NFC South: Michael Koenen

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers elected captains Monday and, unlike last year, there was no controversy.

McCown
Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David were selected the defensive captains and Michael Koenen will represent special teams. The offensive captains are Vincent Jackson and Josh McCown.

The significant news there is that McCown is a captain. The quarterback almost always should be a captain.

But that wasn’t the case for the Bucs last year. As part of the soap opera that was the start of last season, Josh Freeman was not elected as a captain. That led to speculation that former coach Greg Schiano had rigged the voting to prevent Freeman from being a captain. Only a few weeks later, Freeman was benched and eventually released.

With McCown as a captain, there’s a much healthier situation for the Bucs than a year ago at this time.
TAMPA, Fla. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp:
  • The camp with no controversy finally had a little bit Tuesday; just a little. It came during a goal-line drill at the end of practice. There was a play where running back Doug Martin ended up very near the goal line. Martin and the rest of the offensive players signaled it was a touchdown. But the team was divided. The defensive players said Martin came up short. “There’s no replay," coach Lovie Smith said. “I have final say and I thought it was good." Smith said he was pleased with the offense’s showing in the goal-line drill. “Last time we went goal line I thought the defense kind of got the better of it," Smith said. “I thought the offense came back out there strong today down there. We’ve got to get touchdowns when we get down there. We say we want to have balance. We’ve got to be able to run the ball, especially in those types of situations."
  • Although cornerback Alterraun Verner (hamstring) has missed most of training camp and been ruled out of Friday’s preseason opener at Jacksonville, Smith said he’s not all that concerned about the veteran missing so much practice time. “You can’t do much about it," Smith said. “I’ve seen too many good football players miss time in training camp. I think it has very little bearing on what happens later on. He’s been through a lot of work with us. We feel pretty confident that he’ll be able to get our defense down and be able to play at a high level."
  • The first unofficial depth chart of the year came out Tuesday, but Smith had some words of caution. “Don’t put too much into the depth chart," Smith said. “The league says we have to put out a depth chart today, so we put out a depth chart today. The depth chart will mean a little bit more once we play a football game against someone else." The initial depth chart was generous to the veterans and sold some rookies short. Receiver Mike Evans and Austin Seferian-Jenkins continue to get some work with the first team, but they were listed as backups on the depth chart.
  • A couple of guys that have had trouble catching the ball came up with nice catches Tuesday. Rookie Robert Herron had a nice catch in traffic. Running back Jeff Demps made a nice catch on a deep pass from Mike Glennon. Demps also had a nice run.
  • The Bucs signed defensive ends Ryne Giddins and James Ruffin. Linebacker Jeremy Grable and safety Mycal Swaim were waived.
  • The Bucs will practice at 2 p.m. Wednesday. The session is closed to the public.

Surveying the Buccaneers' roster

September, 1, 2013
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After making their cuts Saturday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a roster that looks a lot like what I projected Friday.

I hit on 51 of 53 roster spots. Defensive tackle Gary Gibson and offensive lineman Cody Wallace were the two guys I had making the team who didn’t make the final cut. I didn’t have tight end Tim Wright and safety Keith Tandy making the roster, but they did.

Let’s take a brief overview of the composition of Tampa Bay’s roster:

QB (3): Josh Freeman, Mike Glennon and Dan Orlovsky

Comment: The question is whether Glennon or Orlovsky will be the No. 2 quarterback. My thinking is the Bucs wouldn’t have held onto Orlovsky if he’s going to be No. 3.

RB (5): Doug Martin, Erik Lorig, Brian Leonard, Mike James and Peyton Hillis

Comment: Leonard, James and Hillis all looked good in the preseason. They all can be used to help keep Martin fresh.

WR (5): Vincent Jackson, Mike Williams, Kevin Ogletree, Tiquan Underwood and Eric Page

Comment: The first four were pretty much set in stone. Page made the roster mostly because he’s going to be the return man.

TE (4): Luke Stocker, Tom Crabtree, Nate Byham and Tim Wright

Comment: Presumably, the Bucs kept Wright around because they expect Crabtree to miss some time with an ankle injury.

OL (8): Donald Penn, Carl Nicks, Jeremy Zuttah, Davin Joseph, Demar Dotson, Gabe Carimi, Ted Larsen and Jamon Meredith

Comment: By carrying only three backups, the Bucs appear to be optimistic that Nicks won’t miss too much time due to a staph infection.

DL (9): Adrian Clayborn, Da'Quan Bowers, Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, Trevor Scott, William Gholston, Steven Means, Gerald McCoy, Akeem Spence and Derek Landri

Comment: McCoy, Spence and Landri are the only true defensive tackles. The Bucs must be planning to use at least one of their ends on the inside at times.

LB (6): Lavonte David, Mason Foster, Jonathan Casillas, Dekoda Watson, Najee Goode and Adam Hayward

Comment: The starters have a chance to be one of the league’s best units, and the backups aren’t bad either.

DB (10): Darrelle Revis, Johnthan Banks, Leonard Johnson, Danny Gorrer, Rashaan Melvin, Michael Adams, Dashon Goldson, Mark Barron, Ahmad Black and Keith Tandy

Comment: This should be the most improved area on the team.

Specialists (3): Rian Lindell, Andrew Economos and Michael Koenen.

Comment: Lindell is the third projected kicker the Bucs have had. Connor Barth and Lawrence Tynes both are out with injuries.

Projecting the Buccaneers roster

August, 30, 2013
8/30/13
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Roster cuts don’t have to be made until 6 p.m. Saturday. But let’s have a little fun in the meantime.

Let’s take a look at my best guess as to how the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 53-man roster will shape up:

Quarterbacks (3): Josh Freeman, Mike Glennon and Dan Orlovsky

Analysis: A rough outing by Glennon in the preseason finale might have convinced the Bucs it’s best to keep Orlovsky around.

Running backs and fullbacks (5): Doug Martin, Brian Leonard, Mike James, Peyton Hillis and Erik Lorig

Analysis: Hillis is very much on the bubble. The fact he doesn't play special teams could hurt him. But he also could stick around because he has the size to be a backup for Lorig at fullback and could be a valuable short-yardage rusher.

Tight ends (3): Luke Stocker, Tom Crabtree and Nate Byham

Analysis: The Bucs may have to keep Danny Noble if Crabtree’s ankle injury is going to keep him out for an extended period.

Wide receivers (5): Vincent Jackson, Mike Williams, Kevin Ogletree, Tiquan Underwood and Eric Page

Analysis: Page has emerged as the return man and that should earn him the final roster spot.

Offensive line (9): Davin Joseph, Carl Nicks, Donald Penn, Demar Dotson, Jeremy Zuttah, Gabe Carimi, Ted Larsen, Jamon Meredith and Cody Wallace

Analysis: The Bucs could carry an extra lineman if it looks like Nicks will be out for an extended period.

Defensive line (10): Gerald McCoy, Akeem Spence, Adrian Clayborn, Daniel Te’o-Nesheim, Da’Quan Bowers, Gary Gibson, Trevor Scott, William Gholston, Steven Means and Derek Landri

Analysis: The last few spots are very competitive and the Bucs could look to bring in a defensive tackle from the waiver wire.

Linebackers (6): Lavonte David, Mason Foster, Dekoda Watson, Jonathan Casillas, Adam Hayward and Najee Goode

This position is pretty clear-cut unless the Bucs bring in someone off waivers.

Defensive backs (9): Darrelle Revis, Johnthan Banks, Dashon Goldson, Mark Barron, Leonard Johnson, Danny Gorrer, Michael Adams, Rashaan Melvin and Ahmad Black.

Analysis: Melvin is very much on the bubble.

Specialists (3): Michael Koenen, Andrew Economos and Rian Lindell.

Analysis: Kicker Lawrence Tynes still is recovering from a staph infection and could end up on injured reserve.

NFC South afternoon update

July, 31, 2013
7/31/13
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Time for a spin through some odds and ends from around the division:

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

The team moved punter Michael Koenen to the active roster. Koenen had been on the inactive list at the start of camp due to a toe injury.

Martin Fennelly has a nice column on Annie Roberts. She’s the mother of soon-to-be Hall of Famer Warren Sapp and undoubtedly played a big role in shaping his career.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Forbes reports that Saint owner Tom Benson will collect about $400 million in state subsidies through 2025. The report says the lease agreement Benson signed for the Mercedes-Benz Superdome four years ago is one of the most complex and lucrative in NFL history.

Seneca Wallace, who is competing with Luke McCown for the backup quarterback job, missed Wednesday’s practice with a groin injury.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Scott Fowler writes that defensive end Greg Hardy could end up being the most outlandish character in franchise history. Read Fowler’s column and you’ll understand why. The Panthers haven't gotten a lot of attention in recent years. But, if they start winning, Hardy has the potential to become a darling for the national media.

ATLANTA FALCONS

Daniel Cox has a story on former Atlanta offensive lineman Quinn Ojinnaka, who is pursuing a career in professional wrestling.

The team had the day off and will return to practice Thursday.
Tampa Bay cornerback Darrelle Revis will be on the field when the Buccaneers hold their first training camp practice Thursday, coach Greg Schiano said Wednesday.

Revis, Tampa Bay’s key offseason acquisition, is coming off major knee surgery. Schiano implied he will ease Revis in.

“He’s in good shape,’’ Schiano told the media. “I want to play him back in to cutting and moving with other guys, not just himself.’’

Schiano said he hasn't decided if Revis will play in any preseason games. Schiano said he has individual work plans for Revis and guards Davin Joseph and Carl Nicks, who also are coming off injuries.

Schiano said the only player who won’t be ready for the start of camp is punter Michael Koenen. According to Schiano, Koenen injured his toe while chasing his son at the beach last week. But Schiano said the injury is only expected to sideline Koenen for a day or two.

Links: Tiki claims Sapp 'is an idiot'

June, 25, 2013
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Atlanta Falcons

Defensive end John Abraham is still a free agent, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Jeff Schultz says the Falcons could use the veteran's help.

Running back Steven Jackson "has always been among the most impressive physical specimens in the league, and now he’ll have a chance to show off the well-rounded game that comes with it," writes Robert Mays of Grantland's Triangle blog.

Here are five under-the-radar battles that will determine if the Falcons will have some quality depth in 2013, courtesy of the AJC's D. Orlando Ledbetter.

Falcons rookies are getting pumped up for training camp -- and it's only June. Linebacker Brian Banks tells the team's website, "To finally put on pads, to finally get physical out here -- Steven Jackson is the same size as me. It makes no sense how big he is, but I can’t wait to go against him and everybody else."

Carolina Panthers

Who is the most overrated player in Panthers' franchise history? If you immediately blurt out Sean Gilbert, NFL.com has a different suggestion.

Offensive coordinator Mike Shula tells the National Football Post that the Panthers are streamlining the game plan for QB Cam Newton. Shula: "We're looking at different ways for him to think faster and play faster on the field.”

Contrary to one online report, running back Jonathan Stewart does not have cancer.

Linebacker Chase Blackburn doesn't hesitate when asked why he wants to be a Carolina Panther: "I've won two championships; I want to win more."

New Orleans Saints

Marques Colston is now one of 14 players on the Saints' 90-man roster over 30, and one of the 14 left of the dwindling numbers from the 2009 Super Bowl team, but Katherine Terrell of NOLA.com reports the wide receiver is showing no signs of slowing down.

Athlon Sports analyzes the Saints' 2013 schedule, including a "3-1 mark to start the year is a very real possibility."

The Times-Picayune continues its series on the Saints' top 25 players, including No. 19 center Brian de la Puente.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Can the Bucs afford to have the NFL's highest paid punter in Michael Koenen?

More from the former NFL players gossip mill, Tiki Barber responds to former Buccaneer Warren Sapp's comments on Michael Strahan. "Warren’s an idiot. He just wants to say things to be idiotic. I played with Stray for my whole career. He is the greatest of the great. He is a great teammate, he kept things light, but on game day he was as serious as a heart attack and it showed in his play."
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers continue to show they’re serious about having competition at just about every position.

The latest example of that came Tuesday. The Bucs have signed veteran kicker Nate Kaeding, according to the Tampa Tribune’s Roy Cummings.

Kaeding spent two games last season with the Miami Dolphins. Prior to that, he had been with the San Diego Chargers since 2004.

Tampa Bay already has one of the best young kickers in the NFL in Connor Barth and it’s likely he’ll keep the job. But a little competition can’t hurt. The Bucs followed the same theory when they signed punter Chas Henry to compete with Michael Koenen and they’re taking a similar approach at other positions.

NFC South afternoon update

February, 13, 2013
2/13/13
4:26
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Time for an afternoon run through some odds and ends from around the division:

ATLANTA FALCONS

Quarterback Matt Ryan, who sprained his left shoulder in the NFC Championship Game, has fully recovered and started working out in the weight room.

North Dakota’s boxing commission has suspended a fighter for taking a dive in a recent bout with former Atlanta defensive end Ray Edwards. Too bad Edwards wasn’t able to find offensive tackles who would take a dive. If he had, he still might have a job with the Falcons.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

While making a pitch to state officials for $62.5 million in funding, owner Jerry Richardson said he would never move the team. Although there were the usual Los Angeles rumblings a while back, I can’t see Richardson, who is so deeply rooted in the Carolinas, ever even attempting to move his team out of Charlotte.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

The team reportedly will interview former Kansas State coach Rob Prince as a potential running backs coach. Bret Ingalls has held that role and remains with the team. But the Saints reportedly plan to switch Ingalls over to offensive line coach.

The Saints have the best regular-season record of any division team since the start of the 2006 season.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

The Bucs have signed punter Chas Henry. I don’t think incumbent punter Michael Koenen has much to worry about. Henry will get a look through the offseason and preseason, but Koenen has a pretty firm grip on the job. But coach Greg Schiano has made it clear he wants competition at every position and that even includes special teams.
Drew Brees, Matt RyanUS PresswireRecent history has raised the intensity between Drew Brees' Saints and Matt Ryan's Falcons.
For at least one week, it really doesn’t matter that the New Orleans Saints got off to an 0-4 start or that Bountygate seems to have been airing as long as “As The World Turns."

The Saints host the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, and that means only one thing. The NFC South’s best rivalry -- and one of the NFL’s best rivalries in recent seasons -- will take center stage, and everything else will be forgotten.

Yeah, the Saints are 3-5 and have had more turmoil than perhaps any team in NFL history. Yeah, the Falcons are 8-0 and cruising through a sea of tranquility.

But none of that matters. If the Saints are going to step up and be the Saints of old in just one game this season, it will be this one. If the Falcons are going to slide back in just one game this season (and we’ll discuss their past playoff issues when the time comes), it will be this one.

These teams simply don’t like each other. Although they came into the NFL at roughly the same time (in the mid-1960s) and always had a bit of a geographic rivalry, this turned into a full-fledged feud in only recent years. That’s largely because the teams have been good at the same time, egos have gotten out of control and been bruised, and it’s all made for some great entertainment.

Let’s take a stroll down memory lane and look at some incidents that have come to define this rivalry.

Photo flap: I’ll start with a game in the Georgia Dome late in the 2010 season. In a classic battle, the Saints edged the Falcons 17-14 to clinch a playoff spot. But it wasn’t so much what happened in this game that made it memorable. It was what happened after the game.

A group of New Orleans defensive players went to the locker room and then came back out onto the field to have their pictures taken on the Falcons logo. The Falcons, a team that tries very hard to keep a low profile and stay out of public controversies, were privately offended and irate.

The Saints, a team that’s not shy about anything, displayed the photos like trophies. New Orleans defensive tackle Remi Ayodele used some graphic terms to describe what the Saints were doing, even though I’m certain he was speaking only in the figurative sense.

After Ayodele’s comments went viral, New Orleans assistant head coach Joe Vitt tried to douse the flames by saying how much the Saints respected the Falcons. But, in perhaps breaking an unwritten rule (don’t celebrate on another team’s logo), the damage already was done.

Pouring it on? Then, almost exactly a year removed from the logo fiasco, there was the night in New Orleans when a lot of people (including some in the Falcons' organization) thought coach Sean Payton was running up the score as he let Drew Brees continue throwing as he set an NFL record for passing yards in a season and the Saints defeated the Falcons 45-16. In Atlanta's locker room that night, there were more than a few players who felt disrespected, although they could have prevented it by slowing Brees.

Statue war: Respect -– or a lack of it -– can flow both ways. That became obvious this summer when the Saints unveiled a statue of one of the most popular players in franchise history (Steve Gleason) making perhaps the biggest play in franchise history.

The statue replicates Gleason’s punt block in the first game back in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. But the other figure in the moment, former Atlanta punter Michael Koenen, has no Falcons logos and his name doesn’t appear on the back of his figure.

The Falcons said they realize the significance of Gleason’s play in the history of the Saints and the city of New Orleans but they were advised by the NFL not to allow their trademark to be used in connection with things out of their market. The Falcons could have made an exception to the NFL’s guidelines but elected not to.

That angered a lot of New Orleans fans. Anger is a big part of any rivalry and doesn’t have to be limited just to fans.

Burning bridges: We were reminded of that in the offseason when Atlanta linebacker Curtis Lofton was a free agent. Lofton eventually signed with the Saints and, throughout the offseason, used every opportunity to take subtle -- sometimes not even subtle -- shots at his former team.

Lofton really drew the line in the sand when he said one of the reasons he signed with the Saints was because he wanted to be with a team that had a chance to go to the Super Bowl. That one didn’t go unnoticed in the Falcons’ offices or locker room in Flowery Branch, Ga. But, long before that, lots of lines were crossed both ways in this rivalry.

With the Saints off to a bad start, this game probably has no playoff implications for them, and the Falcons could pretty much put an end to New Orleans' playoff hopes with a victory. But the Saints would love nothing better than to knock the Falcons from the ranks of the unbeaten.

Heck, if the Saints could win and send the Falcons into a tailspin, it might make their crazy season worthwhile.

If the Falcons win, it keeps them marching toward their ultimate goal -- the Super Bowl -- and that could provide further motivation for them Sunday. For those who haven’t thought that far ahead, the Super Bowl is in New Orleans this season.

Sunday might as well be the Super Bowl for the Saints. They want to derail the Falcons somehow, because the last thing anyone in New Orleans wants to see is Atlanta players celebrating in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in February.

Quick hits on the Buccaneers

October, 26, 2012
10/26/12
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TAMPA, Fla. -- Coach Greg Schiano and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers just finished their media interviews and reflected on Thursday night’s victory against Minnesota.

Let’s take a quick run through some of the highlights:
  • Defensive end Michael Bennett appeared to injure his ankle Thursday night. But fans can relax. Both Bennett and Schiano said the injury is nothing major. Plus, Bennett has a couple extra days to recover.
  • Defensive end Da’Quan Bowers, who made his season debut after being activated off the physically unable to perform list earlier Thursday, participated in 12 plays. Bowers, who came back from a torn Achilles tendon, said he felt fine Friday. Bowers said he expects his playing time to gradually increase in the coming weeks.
  • The best T-shirt of the day was worn by punter Michael Koenen. It said, “Punters are people too.’’
  • Running back Doug Martin, perhaps the biggest star of the Minnesota game, had the footballs from his two touchdowns in his locker. Martin said he was inundated by calls and text messages from friends and family after the game. He’s also aware of the fact he got a lot of attention from the national media, but said he’s looking to lose his college nickname “Muscle Hamster." When asked if he had any suggestions for a nickname he’d prefer, Martin said “T-Rex Something."
  • Schiano said the Bucs were very conscious of the fact Martin got 29 carries, which is a few more than they’d like to give him. But Schiano said the team kept feeding Martin the ball because he had the hot hand.

NFC South afternoon update

August, 1, 2012
8/01/12
5:31
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Let's take a quick look at the day's headlines from around the NFC South:

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Tampa Bay punter Michael Koenen said he would not have minded if the Atlanta Falcons had given permission to use their trademarks in the “Rebirth’’ statue unveiled last week outside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The statue memorializes Steve Gleason’s legendary blocked punt against the Falcons in the first game played in the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina in 2006. Koenen was Atlanta’s punter at the time. The NFL holds the rights to the use of a team’s trademarks outside their home market and the NFL asked the Falcons if they’d like to make an exception in this situation. The Falcons declined. Koenen said he has met Gleason, who has ALS, and has enormous respect for him. Koenen said he might visit the statue when the Bucs play the Saints this season.

After being troubled by injuries in his final few seasons in Indianapolis, tight end Dallas Clark appears to be totally healthy in Tampa Bay’s training camp. If he can stay that way, it would be a big plus for the Bucs. I don’t think Clark ever will be the 100-catch guy he once was, but he can provide a nice veteran target for quarterback Josh Freeman.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Before playing in the Hall of Fame Game on Sunday, the Saints will visit the Pro Football Hall of Fame and view the exhibit celebrating the Super Bowl championship from the 2009 season. That’s a natural motivational tactic. Let the guys that were on that team see and remember the work that went into the championship and let them tell the young guys all about it. And I'd be willing to bet that assistant head coach Joe Vitt will remind the troops that this season's Super Bowl will be played in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

With starting cornerbacks Jabari Greer and Patrick Robinson sitting out with injuries, Johnny Patrick is making the most of his opportunity. Patrick had a highlight play in Wednesday’s practice, intercepting a Drew Brees pass.

ATLANTA FALCONS

Chris Vivlamore ponders how good the receiving duo of Roddy White and Julio Jones can be. He also rolls out a list of his top receiving combinations in history. He has Pittsburgh’s Lynn Swann and John Stallworth at the top. We already know White is a great receiver and all indications suggest Jones can become one. But Jones needs a few big years and White needs to continue to keep playing at a high level for a few more years before you can mention them with the likes of Swann and Stallworth.

Speaking of Atlanta receivers, Knox Bardeen explores the battle between Kevin Cone and Drew Davis for the No. 5 receiver spot. Harry Douglas already is settled in as the No. 3 receiver and Kerry Meier is likely to stick around because he has value on special teams.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Defensive tackle Ron Edwards is healthy and ready to go after missing all of last season with an injury. Everyone talks about linebacker Jon Beason’s return from injury and that’s very significant. But I think Edwards’ return is just as important. He was brought in to bring the kind of run-stopping presence the Panthers have lacked since the long-ago departure of Kris Jenkins.

Tom Sorensen writes he doesn’t expect Jeff Otah to stick with the Panthers after his trade to the New York Jets was voided by a failed physical. I’m in full agreement with Sorensen. In fact, I’ve been checking my e-mail all afternoon because I’m expecting an announcement that the Panthers have released Otah. Time to check the e-mail again.
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- There are two sides to every story and we’ve only heard the New Orleans Saints’ version of what has sparked controversy about the “Rebirth’’ statue that was unveiled outside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome last week.

The statue depicts Steve Gleason’s legendary punt block against the Atlanta Falcons in the first game in the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina. The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported that the Falcons had refused to allow the Saints and the statue’s sculptor to use their logo in the statue. The other figure in the statue is former Atlanta punter Michael Koenen. But the statue contains none of the Falcons’ trademarks.

Falcons president Rich McKay just explained the Falcons’ side of things and said this was not a case of spiting a division rival. There were other issues involved, McKay said.

“The first thing that happens in a request for marks is that it has to go to the league because we don’t own the marks,’’ McKay told ESPN.com. “The league does for anything outside of our market. When they brought it to us, we discussed it with them and we came to the conclusion that, obviously the fact they're honoring the moment is fantastic. We were all there. It was an incredible moment for the city. It was not something that we wanted to memorialize the game. So we kind of looked at it as though we didn’t want necessarily a statue in front of the building that had our marks. Albeit, we all understand how important the moment was for the city and what they had gone through. We all lived in that moment and it was a pretty special thing. Even losing, it was still a pretty special thing. But it was just something that when we talked to the league about it, we said we didn’t think it was appropriate to put the marks on it. Everybody knew what the game was. Everybody knew what the moment was.’’

McKay said he received a letter from the league months ago and a decision was made quickly. The initial report said the Saints tried to appeal to Falcons owner Arthur Blank for permission to use the logo. McKay said Blank was not involved in the process. McKay said after the decision was made he never heard another word about the statue until the report came out last week.

“We never intended to offend the New Orleans fans and we certainly didn’t intend to make light of the moment, which was truly special,’’ McKay said.
In recent years, the rivalry between the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons has been the best in the NFC South. Heck, I think it’s become one of the NFL’s best rivalries.

There have been some great games and even some heated words, especially after a 2010 game in which the Saints took pictures on the Falcons’ logo after a victory in the Georgia Dome. Add on this year’s free-agent defection by linebacker Curtis Lofton from Atlanta to New Orleans and the rivalry should only go stronger.

But now there is evidence the rivalry may be going too far. James Varney reports that the Falcons refused to allow their logo and images to be included in a “Rebirth’’ statue of Steve Gleason that was unveiled outside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Friday. The statue captures a classic moment in Saints history.

It portrays Gleason’s crucial block of a punt in the first game the Saints played in the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina. The 2006 game was against the Falcons and Gleason blocked Michael Koenen’s punt.

There’s a punter in the statue, but he’s not in an Atlanta uniform and Koenen’s name isn’t on the back of the punter’s figure in the statue.

I understand this was a great moment for the Saints, but not for the Falcons. But I think that not allowing the use of Atlanta’s logo and images might be going a bit too far.

Anyone that walks by that statue that knows anything about history knows that the punt block game against the Falcons and that Koenen, who now plays for Tampa Bay, was the punter.

NFC South afternoon update

July, 27, 2012
7/27/12
6:14
PM ET
METAIRIE, La. -- I'm heading out to watch the New Orleans Saints practice (they’re indoors again, due to weather). I’ll be back after practice and the subsequent interviews are finished.

Meantime, let’s take a look at what’s going on around the NFC South.

First it was center Ryan Kalil taking out a full-page ad to say the Panthers would win a Super Bowl this season. Now, it’s Carolina wide receiver Steve Smith saying the offense can “double’’ its output from last season. That may seem very lofty and I’m sure general manager Marty Hurney is turning red even before he gets too much exposure to the sun in Spartanburg, S.C. What’s wrong with optimism? The Panthers have had a few rough years. Things are looking up due to last year’s strong finish and the play of quarterback Cam Newton. It’s July. I think it’s a good thing that the Panthers are arriving at camp with high hopes.

Stephen Holder takes a look at where the Bucs may turn to replace defensive tackle Brian Price, who was traded to Chicago on Thursday. Contrary to popular belief, Amobi Okoye might not be the automatic new starter next to Gerald McCoy. Okoye is not the traditional nose tackle and could end up rotating in for McCoy. Gary Gibson, who is bulkier, might be a better fit. He’s bounced around the NFL a bit and he played for Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano at Rutgers. Roy Miller also could be in the mix.

The Saints unveiled their “rebirth statue’’, featuring a replica of Steve Gleason’s legendary punt block against the Atlanta Falcons in the first game in the refurbished Mercedes-Benz Superdome after Hurricane Katrina. You can see a picture of the statue here. Please note, the punter is Michael Koenen, who now plays for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Jay Adams writes that Atlanta’s players are giving new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter and defensive coordinator Mike Nolan input on what they think the schemes should include. I hope Matt Ryan is in Koetter’s ear saying something like, “No more rollouts. Oh, and let’s at least try a screen pass now and then."

An autopsy says that former Atlanta safety Ray Easterling had brain damage consistent with signs of repeated concussions.

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