NFC South: Pro Football Writers of America

Around the NFC South

December, 29, 2012
12/29/12
11:04
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Time for a look at the top Saturday morning headlines from around the division:

ATLANTA FALCONS

Safety Thomas DeCoud won the Good Guy Award from the local chapter of the Pro Football Writers of America. Good choice. DeCoud is one of the best interviews in the NFC South.

The Falcons have declared safety William Moore (hamstring) and cornerback Christopher Owens (hamstring) out for Sunday’s game with Tampa Bay. Defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux (ribs), receiver Roddy White (knee), defensive tackle Corey Peters (knee) and defensive end Cliff Matthews (hamstring) are listed as questionable. Since the Falcons already have clinched all there is to clinch, I’d expect coach Mike Smith to be very cautious with the guys that are questionable.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Quarterback Cam Newton was fined $31,000 for kicking an opponent and making physical contact with an official during Sunday’s win against Oakland. Defensive end Greg Hardy was fined $25,000 for hitting quarterback Carson Palmer with his helmet. Safety Charles Godfrey was fined $21,000 for hitting a receiver in the head.

Center Geoff Hangartner, running back Jonathan Stewart and linebacker James Anderson all are listed as questionable for Sunday’s game with New Orleans.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Mike Triplett writes that it’s a good thing the Saints and coach Sean Payton agreed to a contract extension when they did. If this situation had dragged into next week when other teams start firing coaches, things could have gotten ugly. Payton could have been at the center of a bidding war and the Saints could have permanently lost their coach, which would have been catastrophic.

Running back Pierre Thomas, defensive tackle Akiem Hicks and cornerback Jabari Greer have all been declared out for the final game because of injuries.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Stephen Holder speculates that the Bucs might hold cornerback Eric Wright, who just returned from a suspension, out of Sunday’s game with Atlanta. It makes perfect sense to hold Wright out to avoid injury, if the Bucs are planning to release him after the season. I think that’s a good possibility. I think it’s highly unlikely the Bucs will pay Wright $7.75 million in base salary when they can free up the exact same amount in salary-cap space by releasing him. The only way I see Wright staying with the Bucs is if he takes a pay cut. Wright’s first season with the Bucs was plagued by injuries and the suspension and, when he was on the field, he didn’t do anything special.

Tampa Bay's defensive backfield has taken lots of criticism, but here's an article that praises the play of the front seven.

Around the NFC South

January, 22, 2012
1/22/12
10:02
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Before the conference championship games get going later Sunday, let’s take a look at some of the top headlines from around the NFC South.

There was at least one report that said Joe Philbin was a finalist for the Tampa Bay job before he became Miami’s head coach. If so, that may be a sign that the Bucs are getting around to narrowing their list and potentially bringing back a few candidates for second interviews. But I’m not sure the report about Philbin is true. I also wouldn’t be surprised if the Bucs still interview a candidate or two still involved in the postseason. There has been a lot of speculation that the Bucs may want to interview New York Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell.

Roddy White has been recognized by the Atlanta chapter of the Pro Football Writers of America with the Good Guy award. The honor is supposed to go to the player who is most helpful to the media in doing its job. I think the writers got this one right. As someone who has spent a fair amount of time covering the Falcons, I can verify that White is accessible after wins and losses. More importantly, he’s a guy who is almost always willing to speak candidly.

There’s a lot of excitement in New Orleans about the hiring of defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. But Jeff Duncan notes that former coordinators Gregg Williams, Gary Gibbs, Rick Venturi and Ron Zook also arrived with a lot of excitement and left without big production. He notes the last defensive coordinator to leave New Orleans on good terms was Monte Kiffin in 1995. In other words, Spagnuolo has a great reputation, but he’ll have to get the defense to produce to keep that reputation.

Here’s an overview of Carolina’s linebacker situation for 2012. The Panthers have James Anderson, a quality player at one outside spot. But middle linebacker Jon Beason and outside linebacker Thomas Davis missed most of the 2011 season with injuries. Beason’s return should boost this unit considerably. But there are no guarantees. His lengthy history of injuries and the structure of his contract make it likely the Panthers will cut Davis. They eventually could bring him back at a lower salary, but Davis has torn his ACL three times and it remains to be seen if he still can be anywhere close to the player he used to be. Jordan Senn did some promising things last season and could factor into the mix going forward. But backup middle linebacker Dan Connor is a potential free agent. The Panthers may have to add a little linebacker depth in the draft or free agency.

Hitting the NFC South links

December, 22, 2011
12/22/11
5:15
PM ET
Lots of ground to cover in the NFC South on this Thursday. We’ll start it off with one that’s close to my heart.

Carolina cornerback Captain Munnerlyn has been selected as the winner of the Tom Berry Good Guy Award by the Carolinas chapter of the Pro Football Writers of America. For those who didn’t know him, Tom Berry was the long-time Panthers beat writer for the High-Point (N.C.) Enterprise. I had the pleasure of being around Tom frequently in my days on the Panthers beat and he was a true pro’s pro and a good friend. When we decided to start this award soon after Tom passed away at the start of the 2009 season, we wanted it to reflect what Tom stood for. That’s why this award goes to the Carolina player who is most helpful to the media in doing its job. Munnerlyn was a unanimous choice this year. Jordan Gross was the 2010 winner and Brad Hoover won the inaugural award in 2009.

New Orleans guard Jahri Evans sat out Thursday’s practice with a knee injury. Defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis (hamstring), linebacker Jonathan Vilma (knee) and running back Mark Ingram (toe) also were held out.

Carolina coach Ron Rivera said he believes Jordan Senn has a chance to be a full-time starter at outside linebacker next season. Senn has done a nice job since getting a chance to play after the Panthers went through a slew of injuries at linebacker.

Tampa Bay cornerback Ronde Barber will play in his 224th career game Saturday at Carolina. That will tie the franchise record set by Derrick Brooks. Barber could break the record when the Bucs play the Falcons the following week.

Here’s a bit of a strange one. Atlanta offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey said New Orleans fans caused the Falcons to have communications problems in the previous meeting between the teams. But that game was in Atlanta. If the Falcons had issues with noise from Saints fans in the Georgia Dome, they better have some new ways to communicate in place before they get to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Monday night.

Although there's still hope veteran cornerback Kelvin Hayden (toe) might be ready for Monday, he wasn’t cleared to practice Thursday. Starting cornerback Brent Grimes, who is coming back from knee surgery, did practice. If Hayden isn’t ready to go against the Saints, the Falcons likely will use Dominique Franks as the nickelback. Running back Michael Turner (groin) and linebacker Stephen Nicholas (toe) missed practice.

Martin Fennelly writes that it’s time for the Glazer family, which owns the Buccaneers, to make some noise on what the future holds for Raheem Morris. I know a lot of Tampa Bay fans feel that way. But I think you’re going to have to wait just a bit. If the Glazers are going to make a move, and I think they have no other choice, I don’t see it coming until after the season is over.

Jordan Gross wins Tom Berry award

December, 16, 2010
12/16/10
3:10
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It obviously has been a very tough year for the Carolina Panthers and their fans. However, we’ve got a bit of good news today.

Carolina offensive tackle Jordan Gross has been selected as the winner of the second annual Tom Berry Good Guy Award. This one is very special to me and the members of the Carolina media who cover the Panthers.

We were the ones who were lucky enough to share press boxes, media rooms and flight delays with Tom Berry. He was the longtime Panthers beat writer for the High Point (N.C.) Enterprise. He passed away at the start of the 2009 season.

That’s when the Carolina Chapter of the Pro Football Writers of America got together and decided to create this award in memory of Tom. Like the name of the award suggests, it is meant to honor a good guy. Actually, two good guys. The basic premise of picking the award winner is to decide which Carolina player is most helpful to the media in doing its job.

For those who didn’t know him, Tom was a great guy. One of those strong, silent types who was a true gentleman. He was incredibly dedicated to his family and his job. Tom was a pro’s pro.

Former Carolina fullback Brad Hoover, whose career from high school to the NFL was chronicled by Tom was the winner of the inaugural award. That vote was unanimous because Hoover was perfect. He had deep ties to Tom, and Hoover was always a go-to guy in the locker room -- someone who, win or lose, is always going to be courteous and professional.

The same can be said for Gross. I had the good fortune to be a beat writer covering the Panthers when Gross was drafted in 2003. He was a pleasure to deal with on a daily basis and still is as I cover him from a bit more distance and not quite as frequently. The writers who cover the team on a daily basis all said that Gross hasn’t changed, even as the Panthers have struggled through a tough season.

Gross has handled it with class and I’m proud to see his name linked forever to Tom Berry’s name.

Posted by ESPN.com’s Pat Yasinskas


We mentioned the passing of longtime High Point (N.C.) Enterprise columnist Tom Berry recently. It’s a tragic loss to anyone who ever ran across Tom or read his columns.

There’s no way to cushion that blow, but there’s a wee bit of positive news Friday about a way Tom will be remembered. Tom’s name now will be attached to an annual award.

The Enterprise had the full story this morning, but I wanted to share this with all of you. As the NFC South chairman for the Pro Football Writers of America, I’m proud to say that the Carolina chapter of that organization will present the Tom Berry Good Guy Award to a member of the Panthers each year.

Writers who cover the Panthers on a regular basis, as Tom did, will vote on the player who is most cooperative with the media and the winner will be announced at the end of the season.

When I worked in Carolina, we gave a Good Guy Award several times and past winners included Mike Minter and Brentson Buckner. Those were guys who were true pros, always treating others with respect.

If that description sounds a lot like Tom Berry, it should. His name and the phrase “good guy’’ should be linked together forever. Through this award, they will.

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