NFC South: Sean Canfield

Observation deck: Saints-Titans

August, 30, 2012

Some quick observations from the Saints' 10-6 loss to the Tennessee Titans in Thursday night's preseason finale:
  • Assistant head coach Joe Vitt went almost exclusively with backups, which isn’t at all surprising when you consider the Saints were playing their fifth preseason game, including the Hall of Fame Game. The Saints started third-string quarterback Sean Canfield. He is a long way from being Drew Brees and even backup Chase Daniel, but Canfield looked better than I’ve ever seen him in practice and previous preseason games. Canfield did turn the ball over a couple of times, but I think he at least made a case for the Saints to keep him around.
  • I think a lot of people thought third-round defensive tackle Akiem Hicks would be a project because he played his college football in Canada. I think a lot of people might have sold Hicks short. He continues to impress. He sacked Jake Locker in the first quarter. It’s pretty obvious Hicks has earned a spot in the rotation behind starters Brodrick Bunkley and Sedrick Ellis. You could even look a year ahead and perhaps picture Hicks as a starter because Ellis’ contract is up after this season and the Saints will have a tight salary-cap situation in 2013.
  • Receiver Joseph Morgan continues to look good. I think he probably holds the edge on rookie Nick Toon for the No. 4 receiver spot (I count Courtney Roby, a return man) as the fifth receiver. That makes you wonder if the Saints will keep six receivers on the roster. My guess is they will. Toon’s a guy they were high on before his preseason got interrupted by an injury. Toon’s healthy now and I don’t think he’s a guy you want to risk losing by releasing him and hoping to get him back on the practice squad.
  • The competition for the fourth running back spot remains close between Chris Ivory and Travaris Cadet. But I think Ivory might have gained a bit of ground in this game because Cadet lost a fumble.
  • A lot of people were stunned when safety Isa Abdul-Quddus made the team last year. I was one of them, but I’m starting to see why now. Quddus knocked a ball loose in the second quarter and Elbert Mack recovered the fumble. Quddus already has established a role as a special-teams player. But I think he’s turning into a solid backup at safety, and somewhere in the future he could end up starting.
The New Orleans Saints obviously are happy with what they have seen so far out of rookie defensive tackle Akiem Hicks.

That became evident Monday as the team announced it has released veteran defensive tackle Remi Ayodele. It’s pretty obvious the Saints plan to use Hicks and Tom Johnson as the backups in the rotation behind starters Sedrick Ellis and Brodrick Bunkley. The Saints initially had brought Ayodele back to New Orleans as insurance in case Hicks, who played his college football in Canada, did not develop quickly.

Ayodele joined the Saints in 2008 and started 29 games over three seasons. He left for Minnesota as a free agent last year, but was re-signed by New Orleans in free agency.

Ayodele was the biggest name on the list of transactions made by the Saints to get down to the 75-player limit. The only other veteran released Monday was quarterback Luke McCown. He had been signed during the offseason before the Saints and starter Drew Brees were able to work out a new contract. The Saints are set with Brees and Chase Daniel as their top two quarterbacks. Sean Canfield remains on the roster for now, but the Saints often have carried only two quarterbacks on the roster in recent seasons.

The Saints also waived linebacker Aaron Tevis, center Brian Folkerts, tight end Jake Byrne, safety Johnny Thomas, receiver Derek Moye, guard Paul Fenaroli, tackle Hutch Eckerson, defensive end Donovan Robinson, receiver Kevin Hardy, cornerback Kamaal McIlwain, defensive tackle Swanson Miller, cornerback Cord Parks and receiver Marques Clark.
I still have every expectation that Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints will reach agreement on a long-term contract before Monday afternoon’s deadline. But, with each hour that passes without a deal, you have to at least start thinking about hypothetical situations.

What if Brees really is serious about holding out? What if he holds out for all or most of the season?

There’s little question that it would be disastrous if the Saints were without the best player in franchise history and their unquestioned leader. But there’s that old NFL adage coaches and players like to use about “the next man up." There’s a lot of validity to that because the physical nature of the game means that a starter always is one injury away from being replaced by his backup and there are many stories throughout history of reserves doing wonderful things.

But I don’t think that dream scenario applies to the Saints’ nightmare scenario. If Brees isn’t playing, the Saints are in huge trouble.

The other three quarterbacks on the roster are Chase Daniel, Sean Canfield and Luke McCown. Sure, it’s possible the Saints could go out and sign a veteran off the street. We’ll start exploring those possibilities if 4:01 p.m. ET Monday rolls around and Brees doesn’t have a contract or hasn’t signed his franchise tender.

For now, let’s just stick with the quarterbacks the Saints have on their roster. Could they win, over the long haul, with any of them?

There was a lot of talk about how well Daniel was operating the first-team offense through most of the offseason program and how he had taken on a leadership role. All indications are Daniel is a smart guy, hard worker and a good teammate. But the reality is Daniel has attempted all of eight NFL passes. When I was at Saints' minicamp in June, Daniel looked all right. But he was working against a defense that wasn’t allowed to hit. Daniel doesn’t have Brees’ arm or experience and real defenses would be a challenge.

Although Daniel certainly appears to be the No. 1 alternative in a Brees disaster at the moment, I’m not sure he’d actually be the best choice of the three quarterbacks currently on the roster. Just watching practice, it’s clear that Daniel is better than Canfield.

But McCown could be the wild card if Brees really ends up sitting out. McCown’s been floating around the league since 2004. He never has been able to nail down a full-time starting job and that means he clearly has some limitations. But McCown is bigger, has a stronger arm and more NFL experience than Daniel.

It wouldn’t be ideal, but McCown might give the Saints the best shot if Brees really does end up holding out.

Saints down another QB

June, 13, 2012
New Orleans head coach Joe Vitt just met with the media and explained why quarterback Chase Daniel didn’t practice Wednesday and cleared up the mystery that surfaced when Daniel showed up at a charity event with his right (throwing) hand in some sort of brace.

Vitt said Daniel has a hairline fracture on his thumb. Vitt said the injury happened when Daniel hit the thumb on a helmet.

Daniel had been getting all of the first-team work this offseason because starter Drew Brees has been away from the team while trying to work out a long-term contract. Vitt said Daniel will be fine for training camp, but won’t be allowed to throw for the next few weeks. Sean Canfield and recently signed Luke McCown ran the offense in Wednesday’s session.

I don’t think Daniel’s situation adds any urgency to getting the Brees deal done. The Saints can finish their offseason program with Canfield and McCown. I’m still expecting Brees will get a new deal shortly before the July 16 deadline for franchise players to sign long-term contracts.

Vitt also announced that defensive end Greg Romeus recently suffered a torn ACL. The Saints had high hopes for Romeus, who sat out his rookie season after tearing his other ACL while still in college. Without Romeus, the chances of converted linebacker Martez Wilson and Junior Galette getting more playing time at defensive end will increase.

Around the NFC South

June, 8, 2012
Time for a look at the Friday morning headlines from around the NFC South.
  • Although the New Orleans Saints have made a new offer to quarterback Drew Brees for a long-term contract, Mike Triplett writes that it doesn’t appear like a deal will be finalized anytime soon. Triplett suggest Saints’ fans stay patient and I think that’s the right approach.
  • The Atlanta Falcons have sent out hints that their offense will look different this year. They also have repeatedly said running back Michael Turner will have his carries reduced. Turner’s response: "They always say that." There’s some truth in that. In the past, the Falcons have said they wanted to limit Turner’s carries, but he still has gotten a bunch. I think you may see some changes, but Turner still is approaching things the same as he always has. Not a bad idea. Even if Turner’s carries are limited and the Falcons are doing other things on offense, Turner still will be an important part of whatever the Falcons do.
  • This probably won’t come as a surprise to those that followed receiver Dwayne Jarrett back when he was with the Carolina Panthers. Jarrett had recently signed with the Canadian Football League’s Saskatchewan Roughriders amid a lot of hype. But things didn’t go well for Jarrett in Canada and his career is over. Jarrett has retired at 25. As a former second-round pick by the Panthers, it’s not too harsh to call Jarrett a bust. He certainly had some talent, but never blossomed for the Panthers. I covered part of Jarrett’s time in Carolina and the impression I got (reinforced by his former coaches and teammates) was that Jarrett was too laid back. Unlike Steve Smith and some other very successful receivers, Jarrett just didn’t seem to have a lot of drive. Speaking of former USC receivers that were second-round draft picks by Carolina that didn't have a lot of drive, whatever happened to Keary Colbert?
  • One of the bigger breaks the Panthers caught in the offseason was that offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski didn’t get a job as a head coach. Tight end Greg Olsen recently called Chudzinski one of the greatest offensive minds in the league and I think there’s plenty of truth in that. The Panthers better enjoy the Chudzinski era while they can. If they put up offensive numbers similar to last year, I’m pretty sure Chudzinski will be a head coach somewhere next year.
  • Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano wouldn’t discuss the trade of Kellen Winslow immediately after the move was made. But Schianio finally has admitted what everyone suspected. The coach wasn’t happy because the tight end wasn’t a regular at offseason workouts. Schiano also said he didn’t think Winslow was going to be a good fit with the Buccaneers. Schiano obviously saw a problem brewing and he elected to address it before it could have an impact on the team.
  • The NFL reportedly has asked the New Orleans Saints for film of Wednesday morning’s minicamp session in which a minor incident between linebacker Curtis Lofton and quarterback Chase Daniel prompted a team-wide skirmish that lasted about one minute to 90 seconds. Contact is not allowed in these workouts and the league is taking that seriously. The NFL recently stripped Seattle of two offseason workout days for violating rules. If the Saints end up getting punished for this one, it’s a shame. I saw the incident. Lofton barely grazed Daniel’s jersey. The quarterback, perhaps a little frustrated that his last few passes weren’t great, threw the ball at Lofton’s feet. That prompted some pushing and shoving between offensive and defensive players. I didn’t see any punches thrown and the whole thing was broken up quickly. I’ve seen plenty of more intense practice outbursts through the years.
  • The Saints apparently liked what they saw out of quarterback Luke McCown in recent days. They signed him to a contract after he went through a three-day minicamp on a tryout basis. I think the Saints like Daniel as their backup quarterback, but McCown could have a shot to beat out Sean Canfield for the third spot – assuming the Saints carry three quarterbacks.
Joe VittDerick E. Hingle/US PresswireWith Joe Vitt taking over for suspended coach Sean Payton, the Saints haven't lost their way.

METAIRIE, La. -- I’ve walked out to the practice field twice a day each of the past two days, looking for any signs that suggest the New Orleans Saints are a different team than they’ve been the last few years.

Other than a message for NFL commissioner Roger Goodell that can’t be printed here, I saw no signs.

The practices really looked no different than any of the others I’ve seen since starting this job in 2008. As always, the humidity was awful, but nothing else was. This team is talented.

It’s also run in a very organized manner. Yeah, I know coach Sean Payton is suspended for the season, but it’s not as though former Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris flew into town and handed the keys to the asylum to the inmates.

The Saints are being led through the offseason by assistant head coach Joe Vitt, who is the closest thing you’ll find to Payton. Vitt has been Payton’s right-hand man since the Saints began their modern era of prosperity in 2006.

“(Vitt is) not trying to fill coach Payton’s shoes,’’ safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "He’s just playing his role, and he’s doing a good job.’’

In other words, Vitt is trying to keep things as normal as possible in what might be the most bizarre offseason an NFL team ever has faced.

Payton’s not on the practice field as he pays the penalty for what the NFL says was a three-year bounty program run by the Saints. General manager Mickey Loomis is scheduled to begin an eight-game suspension at the start of the season. Linebacker Jonathan Vilma is supposed to be suspended for the entire season and defensive end Will Smith for the first four games. Vilma has been around the facility but isn’t taking part in team drills as he recovers from a knee injury. He’s appealing his suspension, as is Smith.

Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is gone (he left for St. Louis immediately after the season, then drew an indefinite suspension for his role in the bounty program). That might be making things a bit quieter on the practice field, because replacement Steve Spagnuolo isn’t nearly as boisterous as Williams. But you can still see talent and progress on the defensive side of the ball.

Oh, and there’s one other little item -- franchise quarterback Drew Brees hasn’t been around as he and the team try to work out a long-term contract. I’ll acknowledge that I probably saw more incompletions from Chase Daniel, Sean Canfield and Luke McCown than I’ve seen in all the times I’ve seen Brees practice. But there still were moments where you could see Payton’s offense shining through as big-time talents like tight end Jimmy Graham, Darren Sproles and Marques Colston made nice catches and big plays.

Not seeing Brees is a little weird. But does anyone really think the quarterback isn’t going to be with this team by training camp?

Negotiations might go down to the wire, but I’m certain a deal will get worked out. Once Brees is back, the Saints will be just fine.

That’s because, through all the controversy and drama, they’ve kept things the same.

[+] EnlargeSteve Spagnuolo
AP Photo/Gerald HerbertDefensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo might not be quite the presence of predecessor Gregg Williams, but the Saints are getting his message.
“What’s our other option?’’ Jenkins said. “It’s business as usual. We’ve got to accomplish a lot this time of year, no matter what, so that’s all we can do.’’

Spagnuolo is installing a new defense. Offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael is fine-tuning that side of the ball, and there’s no doubt Payton left a few notes in his suggestion box before the start of his suspension. Even the special teams look like they’re going about things in the same way.

“They'd better be,’’ wide receiver Lance Moore said. “We’re not feeling sorry for ourselves or anybody else. We’re here and we still feel like we have a very good football team and we definitely can do some damage this year.’’

Jenkins and Moore are precisely right when they say it’s not even an option for the Saints to feel sorry for themselves.

There has been plenty of outside speculation that all the turmoil is going to cause the Saints to collapse completely. There’s no doubt every opponent on the schedule would like to help that process along.

The Saints won a Super Bowl after the 2009 season, and they followed that up with two more winning seasons and two more playoff appearances. Along the way, they haven’t made a lot of friends, but that’s the nature of what is an extremely competitive business.

There are those who want to see the Saints fall and there are others who want to see them standing firmly. Consider Curtis Lofton to be in the latter group. He spent the last four seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, probably New Orleans’ biggest rival. But Lofton signed with the Saints as a free agent and is expected to be their starting middle linebacker.

“We look at it now as everybody against us,’’ Lofton said. “Everybody wants to see us do bad. That’s just bringing us together as a unit. The Super Bowl is actually in New Orleans this season, so the goal for everyone is to go and win it for this team and this city. Let’s go get it.’’

The business-as-usual mantra is the best bet for the Saints to get where they want. With Vitt running the show, they’re operating a proven system. Brees will be back, and that means the offense can score enough points for the Saints to beat anyone.

But there’s another challenge on the horizon. Vitt also has to serve a six-game suspension, which kicks in just before the start of the regular season. All indications are that the Saints will then hand the head-coach role to offensive line coach Aaron Kromer, Carmichael or Spagnuolo.

Whichever one of those three takes over, it’s pretty clear how the Saints will proceed. They’ll continue doing things the same way they did with Vitt, which is exactly the same way they did things with Payton.

“I think it says a lot about these guys in the locker room and these coaches,’’ Lofton said. “They’ve been winning a lot of games around here and they have high standards. Everyone’s expectations are to live up to those standards and just keep everything rolling.’’

Just in case there’s any need for clarification, Lofton didn’t mean the Saints will be rolling over. He meant they’ll just keep rolling along.
METAIRIE, La. -- The New Orleans Saints went through two minicamp practices Tuesday. I'm working on several columns and other items for the future, but let me share some quick notes and observations from the first day of minicamp.
  • At times, quarterback Chase Daniel looked very good while working with the first team. Same for Sean Canfield, but it’s pretty obvious these guys aren’t quite on Drew Brees’ level. I’m pretty sure Tuesday was the first time I’ve seen the Saints practice and witnessed back-to-back incompletions. That basically doesn’t happen with Brees.
  • Assistant head coach Joe Vitt said it’s too early to talk about defensive linemen because they’re not hitting and they’re not in pads. But it’s pretty obvious Vitt is high on young defensive ends Greg Romeus, Junior Galette and Martez Wilson.
  • Vitt said he’s not ready to say that Wilson’s move from linebacker to defensive end is permanent. But Vitt said Wilson’s past as a linebacker gives him an advantage on the other defensive ends as they sometimes are being asked to drop into pass coverage in the new defensive scheme.
  • Although the Saints had only five draft picks this year, Vitt said he views the class as having six members. Romeus had to sit out his rookie season with a knee injury and Vitt said he’s being treated as a rookie.
  • Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo expressed the same precaution about judging defensive linemen before full contact, but he sounded very high on defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley, who joined the Saints during the offseason. Spagnuolo raved about Bunkley’s fundamentals and attention to detail.
  • Tight end Jimmy Graham appears to have added some muscle in the offseason. I asked him about it and Graham said his weight is still 265, but said he’s spent a little more time in the weight room and has added some muscle.
  • The Saints added a little secondary depth just before minicamp. They signed former Tampa Bay cornerback Elbert Mack.
  • The Saints lost guard Carl Nicks to Tampa Bay in free agency, but quickly replaced him with Ben Grubbs. Nicks may be the best guard in the NFL, but Grubbs isn’t bad. In fact, he may be better than Nicks in some ways. “I think that he is probably a little better communicator on the line of scrimmage than Carl Nicks,’’ Vitt said.
  • The Saints clearly are in the experimental stages at linebacker. They opened the morning session with Curtis Lofton, Scott Shanle and David Hawthorne working with the first team. In the afternoon session, they shook things up and had free-agent pickup Chris Chamberlain working with the first team in Shanle's spot.
  • Zach Strief worked with the first team at right tackle in the morning session, but Strief wasn’t on the field in the afternoon. It wasn’t clear if Strief was injured or if there was another reason for his absence. Rookie Marcel Jones worked with the first team in the afternoon. I’m not sure that bodes well for the future of Charles Brown, who Vitt previously said was competing for a starting job.
  • Left tackle Jermon Bushrod, who was rehabbing an injury through the early part of organized team activities, was back on the field and practicing with the first team Tuesday.
  • Former Saints receivers coach Curtis Johnson, now the head coach at Tulane, brought his staff out to watch practice. Vitt said Johnson offered a critique after the morning session.
  • I know a lot of New Orleans fans like to criticize strong safety Roman Harper’s pass- coverage skills. But I did see Haprer coming through with a nice breakup on a deep pass in the morning session.
METAIRIE, La. -- It wasn’t Drew Brees, but the New Orleans Saints had a third quarterback on the field as they opened a three-day minicamp Tuesday morning.

NFL veteran Luke McCown is going through the minicamp on a tryout basis and could be signed after the camp.

“With Drew’s situation, I’m just looking for an opportunity right now,’’ McCown said. “And this is a good team to be with. Their offense is similar to what I was in with (Jon) Gruden in Tampa Bay.’’

In addition to playing for Tampa Bay, McCown also had stints with Cleveland and Jacksonville. McCown hasn’t played a lot, but he’s made nine NFL starts. That’s nine more than Chase Daniel and Sean Canfield, the only two quarterbacks currently on the roster.

Brees is carrying the franchise tag and hasn’t signed his tender. Brees and the team said the goal is a long-term deal. Assistant coach Joe Vitt has said all along that he’s confident the situation will be resolved in a positive manner.

Vitt said that again Tuesday, and said he expects Brees to be with the Saints for the start of training camp. Vitt said he’s not worried that Brees has missed time with the team.

“Nobody’s going to come in in better shape than Drew,’’ Vitt said.

Saints looking for third QB

May, 31, 2012
While repeatedly saying he’s confident Drew Brees’ contract situation will be worked out, New Orleans assistant head coach Joe Vitt said Thursday the Saints likely will add a third quarterback before the start of next week’s minicamp.

The Saints have gone through the early part of their offseason workouts with Chase Daniel working with the first team and only Sean Canfield behind him. Vitt said the Saints will work out some quarterbacks in the coming days.

Assuming the Brees situation eventually gets resolved, the Saints aren’t looking for a starter. That’s a good thing because there aren’t any real starters available at this time of year. The list of available guys is basically a list of guys that could provide an extra arm for minicamp and the rest of the offseason program.

The Saints previously worked out Brian Brohm and he could be a candidate. Tyler Palko and Mark Brunell have spent time with the Saints in the past and could be possibilities. But I don’t know that the Saints would want Brunnell because he’s 41. If you’re looking for a third arm, you might as well bring in a guy that at least has the potential to blossom in your system.

Another former Saint, Jake Delhomme, remains available. But Delhomme falls into the same category as Brunell. Same for Jeff Garcia.

After that, the list of available quarterbacks isn’t any more impressive. It includes guys like Luke McCown, J.P. Losman, Kyle Boller, Kevin O’Connell, Dennis Dixon, A.J. Feeley, Brian St. Pierre, Jim Sorgi and J.T. O’Sullivan.

We’ll have more from Vitt, once I get a complete transcript of his media session later this afternoon. But I’ll give you one hint about something that’s coming. Defensive end Will Smith has been getting some work at defensive tackle. I’ll be back with more on what was said on that topic.

Checking in on the Saints

May, 14, 2012
We’re finally reaching the point where there’s some football news out of the New Orleans Saints.

The team had its rookie minicamp over the weekend and assistant head coach Joe Vitt, who is stepping in for suspended coach Sean Payton, and the coordinators met with the New Orleans media Monday afternoon. There was no major news, but I’m looking at the transcripts and seeing several items that are worth discussing.

The veteran Saints have yet to hit the field in their offseason workouts, but that will come next week. With the contract situation of quarterback Drew Brees still very much up in the air, the Saints have to prepare to take the field without their leader. The Brees situation could change with a phone call, but the Saints are preparing to begin their on-field workouts with Chase Daniel and Sean Canfield as their quarterbacks.

“We’re going to throw the volume of offense at them that we would in a normal week,’’ offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. said. “It won’t be any different in that aspect.”

The Saints aren’t ruling out the possibility of adding another quarterback before they hit the field. They had Brian Brohm in for a tryout during the camp and could possibly sign him or someone else in the coming days. But, for the moment, they’re looking at proceeding with the quarterbacks they have under contract.

“This is going to be an opportunity for Chase and Sean to get more reps and get a good look at those guys,’’ Carmichael said.

There have been reports the Saints and Brees have made no progress toward a long-term contract. Vitt said the negotiations are between general manager Mickey Loomis and Brees’ agent, but still remained optimistic that the quarterback will have a contract before training camp.

“I’ve never been a math major and I’m not an accounting major so there’s nothing I could advise Mickey to do that what he already knows how to do,’’ Vitt said. “Those guys are both on the same page and have the same aspirations and same goals. This is going to get done. I don’t (believe) anybody ever thought it was going to be easy. I think they’re both working to the same goal.”

Vitt and the coordinators also addressed several other topics of significance.

The Saints have re-signed veteran kicker John Kasay, who stepped in last year when Garrett Hartley was injured. Special teams coordinator Greg McMahon said neither kicker is guaranteed a roster spot.

“We’re going to make it competitive, absolutely,’’ McMahon said. “All phases of our team are. We re-signed John for a reason. Garrett knows that and it will certainly be good competition. It’s healthy. It’s good for us.”

Uncertainty remains about the status of linebacker Jonathan Vilma and defensive end Will Smith. The NFL has suspended Vilma for the entire 2012 season and Smith is scheduled to be suspended for the first four games of the season for their roles in the bounty program. But those suspensions are on hold because both players have appealed.

“Both of those players were in the building today and we’re moving forward,’’ Vitt said. “We had a great film session with these guys. I think I have to go back to what we said a couple weeks ago. We’re trying to win today. Today, we got a little bit better than yesterday. This weekend we got a little bit better than the previous weekend. We’re going to adjust those challenges when we have to face them.”

Vitt also said the Saints will open training camp at their facility in Metairie, but suggested they will spend some time practicing against one of their preseason opponents. The Saints open the preseason by playing in the Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio against the Arizona Cardinals. They follow that with a road game in New England, home games with Jacksonville and Houston and close out the preseason with a game at Tennessee.

“We’ll open up (camp) a little early because we have the Hall of Fame game and then we’ll probably go and practice against one of our upcoming opponents in training camp,’’ Vitt said. “I think Mickey’s ready to talk about it in a week when it gets settled, but we’ll go away, kind of like we did in California (last preseason) for a week. We did it two years before that in Houston. We’ll go away and practice with an opponent that we have in our preseason schedule.”

Vitt also addressed the status of running back Mark Ingram, who recently had arthroscopic knee surgery.

“I think anytime you see a player limping around with a late-season offseason surgery like he had, you’re concerned,’’ Vitt said. “What I’m not concerned about is his dedication to getting better and his accountability to his teammates. He’s shows up to treatment on time every day. He’s not late. He’s taken a good business approach to this thing. The surgery is probably something that he didn’t have to get done, but as an organization we all agreed that he should get it done to make him a stronger player. Mark a dependable guy now. He’s not going to miss his treatment. He gets his work done. You’re concerned obviously with this, but not much with him.”

Vitt said the Saints may proceed cautiously with Ingram at the start of training camp, but have no doubt he’ll be ready for the beginning of the regular season.

Catching up on NFC South transactions

September, 5, 2011
We told you earlier Monday the Carolina Panthers signed Geoff Hangartner, who has a chance to start immediately at right guard. There also have been a bunch of minor transactions around the division. Let’s catch up on them now.
  • The Panthers waived offensive lineman C.J. Davis to clear a roster spot for Hangartner.
  • As expected the Buccaneers officially announced the signing of linebacker Zac Diles. The team also announced it had claimed tight end Zack Pianalto off waivers from Buffalo. To create roster spots, the Bucs waived cornerback D.J. Johnson and defensive end George Johnson. Don’t be surprised if they wind up on the practice squad.
  • The Buccaneers also announce they have signed eight players to their practice squad. They are tackle Will Barker, safety Ahmad Black, quarterback Rudy Carpenter, tight end Collin Franklin, receiver Ed Gant, tight end Daniel Hardy, running back Mossis Madu and linebacker Derrell Smith. All eight were with the Bucs in the preseason.
  • The Falcons filled out their practice squad by signing tight end Marquez Branson, who spent 2010 on the team’s practice squad.
  • To make room for tight end John Gilmore, the Saints released linebacker Ramon Humber. The Saints also signed tackle William Robinson, guard Dennis Landolt and receiver Montez Billings. They released long-snapper Kyle Nelson, quarterback Sean Canfield and center Cecil Newton from the practice squad.

More NFC South transactions

September, 4, 2011
Let’s catch up on a few more transactions that have come out Sunday.

As expected, the Bucs didn’t sit still at linebacker. They reportedly have signed Zac Diles, who was released by St. Louis. Diles fits the profile of what the Bucs were looking for in a backup for rookie middle linebacker Mason Foster. They wanted someone with experience, but not an older player. Diles also played at Kansas State when Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris was an assistant.

Diles made 30 career starts while with the Houston Texans. He can play the middle or strong-side linebacker. We don’t know the flip side of this move yet. But the Bucs could be adding more players, and that would mean more releases.

In other news, the New Orleans Saints signed eight players to their practice squad. Linebacker Nate Bussey, quarterback Sean Canfield, tight end Michael Higgins, cornerback Terrail Lambert, defensive tackle Swanson Miller, long snapper Kyle Nelson, center Cecil Newton and receiver Andy Tanner, who all spent time with the Saints this summer, were signed. Newton is the brother of Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.

Hitting the NFC South links

December, 1, 2010
Time for an afternoon trip across the NFC South for some of the division's latest headlines.
  • New Orleans coach Sean Payton said he expects tight end Jeremy Shockey and safety Darren Sharper to return from injuries Sunday. The injury list is getting pretty short with only running back Pierre Thomas, linebacker Anthony Waters and running back Ladell Betts on it. Thomas and Waters were limited in Wednesday's practice, while Betts did not participate.
  • Stephen Holder wonders if we've seen the last of guard Davin Joseph with the Buccaneers. It's a legitimate question because Joseph, who went on injured reserve, can become a free agent after the season. The Bucs haven't been locking up their own players and I think some of that is due to the league's labor uncertainty. It also might be wise for Joseph to test free agency. He's one of the league's better guards and he's in his prime.
  • The Saints signed linebacker Ramon Humber and released quarterback Sean Canfield. Don't be surprised if Canfield ends up on the practice squad shortly. The Saints have been bouncing him between the regular roster and the practice squad much of the year.
  • Joseph Person reports Carolina safety Sherrod Martin was fined $40,000 for a hit on Cleveland tight end Evan Moore and also writes that a teammate said cornerback Chris Gamble was benched for parts of Sunday's game for missing practice last week.
  • In his latest Rookie Watch, our Matt Williamson has three Tampa Bay players among the top 10 -- Gerald McCoy, Mike Williams and LeGarrette Blount. I'm with him on all three selections and I don't want to get too carried away. But let's examine this a little more closely. McCoy was the third overall pick and he's starting to do what he was supposed to do. But Williams was a fourth-round pick and Blount was an undrafted free agent the Bucs picked up off waivers. Tampa Bay is currently carrying 16 rookies and a couple more of those guys are bound to emerge. Receiver Arrelious Benn, a second-round pick, has had some promising moments. Defensive tackle Brian Price, another second-round pick is on injured reserve. Let's say Benn continues to develop, Price comes back next year and does what he's supposed to and another guy or two emerges. The Bucs could end up having one of the best rookie classes in history.

Reggie Bush returning for Saints

November, 25, 2010
ARLINGTON, Texas -- New Orleans running back Reggie Bush will make his return Thursday after missing eight games with a broken leg.

Bush is on the active list and is listed as the starter, although he's likely to share time with Chris Ivory in the backfield.

Inactives for the Saints Thursday are running back Pierre Thomas, safety Matt Giordano, safety Darren Sharper, running back Ladell Betts, tackle Charles Brown, tight end Jeremy Shockey and defensive end Junior Gallette.

Sean Canfield is the third quarterback.

Hitting the NFC South links

September, 5, 2010
Lots of little things going on around the NFC South on the last Sunday before Sunday’s get real. So let’s turn to the links to bring you up to speed.

Roy Cummings reports the Bucs have claimed center Ted Larsen and running back Kregg Lumpkin off waivers. Not a surprise, because this roster needs some work and general manager Mark Dominik is a big believer in using the waiver wire to find help. There could be more additions coming, and we don’t know yet how the Bucs will create roster spots for the new guys.

Rick Stroud reports that Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman has passed a big test as he returns from a fractured right thumb. Freeman has been able to take snaps from center Jeff Faine without any problems.

Although the Saints haven’t officially announced their practice squad, James Varney has seven names. The most familiar are quarterback Sean Canfield and defensive lineman DeMario Pressley.

As is the custom in New Orleans, the Saints aren’t saying much about injuries until they have to issue an official injury report. But running back Chris Ivory said his knee injury involves the medial collateral ligament and said he’s improving every day. Linebacker Jonathan Vilma didn’t have much to say about his groin injury.

Darin Gantt points out that, at the moment, 35 of the 53 players on Carolina’s roster were drafted by the Panthers.

Things are pretty quiet in Atlanta today, but D. Orlando Ledbetter reports that tight end Tony Gonzalez has set up an interesting contest for fans to help celebrate his 1,000th catch, which will be his first catch of this season.