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Sunday, March 20, 2011
Checking in from NFL meeting

By Pat Yasinskas

NEW ORLEANS -- The NFL owners meeting doesn’t officially start until Monday, but I spent a lot of time in the hotel lobby Sunday afternoon and touched base with at least one official from every NFC South team.

We’ll have much more over the next couple days, but I’ll give you a preview. I had a very good chat with Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith this afternoon and will have a column tomorrow in which the coach talks about what the Falcons need to do to take the next step. They’ve had winning records in each of Smith’s three seasons, but have yet to win a playoff game. He’s got some ideas on how to fix that and we’ll put those out on the table.

Also, I had a nice visit with John Fox and his wife Robin. Fox isn’t in the NFC South anymore. He’s coaching in Denver. But he’s a guy I covered throughout his time in Carolina and, despite his shortness with the media, we’ve got some good history. Let’s just say Fox is looking well and seems excited about getting a fresh start.

I’ve got plans to meet with Atlanta general manager Thomas Dimitroff and Carolina Panthers general manager Marty Hurney on Monday. I spoke briefly with Carolina owner Jerry Richardson, but that was just a visit and nothing formal. He’s been given an offer to talk on the record about the labor situation over the next few days and he said that’s at least a possibility.

We’ll also see if any other NFC South owners are talking. I’m planning to get with Carolina coach Ron Rivera, Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Raheem Morris and New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton on Tuesday.

Also, we should have the list of compensatory draft picks either Monday or Tuesday.