NFC South: Ring of Honor

While announcing that tickets for most individual home games will go on sale July 17, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers revealed a few noteworthy details.

The Bucs announced they will wear throwback uniforms for their Sept. 29 home game against the Arizona Cardinals. That means the Bucs will be wearing the orange and white uniforms that the franchise used early in its existence.

The Bucs also will have a different look when they host Philadelphia on Oct. 13. Their regular uniforms will have pink accents to show support for breast cancer awareness.

The Bucs also will have a special ceremony during halftime of their Nov. 11 game against Miami (a Monday night game on ESPN). They will retire the No. 99 jersey of Warren Sapp, who is scheduled to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Sapp also will be inducted into the team's Ring of Honor during the November festivities.

Tickets for the Sept. 15 regular-season home opener with New Orleans already are on sale. Ticket for the remaining seven regular-season and two preseason home games will go on sale July 17.

NFC South afternoon update

May, 2, 2013
Time for an afternoon run through some news and notes from around the division:


The Bucs did more than make the official announcement that Warren Sapp will be the next inductee into the team’s Ring of Honor. The Bucs also announced that Sapp’s number (99) will be retired. The late Lee Roy Selmon is the only other Tampa Bay player to have his number retired. Sapp will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August and the Ring of Honor ceremony will take place Nov. 11 when the Bucs host Miami.


Charlie Campbell calls linebacker Chase Thomas the best signing of an undrafted free agent in the entire league. Thomas has some pass-rush skills and could have a chance to compete with Martez Wilson and Junior Galette.


In an interview with Charlotte’s WFNZ, general manager Dave Gettleman wouldn’t go much further than to say running back DeAngelo Williams is on the roster "right now." Go ahead and start the speculation (again) that Williams could be traded or released. The Panthers have way too much money invested in their running backs and unloading Williams could free up a lot of cap space now and in the future.


In this radio interview, cornerback Asante Samuel said he would respect Tim Tebow if he walked into Atlanta’s locker room. Don’t worry, that’s not going to happen. The Falcons aren’t looking to put in a gimmick package in their offense because there’s no way they want to take the ball out of Matt Ryan’s hands.

Samuel might not be the only Atlanta player with that last name. Former Georgia player Richard Samuel reportedly will get a tryout during this week’s rookie camp. The younger Samuel bounced between running back and linebacker in college and his best bet to earn an NFL roster spot might be as a special-teams player.

Chris Polian, who spent last season in Atlanta's scouting department, has left to become pro personnel director in Jacksonville. Polian is joining Jacksonville general manager Dave Caldwell, who previously worked for the Falcons.

The team announced it will hold combined practices with the Cincinnati Bengals on Aug. 5 and 6. The two teams will play an exhibition game at the Georgia Dome on Aug. 8.

Around the NFC South

May, 1, 2013
Time for a cruise through the headlines from around the division:


As expected, Warren Sapp confirmed he will be inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor at some point during the season. Sapp is the logical choice this year since he’ll be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this summer.


Jeff Duncan writes that Terron Armstead is the most intriguing player among the Saints’ draft picks. He could end up as the starting left tackle. The Saints haven’t been afraid to immediately start mid-round picks on the offensive line in the past (see Jahri Evans). Armstead will get a chance to compete for the starting job with Jason Smith and Charles Brown.


In this Insider piece, Todd McShay writes that defensive tackle Kawann Short was Carolina’s most questionable pick. McShay says that Short plays well only in flashes. That may be true, but Short’s strength is his ability to generate a pass rush from the interior. If he can flash that ability from time to time, the Panthers will be happy.


The Falcons aren’t odds-on favorites to go to the Super Bowl. Las Vegas has two NFC teams ahead of them. That might be a good thing because it will help temper expectations and pressure for a team that’s looking to take the next step.

NFC South afternoon update

April, 30, 2013
It's been a fairly quiet news day in the NFC South. But there were a few odds and ends, so let's take a run around the division:


The Georgia World Congress Center Authority board voted to approve the hiring of a Kansas City-based firm to design the new retractable-roof stadium that’s expected to open in 2017.


Bryan Strickland has a breakdown of how Carolina’s draft picks should fit in. A lot of people are wondering why the Panthers used their first two draft picks on defensive tackles. Strickland explains that first-round choice Star Lotulelei is a traditional run stuffer and second-round pick Kawann Short has interior pass-rush skills. The Panthers envision this tandem together for the long run. But Short probably will start off sharing time with Dwan Edwards who is nearing the end of his career.


Nakia Hogan points out the Saints saved a little over $2 million in cap space by trading running back Chris Ivory to the New York Jets. The Saints now have a little over $3 million in cap space and they’ll need that eventually to sign their draft picks. If they plan to make any more significant moves in free agency, they’ll have to restructure contracts of release players.


The Bucs announced they’ll have a news conference related to this year’s Ring of Honor on Thursday. There are no firm rules about how many inductees there can be in a given year. But there’s been only one inductee per year in the past. If I had to guess on just one honoree for this year, I’d say Warren Sapp because it would go nicely with his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this summer.
The Atlanta Falcons are giving center Todd McClure the proper sendoff, one that he deserves.

During McClure’s retirement news conference, owner Arthur Blank announced the center will get the highest honor the team can give.

“You deserve to be in that Ring of Honor, and we will get you there as soon as we can," Blank said.

McClure absolutely deserves to be in the Falcons’ Ring of Honor. He wasn’t the flashiest player and he’s not headed to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But, since joining the Falcons in 1999, McClure has been an institution.

He’s been a solid, dependable player and a class act.

That’s why he belongs in the Ring of Honor.

Live from the Georgia Dome

October, 14, 2012
ATLANTA -- I’m settled into the Georgia Dome press box for Sunday’s game between the Falcons and Oakland Raiders.

I’ll be back with the inactives in about an hour and you know the rest of the drill. I’ll weigh in on anything of substance during the game and we’ll have a Rapid Reaction immediately after the game and a full column a bit later.

I’ll also be watching the game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs and providing an update on that.

Speaking of the Bucs, we’ve got two items worth noting. First, congratulations to former offensive tackle Paul Gruber, who will be inducted into Tampa Bay’s Ring of Honor on Sunday. I had the pleasure of covering Gruber in the 1990s and can honestly say he’s one of the most genuine professionals I’ve ever dealt with.

Second, it sounds like the Bucs are switching up their offensive line in a different way than many expected. There were hints during the week that Ted Larsen, who had been starting at right guard, would be out of the lineup and be replaced by Jeremy Trueblood. Apparently, that’s only half true. Larsen isn’t expected to be in the starting lineup. But reports that Jamon Meredith -- not Trueblood -- will start at right guard.

Gee, that should really throw off the Chiefs’ plans.

NFC South afternoon update

July, 23, 2012
Time for an afternoon run through the top headlines from around the NFC South.
  • The settlement conference for New Orleans linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who is trying to get his suspension wiped out or reduced by the NFL, ended with no resolution Monday. Unless some sort of agreement is reached in the meantime, the next step will come Thursday when Vilma's attempt at a restraining order is heard by a federal judge. The Saints begin reporting to training camp Tuesday, but their first on-field practice doesn’t come until Thursday evening.
  • D. Orlando Ledbetter takes a look at Atlanta’s situation at tight end, which is basically Tony Gonzalez and a group of “other guys.’’ Michael Palmer might have the edge as the No. 2 tight end right now, and is likely to get plenty of use as a blocker. But Palmer also can help his case for the long term if he shows some pass-catching skills, because Gonzalez is 36 and has said this will likely be his final season. I’ll believe that when I see it, because Gonzalez looks like he has more than a year in him (if he chooses), but the Falcons do need to find a replacement
  • While announcing Monday that single-game tickets will go on sale this week, the Buccaneers announced several events planned for their home schedule. They’ll honor their Super Bowl team at the Dec. 9 game against Philadelphia, they will wear their throwback uniforms for the Oct. 21 game against New Orleans, and Paul Gruber will be inducted into the Ring of Honor at the Oct. 14 game against Kansas City.
  • Cam Newton’s television commercial wasn’t the only unique thing going on at Bank of America Stadium this offseason. Carolina coach Ron Rivera also was catching pitches from his daughter, who plays college softball. Check out this story that tells us a lot about Rivera off the field. I'm glad Rivera opened up like this, because Carolina fans deserve to know more about what kind of guy their coach is. Predecessor John Fox also had a lot of wonderful things going on in his personal life. I always respected Fox's right to keep his family out of the spotlight, but think he went a little overboard in guarding his privacy.
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.
METAIRIE, La. -- The New Orleans Saints are scheduled to have another minicamp session in just about an hour (the team already has said this practice will be held indoors and won’t be open to the public). Before I head off to practice, let’s take a quick look at some other headlines from around the NFC South.
  • Atlanta’s Julio Jones has gotten rid of his dreadlocks, but he’s still making big plays at wide receiver.
  • Nice touch by the Bucs to have former teammates Derrick Brooks and Mike Alstott, and former coach Tony Dungy present at the news conference to announce Paul Gruber’s selection to the team’s Ring of Honor. All three of them will join the Ring of Honor someday. Alstott left the team on good terms, but the same can’t be said for Brooks, who was released, and Dungy, who was fired. I think Dungy and the Bucs are back on good terms, and Brooks’ presence Wednesday was another sign that his relationship with the team is thawing. Too bad the same can’t be said right now about former quarterback Doug Williams. There’s no doubt he deserves the honor, but I don’t think it will happen until both sides swallow their pride a little bit and that might take some more time.
  • The Bucs have stayed quiet on the whereabouts of Brian Price since the defensive tackle lost his sister in a car accident a few weeks ago. But The Tampa Bay Times reports Price has been working out privately with a California trainer. It’s still unclear if Price will attend next week’s mandatory minicamp. Given Price’s situation, I’d leave the decision up to him. If he’s emotionally ready to be back in a regular routine, fine. If not, give him time to grieve. As much as coaches like to think offseason workouts are important, Price has more important things to handle right now. As long as he’s ready for training camp, everything should be fine.
  • Sorry, there's no fresh news on the Carolina Panthers. But I'm scheduled to be at their minicamp next week, so there will be lots on the Panthers coming.
It’s been no big secret that former offensive tackle Paul Gruber will be the next player inducted into the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Ring of Honor.

The team officially announced it Wednesday and the press release had a tremendous quote from Buccaneers co-chairman Bryan Glazer, who generally is very quiet and reserved.

"Paul was a Buccaneer Man, before we talked about Buccaneer Men," Glazer said. "He went on to become everything you would want in a left tackle or family man: dependable, dependable, dependable."

I don’t think Glazer -- or anyone -- could have come up with a better summation of Gruber.

When you think about it, Gruber really was ahead of his time. Yeah, he got a little recognition and some more pleasant times in the last few years of his career. That was after coach Tony Dungy arrived and the team started to have some success.

But Gruber played on some horrible teams before that. I witnessed a good chunk of his career while covering the Bucs’ beat for The Tampa Tribune in the 1990s. I saw Gruber while he was playing for dreadful teams under coach Sam Wyche and I saw the transition to better times with Dungy. But I never saw any change in Gruber.

I mean that as the ultimate compliment. The guy was a true pro, playing 12 seasons and starting all 183 games he played in. When the rest of the team was struggling, Gruber still went out and played left tackle at the highest level every week. He did the exact same thing when things got better. He also was active in the community and polite to the media.

The only real shame about Gruber’s career is that it ended in 2000, after a broken leg prompted him to retire. If Gruber could have held on a couple of more seasons, he could have been on Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl team.
Offensive tackle Paul Gruber reportedly will be the next player inducted into the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Ring of Honor.

That’s a great choice. Gruber belongs in the Ring of Honor with John McKay, Lee Roy Selmon and Jimmie Giles. Gruber was the consummate pro for 12 seasons. He was an excellent left tackle, who happened to have the misfortune of playing on some very bad teams. That may have prevented Gruber, who also was a true professional on and off the field, from getting all the recognition he deserved. But this latest honor may help make up for it.

Gruber deserves this honor, but there’s obviously something going on behind the scenes. The Bucs have been going in chronological order from the start of their franchise an expansion team. McKay and Selmon were logical choices as the first two inductees. When Giles was inducted last year, some fans and media said former quarterback Doug Williams should have gone in ahead of him. But, shortly before Giles’ selection, Williams had left his job in Tampa Bay’s front office on less than good terms.

By jumping ahead to Gruber, who played in the 1980s and 1990s, the Bucs clearly are moving a generation forward. They have passed over Williams and it obviously has to do with the lingering animosity between him and the team.

Williams and the Bucs need to work through that. I don’t know that things will ever be warm and fuzzy between Williams and the Bucs. But there’s no reason pettiness (on both sides) can't be set aside and things can’t at least be cordial at some point down the road.

Williams is a huge part of Tampa Bay’s history. At some point, he needs to be in the Ring of Honor.

Around the NFC South

June, 5, 2012
METAIRIE, La. -- I’m about to make my way over to the New Orleans Saints’ facility, where I’ll be watching the first of two minicamp practices Tuesday. Before I go, let’s take a look at some of the top headlines from around the NFC South.

Although NFL commissioner Roger Goodell hasn’t won a lot of friends this offseason, Mark Bradley writes that he’s doing what’s in the best long-term interest of the game by doing everything in his power to make it safer.

Filmmaker Sean Pamphilon talked yet again about why he released the infamous audio tape of former New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams speaking to the team the night before last season’s playoff loss to San Francisco. I don’t know about you, but it seems the more Pamphilon talks and writes, the less clear I become about his motives.

Another sad story about a big-name player running into financial trouble after football. Former Atlanta receiver Andre Rison reportedly will be featured in the ESPN documentary “Broke” in October. Rison made at least $19 million in base salary throughout his career.

Legendary New Orleans assistant equipment manager Glennon “Silky’’ Powell is retiring after 38 years with the Saints.

Carolina tight end Gary Barnidge put on a good show while taking batting practice with the Charlotte Knights.

Carolina right tackle Jeff Otah, who injured his knee in a workout last week, is all right. Coach Ron Rivera said an MRI revealed no damage to Otah’s knee. Still, Otah’s knee remains a major question because he barely has been able to play the past two seasons.

We’ll find out in just a few hours who will be the newest member of Tampa Bay’s Ring of Honor.

NFC South evening update

June, 4, 2012
METAIRIE, LA. -- Looks like it was fairly quiet as I made my way from Tampa over to Louisiana on Monday afternoon to cover New Orleans Saints' minicamp Tuesday.

There weren’t many headlines to choose from, so let’s take a quick run through the ones that were most significant.
  • In what has been a strange offseason in New Orleans, here’s another strange story. Saints general manager Mickey Loomis, who is suspended for the first eight games of the season, watched players work out for the NBA’s New Orleans Hornets. Saints owner Tom Benson recently agreed to buy the basketball team and has said Loomis will have a supervisory role. That’s great. Loomis knows how to conduct business, but shouldn’t he have all his attention at the moment focused on getting quarterback Drew Brees signed to a long-term deal?
  • The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will hold a news conference Wednesday to announce the next member of their Ring of Honor. This could come with some drama. The Bucs previously have inducted John McKay, Lee Roy Selmon and Jimmie Giles. The next logical inductee would be former quarterback Doug Williams. But he left a position with the team’s front office on bad terms. The Bucs could try to rebuild that bridge by going with Williams or they could go with some other candidates from their early history -- like Kevin House or Ricky Bell. The other option would seem to be skipping ahead to guys like Derrick Brooks, Warren Sapp, John Lynch and Mike Alstott. Or the Bucs could skip only slightly ahead and go with someone like offensive tackle Paul Gruber. My guess is the Bucs will stay true to history and induct someone from the 1970s or ‘80s. Once they jump to players from the 1990s, it will be difficult to go back in time.
  • Mike Triplett points out the Saints still have some other appeals pending on their punishments in the bounty program. All of them may be long shots, but the Saints, particularly linebacker Jonathan Vilma and defensive end Will Smith have nothing to lose at this point.
  • The Tampa Bay Buccaneers continue to say they will build through the NFL draft and I think that largely is true. But the Bucs aren’t going to hesitate when it comes to trying to add some veterans to fill holes. The latest example came Monday as the Bucs signed defensive linemen Wallace Gilberry and Jayme Mitchell. Both have spent the last few seasons bouncing around the NFL. With Da’Quan Bowers recovering from a torn Achilles tendon, the Bucs need to look under every rock for potential help on the defensive line.

Remembering Lee Roy Selmon

September, 4, 2011
Lee Roy SelmonMalcolm Emmons/US PresswireLee Roy Selmon was the first Tampa Bay Buccaneer elected to the Hall of Fame.
TAMPA, Fla. -- I remember precisely where I was the moment Lee Roy Selmon was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

I was standing outside a hotel ballroom in Miami in 1995. It was the day before the Super Bowl. A few minutes after the privileged voters inside the room had voted Selmon in, the door swung open. Out walked Tom McEwen, the legendary former sports editor of The Tampa Tribune.

"He’s in," McEwen said.

For the rest of that afternoon, evening, the media brunch and all during the Super Bowl, I kept seeing writers, league officials, former players and even Ferdie "The Fight Doctor" Pacheco coming up to McEwen and offering congratulations.

The response was the same every time.

[+] EnlargeLee Roy Selmon
Malcolm Emmons/US PresswireDefensive end Lee Roy Selmon was the first draft pick of the expansion Buccaneers and the top overall pick in 1976.
"Why are you congratulating me?" McEwen said. "Lee Roy’s the one who got into the Hall of Fame. He’s the one who played the game."

That’s the first story I thought of when I heard Selmon had been hospitalized Friday after suffering a stroke. It kind of sums up the story of the first Buccaneer elected to the Hall of Fame and the first member of the team’s Ring of Honor.

He died Sunday at the age of 56.

A humble, exceedingly gracious man, Selmon never was one of those people who would go around seeking attention or adoration. He simply earned it by his play on the field and the way he carried himself off it -- during and long after his career ended in 1984.

McEwen, a powerful man, might have twisted some arms to get the votes. But Selmon was the one who did the grunt work. He was the one who beat double-teams and chased down quarterbacks every Sunday. He was the one who endured the 0-26 run the Bucs went on as a 1976 expansion team.

He was the one who made the Bucs seem like miracle workers (long before the Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars entered the league under a different set of rules in 1995) when they reached the NFC Championship Game in the 1979 season.

Yeah, the 1979 team had some guys like Doug Williams and Jimmie Giles who made some big plays on offense. But John McKay’s first winning team won with defense and Selmon was the center of that.

Selmon still was the center of the team in subsequent years when Williams left and things went bad. He left the game after the 1984 season because of a bad back, but he remained the icon of all icons in Tampa Bay.

The Bucs were bad for the next decade, but fans and the team could always point to Selmon as a point of pride. He stuck around town and stayed active in the community. He eventually joined the staff at the University of South Florida and helped the college start its football program.

Selmon remained an ambassador for the Bucs as the late 1990s arrived and things got better. Even if you weren’t in Tampa Bay for Selmon’s playing days, you knew who he was. There’s a Tampa expressway named after him and I have to drive by one of the restaurants that bears his name to get just about anywhere.

I’ll think of him every time I go by that restaurant and I’ll have one lasting memory of the man. Last November, Selmon was a guest speaker at a luncheon to honor McEwen at Saint Leo University.

At one point, Selmon said he wouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame if it hadn’t been for McEwen. No doubt, McEwen played a role. But, like McEwen said, Lee Roy was the one who got into the Hall of Fame and he was the one to play the game.

He played it with uncommon grace and dignity and he lived his life that same way. That’s why the legend of Lee Roy Selmon is going to keep lingering in Tampa Bay.

Hitting the NFC South hot spots

July, 17, 2011
The NFC South mailbag got pretty full while I took my last bit of time off before training camps open, so let’s go ahead and get to some of your questions.

Jordan in New Orleans wrote to ask if Reggie Bush could be primed for a big season if he stays in New Orleans.

Pat Yasinskas: We’ll go on the assumption that Bush and the Saints work out a way to handle his contract and answer your question. Part of the reason that Bush has never put up the kind of numbers so many people expected is because he has dealt with a variety of injuries during his career. I think he’s a guy who possibly could benefit from the lockout. He’s had an entire offseason to let his body recover and get fully healthy. Let’s say he stays that way. Bush has only played a full 16-game season once in his career. That was 2006, his rookie season. Combine his rushing and receiving numbers from that season and you come up with more than 1,300 yards and eight touchdowns. I expect Mark Ingram to sort of fill the old Deuce McAllister role. In 2006, McAllister and Bush made a nice tandem. Plus, I think Sean Payton has had an entire offseason to come up with different ways to utilize Bush’s talents. I think it’s possible he could put up numbers similar to what he did as a rookie, if he can stay healthy all year.

Dustin in San Diego asks about the possibility of Tampa Bay pursuing Atlanta free-agent tackle Tyson Clabo.

Pat Yasinskas: Not out of the realm of possibility. Right tackle Jeremy Trueblood is a free agent and he lost his job to James Lee last season. I don’t think the Bucs are going to make a huge effort to re-sign Trueblood. Atlanta may try to keep Clabo, but the Bucs might be wise to make a run at him. Clabo would be an upgrade over Trueblood or Lee.

Jason in Winston-Salem, N.C., asks if there’s any chance of the Panthers keeping quarterback Matt Moore.

Pat Yasinskas: I just don’t see it. Cam Newton and Jimmy Clausen are guaranteed roster spots, unless they get injured. The Panthers also have Tony Pike and have talked about signing a veteran to mentor the young quarterbacks. Moore has a little experience, but not enough to really be the true mentor type. I still think Moore can be a decent NFL backup. I just think it’s in his best interest to go somewhere else and get a fresh start.

Jill in Atlanta wanted to know my thoughts on Ricky Bell as a potential member of Tampa Bay’s Ring of Honor.

Pat Yasinskas: I think Bell is someone who should get in to the Ring of Honor in the next couple of years, if the Bucs continue to go in some sort of chronological order. Bell was a little before my time and I was in junior high school in Pennsylvania most of the time he played for the Bucs. But, even from a distance, I remember Bell in the same category as Lee Roy Selmon and Doug Williams, especially in that wondrous 1979 season. That might have been Bell’s finest season and he had several good years. Sadly, his career was cut short by illness and he died in 1984. I’ve talked to several former teammates about Bell and they all say he was a marvelous talent and wonder what he could have done if he had a longer career. I think he did enough to earn a spot in the Ring of Honor.

Brian in Athens, Ga., inquired about the status of Atlanta defensive tackle Peria Jerry.

Pat Yasinskas: I’ve asked that question of coach Mike Smith and general manager Thomas Dimitroff several times this offseason. Every time, each of them has given the same answer: they’re expecting big things from Jerry, their first-round pick in 2009. He had a major knee injury early in his rookie season. Jerry came back last season, but was only a situational player with rookie Corey Peters playing ahead of him. Smith and Dimitroff have admitted the plan was to go slowly with Jerry last season. They firmly believe this is the season his knee will be totally healthy and they think he can finally be the player they thought they were getting when they drafted him.

Mike in Chapel Hill, N.C., said he’s read a lot about players working out on their own or in groups during the offseason, but wonders what coaches have been doing during the lockout.

Pat Yasinskas: Excellent question and not much has been written about this. Around the league, coaches were more involved in the draft than in past years. They’ve also spent a lot of time working with personnel staffs to prepare for free agency. I think that’s one bright side of the lockout because coaching staffs and personnel staffs have had more time to get on the same page about who they want in free agency. Beyond that, I’ve heard that coaches have spent a lot of time reviewing the players they already have and thinking about ways to make them better. I’ve also heard coaches have done a lot more advance film work on their opponents for this season.