NFC South: Rickey Jackson

Saints unveil Ring of Honor tonight

November, 10, 2013
NEW ORLEANS -- The New Orleans Saints will officially unveil their Ring of Honor during halftime of tonight's game against the Dallas Cowboys. As previously announced, their inaugural class will be made up of quarterback Archie Manning, linebacker Rickey Jackson and offensive tackle Willie Roaf.

“Our three honorees are outstanding people,” Saints owner Tom Benson said in a pregame press conference. “I can't say enough about having had the pleasure of being here with Rickey and Willie, and I followed Archie throughout his great times here. New Orleans is very fortunate to have these people. ...

“We're going to put them on the Ring of Honor tonight in memory forever.”

The class was chosen by a panel made up of team ownership, front office administrators, selected former Saints players and selected members of the media.

The first trio wasn't too difficult to choose. Jackson and Roaf are the only two Pro Football Hall of Famers who spent a large portion of their careers with the Saints. And Manning was a tremendously popular quarterback from 1971-‘75 and ‘77-'82, who earned two trips to the Pro Bowl and was recognized as the NFC's Offensive Player of the Year by multiple outlets in 1978.

Saints general manager Mickey Loomis had a great line while introducing Manning -- joking about a term that has become very popular in today's NFL lexicon.

“He was an elite quarterback before we ever used the term elite,” Loomis said. “If he played today, he would be an elite quarterback.”

Some highlights from each of the honorees:

Manning: “All my nights in the Superdome weren't always memorable and my afternoons weren't always great. But I'll always remember this night, I promise you that. It's really special. It's special to me, it's special to my family.”

Jackson: “I put the Saints right up there with the Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame is something that you're proud to have. But the Saints, me being here in New Orleans, I just thank Mr. Benson for the things he did for the city -- keeping the Saints here, that was a big task right there. So I take my hat off to Mr. Benson.”

Roaf: “I'm just so grateful I got a chance to play close to home and my family and friends. A lot of them are here right now and it's going to be great tonight -- especially after we get through beating the Cowboys."
METAIRIE, La. -- The New Orleans Saints announced that quarterback Archie Manning, linebacker Rickey Jackson and offensive tackle Willie Roaf will be the first three members inducted into their Ring of Honor. The Saints will recognize the inaugural class of 2013 during halftime of their Week 10 Sunday night game against the Dallas Cowboys in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

The class was chosen by a panel made up of team ownership, front office administrators, selected former Saints players and selected members of the media.

The first trio wasn’t too difficult to choose. Jackson and Roaf are the only two Pro Football Hall of Famers who spent a large portion of their careers with the Saints. And Manning was a tremendously popular quarterback from 1971-‘75 and ‘77-’82, who earned two trips to the Pro Bowl and was recognized as the NFC’s Offensive Player of the Year by multiple outlets in 1978.

“We are excited to induct the deserving members of the Class of 2013 and allow our fans an opportunity to honor the efforts and contributions that these men have made to our franchise,” Saints owner Tom Benson said in a statement. “It is fitting to honor three of the greatest players in our franchise’s rich history in Archie, Rickey and Willie.”
Nearly 10 years before the NFC South even came into existence, there was a pivotal college game that helped shape the history of two of the division’s franchises.

It took place on Sept. 26, 1992, at Alabama’s Legion Field. History says that the Crimson Tide defeated Louisiana Tech 13-0 that day, but that doesn’t come close to telling the whole story.

[+] EnlargeNew Orleans Saints tackle Willie Roaf
US PresswireWillie Roaf was named All-Pro seven times and was an 11-time Pro Bowl pick in 13 seasons.
What’s significant about that day was the matchup of Louisiana Tech offensive tackle Willie Roaf against Alabama defensive end Eric Curry. Paired with defensive end John Copeland, Curry was one of the best-known players in the nation. Roaf, barely recruited out of high school, had started to attract some attention, but that game put him firmly on the radar of NFL scouts.

On that day, Curry’s final statistical line had zeroes in the categories for sacks and tackles.

“I say that was a big game because they were the No. 1-ranked defense and those guys got drafted real high,’’ Roaf said in a recent conference call. “I had a pretty good game and pretty much got after them. It was a step-up game for me as far as playing those guys.’’

On Saturday, Roaf will take the ultimate step up. He’ll be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. He’ll become just the second player to spend the bulk of his career with the Saints to be inducted (linebacker Rickey Jackson was the first). Roaf played for the Saints from 1993 through 2001, then went to the Kansas City Chiefs until 2005. In his career, he was selected to 11 Pro Bowls; he was named first-team All-Pro four times with the Saints and three times with the Chiefs. He made the NFL’s All-Decade Team for the 1990s and the 2000s.

But let’s go back to that day in 1992 and look a little more at how it affected two franchises. Although the Saints were up and down during Roaf’s time with them, they always could count on having one of the league’s best left tackles. Part of what sold the Saints on Roaf was how well he played against Curry. That game, no doubt, played a major role in why the Saints selected Roaf with the eighth overall pick in the 1993 draft.

Maybe Tampa Bay’s scouts, coaching staff and front office should have watched the tape of Curry and Roaf a little more closely, because it might have shown some warning signs. Instead, the Bucs learned their lesson the hard way.

They used the No. 6 overall pick in that draft to take Curry. Aside from an overly enthusiastic hug of former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue on draft day, Curry provided no highlights during his time with the Buccaneers. He produced 12.5 sacks in five seasons in Tampa Bay and went down with Broderick Thomas as one of the Bucs’ all-time draft busts.

Speaking of busts, Roaf will have his on display in the Hall of Fame.
I’m just glancing through the NFL’s official Record & Fact Book for 2012 and I stumbled up on an area that I think is worth discussing: retired numbers.

The NFC South has only eight of them. The Chicago Bears have 13 retired numbers. The San Francisco 49ers have 12 and the New York Giants have 11.

I realize the four NFC South teams haven’t been around as long as some of the storied franchises. But only one team has more than two numbers retired and two teams have only one.

Atlanta retired the numbers of Steve Bartkowski (No. 10), William Andrews (No. 31), Jeff Van Note (No. 57) and Tommy Nobis (No. 60).

New Orleans retired Jim Taylor’s No. 31 and Doug Atkins’ No. 81.

Carolina’s only retired number is Sam Mills’ No. 51 and Tampa Bay’s lone retired jersey is Lee Roy Selmon’s No. 63.

I think you could make a case that Atlanta should retire Deion Sanders' jersey, even though he wasn’t with the Falcons that long. He changed the game and put the Falcons on the map in Atlanta. I think New Orleans should have retired Mills’ jersey long ago. Mills spent more time and had a bigger impact in New Orleans than he did in Carolina. For that matter, I’d say the Saints should retire the numbers of Rickey Jackson and Willie Roaf. They were, after all, good enough to get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame

I’m not sure Carolina has another realistic candidate right now. But John Kasay and Steve Smith should have their numbers retired the second they quit the game.

Tampa Bay? The Bucs weren’t exactly a dynasty in their early days. Some would make the case that Doug Williams should have his number retired even though his Tampa Bay career was relatively short. But that’s not going to happen anytime soon because Williams left the team’s personnel department on bad terms. He’s been passed over for the team’s Ring of Honor twice. Tampa Bay has some potential candidates on the horizon. I think you can at least make a case for Derrick Brooks, Warren Sapp, John Lynch, Ronde Barber and Elbert Mack (I’m only kidding on Mack) to have their numbers retired. But when do you do that? I’m thinking you make those calls when you put those guys in the Ring of Honor.

Saints joining Roaf at Hall of Fame

February, 23, 2012
Willie Roaf is going into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August and the New Orleans Saints are joining him.

The Saints reportedly will open their preseason Aug. 5 by playing in the annual Hall of Fame Game. Their opponent hasn’t been determined yet, but the Saints volunteered for the Hall of Fame Game because it coincides with Roaf’s induction.

This means the Saints will play five preseason games this year instead of the traditional four. In the past, teams that appear in the Hall of Fame Game have been allowed to open training camps before other teams.

Roaf will become only the second player to spend the majority of his career with the Saints to go into the Hall of Fame. Linebacker Rickey Jackson was the first.
As they near their 50th year of existence, the New Orleans Saints finally have a legacy.

The arrival of coach Sean Payton and Drew Brees in 2006 has made the Saints one of the league’s top teams since, and they won the franchise’s first Super Bowl in the 2009 season. But the real cool thing is the recent success undoubtedly has helped people remember some of the bright spots of what had been a mostly inglorious franchise history.

[+] EnlargeWillie Roaf
AP Photo/G. Newman LowranceThe Saints weren't a dominant team in the 1990s, but don't blame Willie Roaf. In his 13-year career, Roaf was selected to 11 Pro Bowls.
The latest example of that came Saturday, as offensive tackle Willie Roaf was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. This summer, Roaf joins linebacker Rickey Jackson, a 2010 inductee, as the only other player to spend the bulk of his career with the Saints in the Hall of Fame.

Roaf’s selection was more than deserved. In a 13-year career, he was an All-Pro seven times and a Pro Bowl selection 11 times. He also was selected to the All-Decade team for the 1990s and 2000s.

Roaf played for the Saints from 1993 through 2001, then went on to finish his career with the Kansas City Chiefs. His final season was 2005. There’s no doubt Kansas City fans are celebrating this one as well, but this is bigger for New Orleans because Roaf spent the bulk of his career there.

The Saints weren’t great during Roaf’s tenure. They won two NFC West titles (that’s the division they played in before the NFC South came into existence in 2002) but little else. That could have worked against Roaf, but it didn’t. His résumé was strong enough because he was viewed as one of the elite tackles of his era.

He and Jackson now represent the Saints in the Hall of Fame, even though this isn’t like baseball’s Hall of Fame, where an inductee has to choose which team’s cap he wants forever on his plaque.

Roaf did some time with Kansas City, and Jackson also played in San Francisco. But they’ll be viewed mostly as Saints, and that’s great for the franchise’s legacy.

There’s some pride from the old days now, and the legacy is only going to continue to grow with the success of the modern-era Saints. It’s a virtual certainty that Brees will join Jackson and Roaf five years after his retirement. And there could be more. Tight end Jimmy Graham is only in his second season, but he’s showing signs he can be an all-time great.

Guards Jahri Evans and Carl Nicks are generally viewed as the best in the league at their position. If they keep that going, they could also get there. If Payton continues to pile up wins and offensive records, he someday could be a candidate.

The Saints have built a legacy through the years, but Roaf’s selection takes it to another level, and there’s going to be plenty more to come.

Willie Roaf deserves HOF spot

February, 2, 2012
By the end of the day Saturday, Rickey Jackson could have some company.

[+] EnlargeNew Orleans Saints tackle Willie Roaf
US PRESSWIREWillie Roaf was named All-Pro seven times and was an 11-time Pro Bowl pick in 13 seasons.
At the moment, Jackson is the only player to have spent most of his career with the New Orleans Saints that is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. That could change very soon because offensive tackle Willie Roaf will be a finalist when the voters gather Saturday.

Roaf also was a finalist last year and reportedly came very close to selection. But Roaf’s chances in this class might be even better than they were last year. There is no slam-dunk first-time candidate and that could open the door for Roaf.

His resume already does a pretty good job of that. Roaf played for the Saints from 1993 through 2001 and finished his career with the Kansas City Chiefs, from 2002 through ’05. During those 13 seasons, Roaf was an All-Pro seven times and a Pro Bowl choice 11 times. He also was a member of the All-Decade Team for the 1990s.

The biggest obstacle I see for Roaf’s selection this year is that Dermontti Dawson and Will Shields also are on the ballot. That makes three strong offensive-line candidates from the modern era, but I’d take Roaf ahead of the other two.

It’s hard to quantify offensive linemen because you can’t trace their statistics as easily as you can those of skill-position players. You look at things like longevity, All-Pro and Pro Bowl selections and how their teams fared.

If you go by that, I think it backs up my belief that Roaf is the best candidate. First off, he was a tackle. That’s a more difficult position than center, which Dawson played, and guard, which Shields played.

Dawson and Roaf each played 13 seasons and Shields played 14, so the longevity issue is basically a draw.

Roaf’s seven All-Pro selections might be the strongest argument for his candidacy. Making All-Pro is a much bigger deal than making a Pro Bowl squad because it means you’re among the best in the league, not just in your conference. Dawson was All-Pro six times. Shields got the honor three times.

Roaf also made 11 Pro Bowls, while Shields went to 12 and Dawson six.

Some people may look at the fact that Dawson played for the Pittsburgh Steelers and give him a big edge over Roaf and Shields. The Saints and Chiefs were far from dominant teams when Roaf played for them. He was part of a division champion only twice. Shields, who spent his entire career in Kansas City, is in the same boat. Shields played for four division champions. But the Chiefs never won a Super Bowl or an AFC title while he was there.

But the fact Dawson played for Pittsburgh shouldn’t give him as much of an edge over Roaf and Shields as some people might think. Although the Steelers have been good for most of their history, they weren’t particularly dominant during Dawson’s time. They did win five division championships and one conference title. But Dawson never was on a Super Bowl champion.

So the fact Roaf didn’t play on great teams shouldn’t hurt him. The fact he was one of the best tackles ever should land him in the Hall of Fame.
There will be two new members inducted into the Saints Hall of Fame this fall. Former safety Sammy Knight and longtime radio and television announcer Bruce Miller have been named as the newest selections.

Each NFC South team has some way of honoring its former players. For instance, the Bucs do it with their Ring of Honor, which, so far, includes only Lee Roy Selmon and John McKay.

We’ll see how long this lockout lasts, but I’m thinking if it drags into the middle of June or later, we might go ahead and do some Call It polls to let you select who belongs in the NFC South Hall of Fame. There’s no such thing right now, but, even if it’s just for fun, it might be a good time to start one.

Here’s a list of past inductees into the Saints Hall of Fame.
  • 1988 -- Archie Manning and Danny Abramowicz
  • 1989 -- Tommy Myers and Tom Dempsey
  • 1990 -- Billy Kilmer
  • 1991 -- Tony Galbreath and Derland Moore
  • 1992 -- George Rogers, Jake Kupp and John Hill
  • 1993 -- Joe Federspiel
  • 1994 -- Henry Childs and Jim Finks
  • 1995 -- Doug Atkins and Bob Pollard
  • 1996 -- Dave Whitsell and Dave Waymer
  • 1997 -- Stan Brock and Rickey Jackson
  • 1998 -- Dalton Hilliard and Sam Mills
  • 1999 -- Bobby Hebert and Eric Martin
  • 2000 -- Pat Swilling and Vaughan Johnson
  • 2001 -- Jim Wilks and Hoby Brenner
  • 2002 -- Jim Mora and Frank Warren
  • 2003 -- Jim Dombrowski and Wayne Martin
  • 2004 -- Rueben Mayes and Steve Sidwell
  • 2006 -- Joel Hilgenberg
  • 2007 -- Joe Johnson
  • 2008 -- William Roaf
  • 2009 -- Morten Andersen
  • 2010 -- Joe Horn
It’s already been a busy day in the NFC South and all around the NFL and that’s probably going to continue long into the night as we wait to see if there will be a labor lockout or perhaps an extension of the deadline for negotiations.

But things just got a little busier. The New Orleans Saints just sent out an announcement that the Saints Hall of Fame selection committee has selected the franchise’s all-time team as the franchise looks ahead to its 45th season. The committee is a collection of local media members and it selects an all-time Saints team every five years.

The latest version is out and here it is. Players with asterisks after their name were unanimous selections. The years after the players’ names indicate their time with the Saints.

  • Sean Payton (2006-present)
He was an offensive lineman, which means statistical numbers can’t tell the whole story. So how do we know Willie Roaf should be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame?

[+] EnlargeNew Orleans Saints tackle Willie Roaf
US PRESSWIREWillie Roaf was named All-Pro seven times and was an 11-time Pro Bowl pick in 13 seasons.
It’s simple really. You compare him to the best offensive linemen ever. If he stacks up, he gets in. If he doesn’t have the résumé, he doesn’t get in.

I’ll make the case right now that Roaf’s résumé is sparkling and he should be elected Saturday when voters in Texas see his name as a finalist in the first year he’s eligible. I’ve been in that election room before and I know there will be some critics that will say Roaf, who spent most of his career with the New Orleans Saints and finished it with the Kansas City Chiefs, doesn’t have any Super Bowl rings and that he didn’t play on a lot of great teams.

So what? The thing that really matters is that Roaf was among the best ever at what he did. Off the top of your head, who’s the best offensive tackle ever? I’m guessing a lot of people will say Anthony Munoz, who was inducted into the shrine in Canton, Ohio in 1998. Some younger people might argue for Baltimore’s Jonathan Ogden, who won’t be eligible for election until 2013.

The reality is Roaf is right there with them in every way you can measure an offensive tackle. In his 13-year career, Roaf made the Pro Bowl 11 times. That’s the same number of Pro Bowl berths Munoz and Odgen had. No offensive tackle has made the Pro Bowl as many times as Roaf, Munoz and Ogden.

Another good measuring stick is to see if a guy has made an all-decade team because that means he was the best at his position for at least most of a decade. Well, Roaf did that -- twice. He was selected to the all-decade team for the 1990s and the 2000s.

Roaf was durable and dominant and that means he’s deserving of a spot in the Hall of Fame. Last year, Rickey Jackson became the first New Orleans player elected to the Hall of Fame on the day before the Saints won the first Super Bowl in franchise history.

There will be no repeat on Sunday since the Saints were knocked out in the first round of the playoffs. But there should be a repeat Saturday and the Saints should have their second Hall of Famer.

“William Roaf was one of the greatest players in our franchise’s history,’’ Saints owner Tom Benson said. “He’s one of the greatest players to ever play his position and someone that myself and our fans have a great appreciation for. Hopefully, William will have the opportunity to join Rickey Jackson in Canton this summer.”

Willie Roaf Hall of Fame finalist

January, 9, 2011
SEATTLE -- The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced its 15 modern-era finalists for this year’s class Sunday and the list includes former New Orleans offensive tackle Willie Roaf.

Three other players with NFC South ties also made they cut. Deion Sanders and Chris Doleman, who spent part of their careers with the Atlanta Falcons, and Tim Brown, who ended his career with Tampa Bay also are among the finalists. The vote for this year’s class will be held Feb. 5 in Dallas.

Sanders and Roaf are eligible for the first time this year. Roaf played for the Saints from 1993 through 2001 before finishing his career with Kansas City. Rickey Jackson became the first player who spent most of his career with New Orleans to make the Hall of Fame last year, and Roaf has a chance to give the Saints inductees in consecutive years.

Let's not forget Willie Roaf

December, 1, 2010
I was just able to get into the mailbag for the first time in about 10 days (mainly because of travel and some computer issues) and was quickly reminded by some New Orleans fans that I made a big mistake in a post Sunday about the 26 semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

I left former New Orleans offensive lineman Willie Roaf off the list. Totally my mistake. The Hall of Fame sent out the list shortly before the kickoff of the early games and I was rushing through a lot of work and somehow totally overlooked Roaf's name.

He's a legitimate candidate for the Hall of Fame and it would be nice if the Saints and their fans could enjoy seeing Roaf get elected the year after Rickey Jackson became the first former New Orleans player to make the Hall of Fame.

Thanks to the New Orleans fans for pointing out my error.

Monday night mailbag

August, 16, 2010
Scott in Prairieville, La., writes: The debate of Derrick Brooks or Rickey Jackson as the best ever player in the NFC South is a good one. Rickey played 13 of his 15 years in New Orleans. I wouldn't say that a chunk of his career was played in San Francisco. Ricky helped re-define the position along with Lawrence Taylor. Had Rickey played in a larger market, he would be considered in the top 3 of all time. I know that Tampa and New Orleans are both small markets, but had Rickey played during the media explosion era that Brooks did, it would be no contest.

Pat Yasinskas: New Orleans fans have been firing away with notes arguing Jackson over Brooks as the best NFC South Player of all time. I respect your arguments and agree Jackson was great. That’s why he’s in the Hall of Fame and I’m glad he finally got there. But I’m sticking with Brooks, who, I think, will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Nate in Palmer, Alaska, writes: Tampa Bay's Kareem Huggins has officially put Derrick Ward on the trading block if you ask me. I think Tampa overpaid the guy, so there isn't a lot in return they could get for him, but do you see Ward in a Bucs uniform much longer?

Pat Yasinskas: Ward’s contract makes it virtually impossible to trade him, because no team would want to pick up the rest of that deal for a guy who has shown nothing since he came to Tampa Bay. Do the Bucs just cut Ward? Wouldn’t surprise me at all. Huggins has looked very good and Ward has not. Plus, I don’t think Ward is viewed as a great chemistry guy. However, the one thing that could keep Ward around is Cadillac Williams’ history of injuries. Huggins is undersized and inexperienced. The Bucs might decide to hang onto Ward in case something happens to Williams.

Robert in Sterling, Va., writes: Just a suggestion, but maybe do a piece of the NFC South projecting what the outcome will be like (Ex: player states, injuries, W/L record) like the writer who does the AFC North blog did by simulating a season in Madden 11.

Pat Yasinskas: I’d love to sit down and play a season of Madden 11, but I don’t exactly have a lot of free time these days. I did do a simulated season once when I was covering the Carolina Panthers for The Charlotte Observer. If my memory is correct, I guided the Panthers to a 7-9 record – with Chris Weinke as my quarterback. If someone out there wants to play a Madden 11 for the NFC South, I’ll be happy to share the results with the readers.

Cory in Knoxville, Tenn., writes: Did the Panthers make a move for Kentwan Balmer?

Pat Yasinskas: No, San Francisco traded Balmer to Seattle. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Panthers make a move to add a defensive tackle when other teams start cutting down rosters.

NFC South Sunday mailbag

August, 15, 2010
Time for another edition of the NFC South mailbag.

Justin in Indiana writes: What happened to Sean Jones? I didn't see him at all in the preseason game. (Could have been just me.) Though I thought Sabby Piscitelli was pretty solid for a preseason game.

Pat Yasinskas: Jones did play last night, and was credited with one tackle and one assist, but I also didn’t see him do anything that jumped out. I saw Piscitelli a couple of times, particularly noticed him making a solid open-field tackle and also providing good coverage on one pass play. The strong safety position remains very much up for grabs. Although the Bucs gave Piscitelli the start, they haven’t seen major improvement in camp. Last night might have changed things a bit. They know what Jones can do. But they want to see more of Piscitelli before making a decision. Piscitelli’s got some physical talent, and the Bucs want to give him one last chance to put it all together. If it doesn’t happen, they’ll go with Jones.

Miles in Houston writes: I was looking at your recent post saying Derrick Brooks is the best all time player in the NFC South. So I looked back at the recently inducted Rickey Jackson and I felt his stats justified him being in the conversation with Brooks. I know people look at the fact that Jackson didn’t win the big one, but I don’t see how that is as relevant to a player's worth as people like to make it out to be. In Jackson's case, his team’s lack of success had to do more with the offense than a defense that gave up less yardage in 1991 than the much heralded 2000 Raven's defense.

Pat Yasinskas: By no means am I selling Rickey Jackson short. The guy was a tremendous football player and the fact he is now in the Pro Football Hall of Fame says a lot. But I said Brooks is the best player in the history of the NFC South (by the way, that means any player ever with any team now in the NFC South) and will continue to say that. Drew Brees might change that in a few more years. But, right now, there’s no one even close to Brooks in this category. He spent his entire career with Tampa Bay, was the driving force behind the turnaround of a dismal franchise, and his 2002 season was as good as any defensive player ever has had as he led the Bucs to a championship. Jackson did a lot of great things in New Orleans, but he also spent a pretty good chunk of his career in San Francisco.

Rob in Houston writes: Regarding your post about worst to first in the NFC South, I think it's worth nothing that the one exception in 2008 (Atlanta) was in the hunt, almost won the division, and made the playoffs. Maybe Tampa does have a shot this season. I'm watching their preseason against the Dolphins at the moment, and they are showing some flashes.

Pat Yasinskas: Hey, stranger things have happened. That Atlanta team you referenced was in total disarray when Mike Smith took over, and virtually everyone had the Falcons ranked No. 32 in the league before the season started. They wound up going 11-5 and would have kept the worst-to-first streak alive if Carolina had not gone 12-4. History has shown anything can happen in the NFC South.

Jordan in Greensboro writes: I'm a Panthers fan and was impressed with Jimmy Clausen’s performance in the Ravens game. However, it seemed like a lot of his passes were very wobbly. Is this a concern, or is it no big deal?

Pat Yasinskas: The rain might have been a bit of a factor. But I also saw Clausen throw some very sharp passes. From what I know, the Panthers like his mechanics and arm a lot, so I don’t think this is a big issue.

Jesse in Trezevant, Tenn., writes: In Derrick Brooks' retirement speech, he mentioned that there we a handful of teams seeking his service (and a few perhaps tried to sign him). Do you know which teams? It is hard to think of Brooks being in any other jersey.

Pat Yasinskas: The New Orleans Saints and the Oakland Raiders were the two teams that were mentioned in connection with Brooks last preseason. Those were the only two I heard about. Not sure an actual offer was made by either team.

CCE in Los Angeles writes: Just wanted to know your thoughts about the play of Dominique Franks in last night's first preseason game. I really thought that he was a steal for Atlanta in the fifth round. I watched the preseason game with Kansas City, and it seemed like I heard his name called a lot. Is it possible he'll be starting opposite Dunta Robinson when the regular season starts?

Pat Yasinskas: The Falcons are very high on Franks, and I’ve liked what I’ve seen out of him. But he’s not a candidate to start right away. He’ll be a backup, and you’ll probably see a lot of him on special teams. But it looks like Christopher Owens or Brent Grimes will start opposite Robinson.

Matt in Tampa writes: Is Mike Williams going to start for Tampa?

Pat Yasinskas: It sure looks that way. The rookie receiver has been getting a lot of first-team work, and is making the most of it. The bigger question might be who starts opposite Williams? Fellow rookie Arrelious Benn also is in the mix, but might open the season as a backup. I think it comes down to Reggie Brown or Sammie Stroughter for the other starting job.

Around the NFC South

August, 9, 2010
The New Orleans Saints continue to be a positive centerpiece for a region that’s had more than its share of bad luck in recent years. The Saints visited the White House on Monday and drew praise for their on-field success and off-field work from President Barack Obama.

With Rickey Jackson now in the Professional Football Hall of Fame, Jimmy Smith takes a look at who might be the next former New Orleans player to join him. Willie Roaf and Morten Andersen are the two guys he talks about. I think both have a chance. But if you’re looking for the next automatic pick from the Saints, I think Drew Brees is the safest bet.

Charlotte Business Journal takes a look at how and why the Panthers have shown a more fan-friendly side in training camp this year. I see two reasons for this. One is the enthusiasm of new team president Danny Morrison. The other is the economy. In the present climate, it may be more important than ever to reach out to the fan base.

The Panthers are back in camp after having Sunday off, like the rest of the NFC South.

With a schedule that includes three teams (Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Cleveland) that use the 3-4 defense, the Tampa Bay offense is putting in a lot more time working against and preparing for that scheme in the preseason.