NFC South: Reggie White

At a dinner for his charitable foundation a few weeks ago, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton talked about how he wants to embrace Charlotte.

Newton
Newton
As a rookie last season, Newton spoke to the media only when required and kept a low profile. He even caused a bit of a panic among fans when he made some comments that implied he was too big for a small market.

But it looks like Newton is putting down roots in the Queen City. In addition to getting more active in the community with his foundation, Newton has found a home.

He recently bought a $1.6 million condo in Uptown Charlotte. One of his neighbors will be basketball Hall of Famer Michael Jordan, who now owns the Charlotte Bobcats. Given the fact that the Bobcats had one of the worst seasons in NBA history and are drawing all sorts of criticism, Newton might be the most popular resident in his building.

Charlotte never has had a true national sports superstar. Julius Peppers was big, but he never embraced the community. Larry Johnson was a big deal when the basketball team in town was the Hornets. Steve Smith is a big deal and has spent his entire career with the Panthers. Sam Mills, Kevin Greene and Reggie White were big names, but they joined the Panthers at the end of their careers.

Newton has one big advantage on all of them. He’s a quarterback and that means an automatic spotlight. Kerry Collins had that once, but squandered it and lasted less than four seasons with the Panthers. If Newton continues to build on his rookie season and embraces Charlotte, then the city will embrace him. Newton has a chance to be the biggest thing ever in Charlotte, even bigger than Jordan.

Drew Brees wins Bart Starr Award

January, 20, 2011
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The Saints just sent out an announcement that quarterback Drew Brees has been selected as the 2011 winner of the Bart Starr Award.

Voted on by players around the league, the award is designed to honor a player who exhibits outstanding character and leadership in the home, on the field and in the community.

We all know that Brees has made a huge impact on the New Orleans area since arriving as a free agent in 2006, and his accomplishments on the field speak for themselves. Some past winners of this award are Warrick Dunn, Reggie White, Anthony Munoz and Kurt Warner.

Brees will be given the award Feb. 5 at an event leading up to the Super Bowl.

NFC South polls are now open

August, 30, 2010
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It started as a suggestion from loyal reader Mark H. in Greensboro, N.C., and it quickly has grown into what I think could be one of the more interesting projects we’ve ever attempted on the NFC South blog.

Mark’s basic suggestion was to pick the most disliked person for every NFC South team.

We’ve kicked around parameters for this and you have been phenomenal about providing input to make this work. While on the basketball court, which is where I do some of my best thinking, Sunday afternoon, I thought of a whole other layer for this project. I thought of also including a vote to see who is the most beloved figure for each NFC South franchise and we’re going to do that.

I’ve also settled on the parameters and here they are:
  • Send votes for the figure you dislike most from your team and the most beloved figure from your team to my mailbag. Some of you have already voted, but that was before we set the rules or added the beloved category. So those votes won’t count. Fire away with your new ones and specify the team and the disliked and beloved figures clearly.
  • By “figure,’’ I mean anyone associated with your favorite team. That means players, coaches, general managers and owners. For the beloved category, I’d even nominate Carolina equipment manager Jackie Miles, a legend in his own right, and Jill Hobbs, who started working as a secretary for the Buccaneers back in 1976 when she was something like 4 years old.
  • After a lot of debate, we’re going to open the time frame up on this to the entire history of each franchise. There was some debate about limiting it to current figures or starting the clock when the NFC South officially became a division in 2002. But the narrow consensus was to make it for the entire history of each franchise. In other words, figures such as Hugh Culverhouse, Doug Williams, Derrick Brooks, Warren Sapp, Kerry Collins, Sam Mills, George Seifert, Archie Manning, Mike Ditka, Jeff George and Tommy Nobis are as eligible as figures like Drew Brees, the Glazer family, Matt Ryan and Sean Payton are. I’m not implying disliked or beloved for any of those figures. I’m just using their names to illustrate the time frame. Let’s please avoid the votes for guys who only had a cup of coffee in the NFC South – Reggie White, Brett Favre, etc.
  • I can’t ask this one strongly enough: Please limit your votes only for your favorite team. If we let Atlanta fans list Brees as a disliked figure or allowed former Carolina punter Todd Sauerbrun to vote for Martin Gramatica, we’d turn this thing into a shouting match and that’s not the goal of this project.
  • If you only want to vote for a beloved figure or only want to vote for a disliked figure from your team, that’s fine. Your vote will still count.
  • With each of your votes, feel free to include a little of your reasoning. We’ll use some samples when we post the results, so keep them clean and at least try to make the grammar reasonable.
  • Carolina fans, I’m going to impose one special rule on you. Do not vote for Rae Carruth. He’s ineligible and any votes for him will not be counted. I understand the venom for Carruth. What he was convicted of was beyond terrible, but it went way beyond the scope of football. So let’s just leave that one alone.
  • Other guys who have had off-field troubles for any of the four teams are eligible.
  • To ensure the integrity and the accuracy of the voting results, I’ve gone out and hired a prestigious accounting firm to tabulate the votes. Well, wait, I wasn’t able to afford that. But I’ve done something even better. I’ve turned to my alma mater, Saint Leo University, and enlisted the help of Kevin Little, who I’ve been doing some career mentoring with. Kevin is a Sports Business major with a keen interest in the NFL and numbers. Kevin’s agreed to help me tabulate the results.
  • I haven’t set an official date for the closing of the polls or when we’ll run separate posts on the winners in both categories for each franchise. We’ll just kind of play that by ear, but I’m hoping to have it ready for sometime right around the start of the regular season.

NFC South Monday mailbag

June, 21, 2010
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Adam in Chapel Hill, N.C., writes: Purely a hypothetical, but say Matt Moore comes in and within the Panthers system sets the proverbial world on fire. How much of a wrench would this throw in the works? How would talent scouts have to readjust/reassess QB evaluation?

Pat Yasinskas: If Moore does play well, I don’t think it will change the scouting process. Remember, guys like Kurt Warner, Jake Delhomme and Tony Romo have come essentially out of “nowhere’’ to have good careers. Even Tom Brady was a late-round draft pick. It is kind of amazing that teams put so much money and effort into scouting and they seem to miss on a lot of prospects. I guess it just shows scouting is an inexact science and the human element, things like heart and intangibles, can really throw it off.


Zach in Atlanta writes: I'm not sure it counts, but TECHNICALLY the "greatest player in NFC South" history would be Brett Favre with the Falcons in the early 90s, if like most of your exercises we go beyond 2002. He didn't play long, obviously. Nevertheless, he suited up for Atlanta, making him the greatest player to pass through all of the NFC South teams.

Pat Yasinskas: Well, if you want to go that route, how about Reggie White? He played one season with Carolina. Or Anthony Munoz? He took part in a Tampa Bay training camp before deciding to retire. I suggest we stay clear of that route because it’s pointless. When I think of the greatest player in the history of the NFC South, I think of Derrick Brooks.


Kyle in Tampa writes: I just wanted to share a thought. I saw in the chat where you said that, after a "few more years" Drew Brees could replace Derrick Brooks as the best player in NFC South history. Brooks is almost inarguably a top 10 linebacker of all time, potentially even a top 5-er. As of now, and even after a few more years, Brees would have to fight hard to even make the top 20 of his position. My Bucs don't have too much going for us in the history department, but best player all time is ours by a landslide, at least for now.

Pat Yasinskas: For right now, Brooks is the best player in NFC South history, in my eyes. But I think Brees could surpass him with a few more big years and another Super Bowl title or two.


Kenneth in Boston writes: If there is another exciting, noteworthy season from Gregg Williams with the Saints defense, do you see a possibility of the Saints losing him to another team in search of a head coach willing to pay Williams?

Pat Yasinskas: Yes, absolutely. Williams’ stock had tumbled a bit before he joined the Saints. What he did with the New Orleans defense last year reminded a lot of people of what Williams is capable of accomplishing. I say another strong season by the New Orleans defense probably will get Williams a head-coaching job.


Jake in Pittsburgh writes: What are the Bucs thinking? Stylez White, Tim Crowder, Kyle Moore, and Erik Lorig at defensive end? I know they drafted Gerald McCoy and Brian Price, but how can the Bucs possibly rush the QB?

Pat Yasinskas: That’s a very legitimate question. White’s at least an average player. But there’s nothing certain beyond that and I’m not sure Moore and Lorig have all that much upside. The Bucs do think the presence of McCoy and Price in the middle will help the guys on the outside and there’s probably some truth to that. But Tampa Bay doesn’t have anything close to a dominant pass-rusher. Then again, that’s not uncommon in the NFC South. Carolina doesn’t have a proven pass-rusher. Atlanta’s hoping John Abraham can bounce back from a quiet season. New Orleans’ Will Smith is the best pass-rusher in the division at the moment.

NFC South mailbag

June, 6, 2010
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Nate in Rock Hill, S.C. writes: Do you see the Panthers going after John Henderson? It's not looking like he's getting much interest on the FA market. Do you think they could ink him to a short, relatively cheap deal and see what happens? I know Jerry Richardson isn't writing checks this offseason, but isn't worth the small risk for a formerly dominant DT for a team that needs help at the position?

Pat Yasinskas: I follow your logic and it makes sense. But it’s not going to happen and it’s not just about money. The Panthers are very serious about going with youth. Besides, I think general manager Marty Hurney still has nasty flashbacks to when George Seifert made him work contracts for Reggie White and Eric Swann.


Donny in Jacksonville, Fla. writes: Up to this point, I agree that Dwayne Jarrett has been a major bust for Carolina. However his whole time had been with Jake Delhomme at QB and we all know he only locked on to Steve Smith and forced it or took a sack if he wasn't open. Do you think that with Matt Moore or Jimmy Clausen at QB he has a chance to at least do a little something? Moore has shown the willingness to spread the ball so theoretically it could happen (I'm not counting on it though).

Pat Yasinskas: I saw a story somewhere the other day about Jarrett and the theme of it was how this might be his breakout year. Funny, but it seems like that story gets written every year and I know I’ve written a time or two. Is this year any different for Jarrett? It might be. Your point about the quarterback switch is a good one. More than anything, I think the coaching staff needs to turn Jarrett loose and give him a chance. There are some people with the Panthers who believe Jarrett is talented, but has been held back by a coaching staff that’s too conservative to allow him to just go out and play.


Scott in Covington, LA writes: Thanks for posting about Alex Yoncak from Saintsreport.com. I didn't personally know the guy, but he was a friend to everyone on that site, including me. He was a true Saint. The fact that you took out time from your busy schedule to share his story with the world means a ton to his family, and all of his friends and e-friends. You are a true class act Pat.

Pat Yasinskas: Alex was the class act on this one. I didn’t know the man either. But I got emotional reading Jeff Duncan’s outstanding column about a very dedicated Saints’ fan, who had done a lot of great things in his life. Alex also lived in an area of Pennsylvania very close to where I grew up, so the story hit close to home. I thought it was a story worth sharing with all NFC South fans.


Evan in Long Beach Miss. writes: What do you think the future holds for Pierre Thomas? I noticed that he has yet to sign his waiver and did not show up to training camp. Do you think there is a reasonable chance that he won't be wearing the Black and Gold next year, do you think he will sign his waiver, or do you think he might get the bigger deal he's hoping for? Do you think he deserves it?

Pat Yasinskas: I’m not sure this little holdout is really in Pierre Thomas’ best interest. I understand he wants a long-term contract and his performance last season probably earned him a nice raise. But the rumblings are he’s looking for a contract that will make him one of the league’s top-paid running backs. Let’s be realistic here. Thomas is a good running back, but not one of the best in the league. I can see the Saints playing hard ball with him. They’ve got Reggie Bush and Lynell Hamilton. If Thomas’ demands don’t drop some, I could see the Saints letting him go and going with Bush and Hamilton and adding another running back from somewhere else.


Keaton in Myrtle Beach S.C. writes: With the suspension of Quinn Ojinnaka of the Falcons coming so soon, does this mean that Jonathan Babineaux will get away with a 'slap on the wrist?' I hope so given that Ojinnaka was accused of arguably a harsher crime than Babs.

Pat Yasinskas: Still waiting on that. I think there still remains a chance the league will discipline Babineaux, but nothing’s happened yet. By the way, not sure Ojinnaka even makes the team. The Falcons used a couple of draft picks to build up there depth on the offensive line and Ojinnaka was on the bubble even before the suspension.


Tripp in Washington, D.C. writes: Love your blog and frequently posted mailbags, Pat. Keep up the great work. I am baffled by the idea that Tampa Bay's metropolitan area population exceeds 2.7 million people, yet has trouble selling out eight home games...this is pathetic. The Greater New Orleans area barely contains 1.1 million people, and every last seat of every game is sold out ad infinitum. I understand they just won the Super Bowl and that their popularity is at an all time high; but still, NOLA has faithfully sold out every game since at least 2006, when the team was coming off years of mediocrity. Get it together Tampa! Lest you want your team to move to LA.

Pat Yasinskas: Technically, Tampa Bay has sold out every game since Raymond James Stadium opened, but team officials are bracing for local television blackouts this season. That will be reminiscent of the bad old days of the 1980s and ‘90s. Tampa Bay is a unique market. I live here now and have spent about half my life here. Any Florida city is going to have lots of transplants from up North, who hold onto their allegiances. The weather also presents lots of opportunities to do other things on a Sunday. This isn’t New Orleans where children are born and raised to be Saints fans. The Bucs have a great crew of die-hard fans. But the nature of this market means there also are a lot of fringe fans and they show up only when the Bucs are playing well and going to games becomes trendy. Even then, this is a tough market. Just ask the Tampa Bay Rays. They’re having a great season, but Tropicana Field doesn’t draw huge crowds.
With the Panthers letting Julius Peppers walk into free agency, it’s time to take a look at where he stands in franchise history.

Is he the best player in franchise history? Let’s set some ground rules before starting this debate. Guys like Reggie White and Sam Mills don’t count. They played with the Panthers at the very end of their careers and we’re only taking into consideration what guys did while they were with Carolina.

With that in mind, here’s my list of the top five players in Carolina’s history:

1. Peppers. Yes, he wasn’t always consistent. But he took over games at times and was phenomenal -- when he wanted to be.

2. Steve Smith. There’s a very good chance the little man could move past Peppers before all is said and done. Another good year or two should do it.

3. Wesley Walls. In the early years of this franchise, no one was consistently better than the tight end.

4. John Kasay. Yeah, he’s a kicker, but he’s been as consistent as anyone in the league. He’s the last original Panther and he someday will have a statue outside of Bank of America Stadium.

5. Dan Morgan. Yep, that’s not a misprint. I know Morgan’s legacy is that of a guy who could never stay on the field because of injuries. I’m not disputing that. But I’m asking you to remember how good Morgan was when he was on the field. He was spectacular. His place on the list won’t last long. Give Jon Beason another year or so and he’ll pass Morgan. Heck, give Beason a few more years and he could be at the top of this list. Give Jordan Gross, DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart another year or two and they also will be somewhere on this list.

Let’s hear your list of top five Panthers in history. Hit the comments section below or send a note to the mailbag.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

TAMPA, Fla. -- We did this last week with Deuce McAllister and we'll do it again now with Derrick Brooks.

When the New Orleans Saints cut McAllister loose, I asked for your take on where the running back rated in franchise history. The consensus was that he might have been the best New Orleans player in history and, certainly, no worse than third.

Let's do the same thing with Brooks -- but take it just a step more. Let's just go ahead and say Brooks is the best player in Tampa Bay history. I already made that case at length last June.

Let's hear in the mailbag or in the comments section below if you think Brooks is the best player in the history of the NFC South. I'll post some of your responses in the blog in the coming days.

For clarity's sake, let's go ahead and put out a little background and some rules. Keep in mind, the NFC South officially came into being as a division in 2002. For this situation, let's just use that as a guideline, but we don't want the best player in the division just since 2002.

We want the best player EVER to play for an NFC South team, even officially before there were NFC South teams. For instance, Claude Humphrey, Rickey Jackson, Archie Manning, Doug Williams, Sam Mills, Warren Sapp, Lee Roy Selmon … guys like that, they're all eligible and I'm just throwing out a few examples here.

Also, guys like Reggie White, who finished his career with the Panthers, don't count as NFC South players. In general, I'm talking about guys who played the bulk of their career with an NFC South team.

I'll go on the record and say nobody's better than Brooks.

Go ahead and agree or disagree.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

A quick check on the injury situation around the NFC South.

BUCCANEERS

Tight end Alex Smith and running back Cadillac Williams are questionable for Sunday. Fantasy players, start Warrick Dunn, if you've got him.

SAINTS

Running back Reggie Bush sat out Friday's practice and is listed as questionable for Monday night. Fantasy players, if you're thinking of starting Deuce McAllister or Pierre Thomas, do you have any other options?

PANTHERS

The entire roster continued to practice, including center Ryan Kalil. But it remains to be seen if Kalil will move back into his starting position or if the Panthers will stick with Geoff Hangartner.

FALCONS

After sitting out two days with a bruised back, receiver Roddy White was back at practice Friday.

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