NFC South: Walter Payton Man of the Year award
There’s some good news on the injury front. Cornerback Dunta Robinson, who suffered a concussion in the regular-season finale, was medically cleared and practiced Friday. Fellow cornerback Asante Samuel was excused from practice due to a death in his family.
A lot of the Falcons like to say they don’t think about their recent playoff problems. Kudos to tight end Tony Gonzalez, whose playoff drought extends back to his Kansas City days, for admitting the lack of postseason success bothers him. Maybe he and the Falcons can use that as motivation.
All remains quiet as far as the future of coach Ron Rivera and the hiring of a general manager and I’ll update that if anything breaks. But, in the meantime, Max Henson has a breakdown of Carolina’s offense in the 2012 season.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
The Saints signed receiver Preston Parker to a futures contract. A lot of guys signed to futures contracts are never heard from again, but this is one to keep an eye on. Parker flashed some promise in his Tampa Bay days and could prosper in New Orleans’ offensive system.
Bradley Handwerger has a look at the team’s potential restricted free agents. Running back Chris Ivory and center Brian de la Puente head that list. Ivory wasn’t always happy about his playing time this past season, but I don’t see any way the Saints don’t put a tender on him.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Running back Doug Martin is a finalist for one rookie-of-the-year award. If you’re a Tampa Bay fan, go vote for him. He needs all the help he can get because he is up against quarterbacks Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson.
Guard Davin Joseph was selected as the team’s Man of the Year, which makes him a finalist for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Quarterbacks coach Ron Turner is leaving to become head coach at Florida International. The Bucs also have a vacancy at receivers coach, and offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan is a candidate for head coach of the Chicago Bears. As I’ve said before, keep an eye on former Arizona quarterbacks coach John McNulty. He potentially could fill any of those roles. McNulty coached for Greg Schiano at Rutgers. Schiano tried to hire McNulty last year, but the Cardinals blocked the move.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Receiver Lance Moore has been selected as the team’s Man of the Year, which makes him eligible for the league-wide Walter Payton Man of the Year award.
Here’s another column out of New Orleans saying that suspended coach Sean Payton should be reinstated now, instead of after the Super Bowl. I think that’s wishful thinking. After having player suspensions vacated, I’m guessing NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will make Payton serve his full suspension.
Scott Fowler writes that receiver/return man Armanti Edwards, whose career largely has been disappointing, should be brought back for one more try. I agree completely. The Panthers have nothing to lose by hanging on to Edwards. He’s under contract for minimum salary and he still maighthave some upside. Bring him to training camp and see if he fits on the roster.
Here’s another story about how running back Michael Turner is fresher heading into the playoffs this year than in past years. But I’m not sure it really matters. A healthy Turner rarely looked very explosive in the regular season.
The Falcons have been keeping John Abraham, Dunta Robinson and William Moore out of practice this week. But I’ve got a hunch all three will be back on the field next week.
That’s the story of linebacker Thomas Davis. He’s made a successful return after tearing his ACL for the third time. The story just added another nice layer. The Panthers just announced that Davis has been named their Man of the Year, which makes him one of 32 nominees for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award.
“Thomas Davis lives his life the way that Walter Payton did -- family and community first. His commitment as a husband and father reflects Walter’s loving spirit,” said Carolina coach Ron Rivera, who was Payton’s teammate with the Chicago Bears. “Thomas’ strength to come back from three knee surgeries is indicative of Payton’s toughness on the football field. I can think of no other Panthers player who is as deserving as Thomas.”
In addition to his on-field contributions, Davis and his wife, Kelly, run the Thomas Davis Defending Dreams Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to providing and promoting programs that enhance the quality of life for more than 2,000 underprivileged children and their families annually. Started in 2007, the foundation distributes more than $50,000 in aid each year.
The Falcons lost on Sunday, so it’s time for another round of “Bash The Falcons." A lot of people have said the Falcons aren’t as good as their record indicates. The latest is NBC analyst Rodney Harrison, who said no one is afraid of the Falcons. For the moment, he’s right. The only way this kind of talk is going to stop is if the Falcons go out and win a playoff game, or at least have a convincing victory against the New York Giants on Sunday.
Punter Matt Bosher has been named the Falcons’ Man of the Year for his off-field activities. This makes him one of 32 candidates for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award.
Rod Maaddi writes that Ron Rivera could save his job by winning the remaining three games. I’m not sure Rivera needs to win all three. Sunday’s victory against Atlanta and maybe one or two more wins could be enough to keep Rivera employed. I think owner Jerry Richardson just wants to see some positive signs out of this team the rest of the way.
Rivera yanked rookie cornerback Josh Norman from the starting lineup, saying he wanted to see what some other players could do. I think the Panthers made a mistake by making Norman a starter long before he was ready. A little time as a backup might get him on the right path.
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Former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue is expected to announce his ruling on the appeals of the suspensions in the bounty saga on Tuesday. As soon as an announcement is made, I’ll bring you analysis of what it means.
Interim coach Joe Vitt said the Saints are in territory they haven’t been in since the arrival of much of the coaching staff and quarterback Drew Brees in 2006. Even in 2007 and ’08, the Saints were at least in playoff contention in the final weeks. I wouldn’t count on wholesale lineup changes, but you probably will see some younger guys getting increase playing time.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Right tackle Demar Dotson said he has to clean up his technique after being called for holding twice on Sunday. He’s not the only one. The Bucs were called for 11 penalties. That’s way too many for a team that prides itself on being disciplined.
- The Falcons reportedly will not renew the contract of veteran defensive backs coach Emmitt Thomas.
- Carolina quarterbacks coach Rip Scherer said he declined an offer to become offensive coordinator at the University of Virginia and will stay with the Panthers.
- The Bucs selected return man Clifton Smith for their Man of the Year award, which makes him a candidate for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award.
- Nakia Hogan writes about how having cornerbacks Jabari Greer and Tracy Porter at full health could help the New Orleans defense.
- Brian Allee-Walsh lays out 10 reasons the Saints can win the Super Bowl.
- Rene Nadeua has a nice feature on New Orleans rookie running back Lynell Hamilton, who was getting increased playing time late in the regular season.
- Bradley Handwerger writes about the Saints not having a lot of playoff experience. They have only 11 players remaining from their trip to the NFC Championship Game in the 2006 season.
First, a day after not being selected to the Pro Bowl, Carolina’s Jon Beason has been named the NFC’s defensive player of the week. Beason recorded a sack and forced a fumble in a victory against the Giants.
Next, Scott Fujita was voted as the 2009 New Orleans Saints Man of the Year. That makes Fujita a finalist for the leaguewide Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, which will be given out during Super Bowl week.
Good choice. Finneran truly is one of the nicer guys I’ve met in covering the NFC South. He’s made a successful comeback after suffering major knee injuries in 2006 and 2007.
He’s also very active in the community, serving as a spokesman for breast cancer awareness, and is a regular when the Falcons make visits to children’s hospitals.
The league-wide winner of the award will be announced at the Super Bowl in February.
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
The Falcons just announced that offensive tackle Todd Weiner has been nominated for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award. Weiner, who is in his sixth season with the Falcons, has been extremly active in the community in Atlanta.