/27/12
10:36
AM ET
I'm going to be out of pocket for the next little bit because I've got interviews with two NFC South owners. Meantime, here's a quick run through some NFC South headlines.

Television and radio analyst and former NFL player Tim Ryan told Ira Kaufman that the Buccaneers should dump troubled cornerback Aqib Talib and draft LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne with the No. 5 overall pick. I get Ryan’s point and it’s obvious Talib has a checkered past that brings up legitimate questions about his reliability in the future. But I don’t think the Bucs are ready to dump Talib just yet. New coach Greg Schiano has implied Talib will get a fresh start, if he doesn’t go to prison after a June assault trial in Texas. Even after bringing back veteran cornerback Ronde Barber for a 16th season, you could make a case that the Bucs might be wise to draft Claiborne and keep Talib. You need three quality corners in the NFL. Talib is headed into the last year of his contract. Schiano could keep him around for a season, see how things go and then make a decision on Talib’s long-term future with the team.

Remember how the Bucs were blocked by at least several teams from interviewing assistant coaches as Schiano tried to assemble his staff? There were some rumblings that the league could change its rules to allow assistants to move more freely. But it doesn’t sound like the NFL is even discussing those possibilities.

Although the Carolina Panthers remain in the picture to re-sign tight end Jeremy Shockey, agent Drew Rosenhaus made it sound as if it’s more likely his client will sign with another team.

Linebacker Curtis Lofton, who left the Falcons to sign as a free agent with the Saints, said it was a business decision and he had to do what was best for himself. Lofton, who played middle linebacker in Atlanta, said he has discussed different scenarios with Jonathan Vilma, who has played middle linebacker for the Saints, and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. Lofton said it’s possible either he or Vilma could move to outside linebacker.

Around the NFC South

March, 26, 2012
3/26/12
8:55
AM ET
PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Here’s the latest from the NFL owners meetings: Saints general manager Mickey Loomis and owner Tom Benson reportedly are at The Breakers and coach Sean Payton is expected to arrive soon. We still don’t know if any or all of them will address the media, so stay tuned.

Meantime, let’s take a look at the latest headlines from around the NFC South.

NFL Network officials said they won’t fire former Tampa Bay defensive lineman and current television analyst Warren Sapp for tweeting and reporting on air that former New Orleans tight end Jeremy Shockey was “the snitch’’ who told the NFL about the Saints’ bounty program. Shockey emphatically has denied he told the league about the program and said he was unaware of its existence.

Former Atlanta middle linebacker Curtis Lofton said there’s room for him and Jonathan Vilma in the Saints’ defense. He implied that one of them could move outside. But it’s possible Vilma could be suspended for his role in the bounty program. It’s also at least possible the Saints could release Vilma, who is coming off a subpar season that was interrupted by knee surgery. Vilma is carrying a $7.6 million cap figure and the Saints are tight against the cap.

The Bucs at least poked around on Lofton, but never had him in for an official visit. If they’re still looking around for a middle linebacker from the outside, here’s a list of the guys who remain available.

But the Bucs might no longer be looking at free-agent middle linebackers. They have hinted they could leave Mason Foster at the position he played as a rookie last season. At first, the Bucs implied Foster could move to the outside. But, after the coaching staff reviewed his film from last season, general manager Mark Dominik said it’s possible Foster could stay in the middle. Foster said he’s excited about the possibility of staying in the middle and said he feels he’ll be better prepared to handle the position with a full offseason program. He didn’t get one last year due to the lockout and had played outside linebacker in college.
PALM BEACH, Fla. -- There still is a chance free-agent tight end Jeremy Shockey could return to the Carolina Panthers.

A team official said the Panthers remain in contact with Shockey's agent and the tight end has told the team he wants to play another season. No deal is imminent but the two sides are keeping an open dialogue.

For the record, “the snitch’’ on this was not Warren Sapp.

Shockey, 31, joined the Panthers last season. Although Shockey produced a career-low 37 catches, the Panthers believe he's a perfect complement to Greg Olsen, the team’s top pass-catching tight end. There were previous reports that Shockey had told the New York Giants he was interested in playing for them. That’s where Shockey began his career before being traded to the New Orleans Saints in 2008. There have no indications the Giants have any interest in bringing Shockey back.

Update: Shockey's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, just arrived at the NFL owners meetings and confirmed that he and the Panthers continue to talk, but said no deal is imminent.
Forget the feud between Warren Sapp and Jeremy Shockey. That’s old news.

It’s time for a new chapter in the sad saga that is the fallout from the New Orleans Saints bounty program. Now, it’s Minnesota punter Chris Kluwe telling a Minnesota radio station he believes New Orleans middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma should be banned from the NFL.

"My position has always been that I think Vilma and [former New Orleans defensive coordinator] Gregg Williams should be banned for life and then [coach Sean] Payton should get a year, their GM [Mickey Loomis] should get a year and anyone who knowingly took money after a hit that injured someone should get a year as well,’’ Kluwe said.

Vilma was specifically named in the NFL’s report for putting up $10,000 of his own money to anyone who injured Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre in a Jan. 24, 2010 playoff game in New Orleans. Kluwe recalled it was obvious something out of the ordinary was going on.

"Me and [kicker] Ryan [Longwell] were kind of looking at each other on the bench going, 'Are they really going after Brett?'" Kluwe said. "Like, 'Is this really what they're doing?' But you don't want to believe that something like that is happening because you think better of the other players.

"You don't want to think that they're doing something like that. I think that was part of the thing that the league was looking at [in its investigation] was like, 'OK, we've really got to make sure that this is true because otherwise it's going to make the sport look really bad.'"

Payton has been suspended for a year and Williams has been suspended indefinitely. There has been no disciplinary action taken against Vilma yet. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is expected to first meet with representatives from the NFL Players Association before issuing any punishment for players involved.
We told you earlier in the day about the Twitter war in which former NFL defensive lineman and current NFL Network analyst Warren Sapp accused former New Orleans tight end Jeremy Shockey of being “the snitch’’ who told the NFL about the Saints’ bounty program. Shockey denied the allegation on Twitter.

He just did it again in a telephone interview on "SportsCenter."

“That is 100 percent false,’’ Shockey said. “Everyone knows how I feel about Sean Payton and the New Orleans Saints.’’

Shockey emphasized several times that he has enormous respect for Payton, the coach who will be suspended for a year. He also said the same thing about general manager Mickey Loomis, who will be suspended for the first eight games of the 2012 season.

Shockey played for the Saints from 2008 through 2010 and joined the Carolina Panthers last season. Shockey said several times that he had no knowledge of the bounty program and was never in a room where it was discussed.

“The bounty system, I really don’t know how it works because I play offense,’’ Shockey said.

Who was 'the snitch'?

March, 21, 2012
3/21/12
4:27
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The New Orleans Saints’ bounty program has prompted a pretty interesting Twitter war.

On his verified account, former NFL defensive tackle Warren Sapp said that former New Orleans tight end Jeremy Shockey was “the snitch." On his verified Twitter account, Shockey denies that. But let me caution you that some of the language from Shockey is a little rough.

I’m not saying I think Sapp or Shockey are right or wrong. But I will say I think there’s a misconception about the whole “snitch’’ thing. The league started looking into the bounty program after the Saints beat up Brett Favre and Kurt Warner on their way to winning the Super Bowl after the 2009 season. At the time, it was obvious that something like a bounty program might be going on. Shockey was playing for the Saints at the time.

The league investigated and couldn’t get enough evidence to prove it. The NFL later told the Saints to put a stop to the bounty program.

The league kept on investigating and it’s obvious that some players eventually talked. But I don’t think the whole thing was started by a “snitch."

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