NFC South: Peter Finney

Around the NFC South

September, 29, 2010
Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris compared rookie running back to LeGarrette Blount to Mike Alstott. It would be nice if it turns out that way. But let’s see a little bit more of Blount before we get too carried away with the comparisons.

The Panthers signed Chris Morris on Wednesday. That will help give a struggling offensive line a little more depth. But it’s not going to solve everything. Morris was a seventh-round pick by Oakland in 2006 and started 10 games for the Raiders last season.

The Bucs gave rookie Arrelious Benn some first-team work at wide receiver. If they’re doing that in a bye week, it’s a pretty good strong Benn will be starting opposite fellow rookie Mike Williams when the Bucs return to play and Sammie Stroughter will be allowed to focus on being a slot receiver. That’s the plan the Bucs had all along, but Benn took a little longer than Williams to catch on to things in the preseason.

Outstanding columnist Peter Finney checked in with a couple of legendary New Orleans kickers, Tom Dempsey and Morten Andersen, to get a view of what Garrett Hartley is going through as he tries to find his accuracy.
Daryl in Springfield, N.J., writes: Thanks for the recent blurb about the Bucs not being cheap. From what I remember, a lot of people called Tampa cheap when they let Antonio Bryant walk instead of giving him a long term contract. Bryant has yet to take part in the Bengals training camp due to lingering injury issues. The Terrell Owens signing seems like further proof that Cincinnati doesn't trust Bryant to be a starter. What looked like cheap in the offseason appears to be a brilliant move now.

Pat Yasinskas: Well, if people called the Buccaneers cheap for not re-signing Bryant, then they had no idea what they were talking about. The decision not to re-sign Bryant had nothing to do with money. Bryant made that decision for the Bucs with his actions last season and the decision was made long before the season was even close to being over. Bryant was a receiver who the Bucs rescued off the scrap heap and he responded with a big season in 2008. After that, Bryant began making a lot of noise about wanting a huge, long-term contract. The Bucs wanted a little more evidence that Bryant really had turned his life and career around before making a long-term commitment. That’s why they made him a restricted free agent last year, which basically guaranteed Bryant $10 million for one season. Bryant kept griping about that, didn’t really produce on the field, blamed his sore knee on the plane trip home from London, took repeated shots at rookie quarterback Josh Freeman and questioned the coaching staff. That’s the textbook version of how to play your way out of any town. I wrote multiple times late last season that Bryant was on his way out. The first time I wrote that, a pretty important figure with the Bucs called me up and said, “That’s a pretty good read on the AB situation." Again, that one wasn’t about money and the Bucs are looking pretty good right now for letting Bryant walk.

Chad in Las Vegas writes: Peter Finney is going to be honored at the Hall of Fame ceremonies. Can you give the people that aren't familiar with his work with the New Orleans Saints some background on him? I grew up in N.O. and enjoyed his articles and commentary with The Times Picayune.

Pat Yasinskas: I am thrilled that you asked because I don’t want Peter to be overshadowed by the players inducted into the Hall of Fame Saturday. Peter is the legendary sports columnist for The New Orleans Times Picayune. He will receive the Dick McCann Award for long-time excellence in writing about football. I’ve known Peter since I’ve been covering the league, but have gotten to be around him even more since I’ve been doing the NFC South Blog. He’s one of the true gentlemen in our business and a man who doesn’t have to ask for respect because he’s earned so much of it. I think of Peter a lot like I think of Tom McEwen, the legendary former sports editor of The Tampa Tribune and the man who first hired me in this business. I had the honor of sitting next to McEwen at hundreds of games. I didn’t get to work that closely with Peter, but my buddy Jeff Duncan has. So let’s turn it over to Dunk to go a little deeper on the Finney story. One other thing on Finney -- he's the guy that made the presentation to the voters that helped get Rickey Jackson elected to the Hall of Fame.

Jeff in Charleston, S.C., writes: I was dumbfounded when I read (on another media outlet) that one of the biggest defensive-line stories in Falcons training camp is Jamaal Anderson. He supposedly has impressed from the DE position since camp started and continues to improve. Is this legit or just coaches being hopeful?

Pat Yasinskas: I’ll be able to tell you more Monday when I get up to Atlanta’s camp and see Anderson in person and have a chance to talk to the coaches. However, my gut reaction on this is it’s the old hope-springs-eternal story. There are guys everywhere ever year that we all write about how this might be the year things are really going to turn around. Think Dwayne Jarrett and Michael Clayton. Hey, I think I’ve even written about high hopes for Anderson at some point in the past couple of preseasons. You never know. But the bottom line is that Anderson, so far, has been a flop as a defensive end. He’s been adequate when he has moved inside to defensive tackle.

Adam in Columbia, S.C., writes: The feeling so many fans and media have that Panthers will not be good because of their "youth movement" just doesn't make sense to me. Take for example the Chargers. They have a younger roster than the Panthers and are once again considered to be an elite team in the NFL. Why does youth in the Panthers camp spell doom, but it is ignored on the side of the Chargers? Smells like a double standard to me.

Pat Yasinskas: Valid point and I think the Panthers will have a winning record. However, to answer your question, I think the perception on the Panthers is that they have a lot of question marks and a lot of people really don’t know anything about Matt Moore. That isn’t the case with San Diego’s Philip Rivers.

PFWA awards for Brees, Finney

June, 8, 2010
We’ve got two NFC South winners among this year’s Pro Football Writers of America Awards.

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees won the Good Guy Award for the player who is most helpful to the media.

"I am honored to be recognized by the Professional Football Writers with their annual Good Guy Award," Brees said. “The media is our strongest connection to our fans and it is important that we make ourselves available and be accountable when the time calls for us to meet with the media. The media tell our story and I recognize the important job that they have. Joining a select group of previous winners such as Kurt Warner, Brett Favre, LaDainian Tomlinson, Tiki Barber and Jerome Bettis shows that it is not only important to lead on the field like these guys have, but also to lead off of it as well.”

The other winner also is from New Orleans. Peter Finney has won the McCann Award, for long and distinguished service to the media. Finney is a long-time columnist for the New Orleans Times-Picayune and one of the finest gentlemen in the business.

Finney has been covering sports in the New Orleans area for 64 years. He covered 40 straight Super Bowls after missing the first two because his editor at the time thought the game was “just a fad."

Finney also represents the New Orleans market on the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s board of selectors and was responsible for successfully presenting Rickey Jackson’s case for election. Jackson will be inducted in August.
I just sent in my final ballot for the Pro Football Writers of America annual awards and it’s fair to say there were a number of NFC South votes on there.

The ballot had been narrowed down to five finalists for each award. I had made an NFC South nomination in each of the five categories and I do have to admit I’m a little disappointed that former Tampa Tribune sports editor Tom McEwen was not a finalist for the McCann Award and former Carolina fullback Brad Hoover didn’t make the final cut for the Good Guy Award. I had nominated both and felt very strongly about those nominations.

Anyway, we’ll move on to the people who are finalists for each of the awards. Tampa Bay running back Cadillac Williams, who has overcome two major knee injuries, is a finalist for the Halas Award, which is given to the person who overcomes the most adversity.

Atlanta’s top-notch public relations staff of Reggie Roberts, Frank Kleha, Matt Conti and Brian Cearns is a finalist for the Rozelle Award, for the league’s most helpful PR staff, for the second straight year.

Longtime New Orleans Times-Picayune columnist Peter Finney is a finalist for the McCann Award, which goes to a writer for long-term contributions to the business. That helped me absorb the McEwen blow. Finney is to New Orleans what McEwen is to Tampa Bay -- a sports face of the area. McEwen gave me my first job in the business, so I’m admittedly partial. But I’ve gotten to know Finney through the years and he’s a fine gentleman and a very worthy candidate.

New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees is a finalist for the Good Guy Award, which goes to the player who does the most to help the media do its job. No argument against Brees. One other thing on Brees I should share with you: A lot of times, the media might paint a guy to be better than he is just because he can throw a football -- or run fast or whatever. But Brees is one of those guys who is every bit as good of a person as you'd imagine.

There is no NFC South tie to the five finalists for the Horrigan Award, which goes to a person who is not a player or public relations worker, who does the most to help the media do its job. I made a nomination for a certain NFC South executive. He didn’t make the cut, so I won’t name him. He’d be embarrassed (and turn red) anyway because he doesn’t like attention.