NFC South mailbag

Aphex in New York writes: What are your thoughts on the Buccaneers O line? I think Jeremy Zuttah has a lot to prove. Reading pewterreport.com, there are rumblings that Zuttah is not physical enough in the power man blocking scheme that the Bucs are getting back to like during the Gruden years.

Pat Yasinskas: The fellows at Pewter Report have a point. The Bucs weren’t thrilled with Zuttah’s play last year. That’s why they signed Keydrick Vincent, who has a good chance to start. Zuttah could be headed for backup duty.

Jonathan in Fort Mill, S.C., writes: Why do NFL GM's wait until the last moment to start negotiations? There has to be some logical reason because every NFL team does this, but it just boggles the mind. You draft a player in April, then wait until the end of July to begin contract talks, when there is a snag, they miss training camp and the million dollars the team just invested is delayed until the player can master the play book & schematics. What gives?

Pat Yasinskas: Well, let’s put some, but not all of the blame on the general managers. I’d put most of the blame on agents. They’re out to get every penny they can and they like to wait as long as possible to see what a client’s market value is. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, but that’s pretty much the way it’s been in the NFL.

John in Anchorage writes: What happened to Jermaine Phillips? it seems like all the talk of the strong safety battle is between Sean Jones and Sabby Piscitelli. Is he being thrown in the OLB rotation? Or is his career in Tampa over with?

Pat Yasinskas: Phillips isn’t currently on Tampa Bay’s roster -- or any roster. He was a free agent and the Bucs chose not to re-sign him. I’m not sure what his health status is, but no other team has stepped forward to sign Phillips.

Chris in Atlanta writes: Obviously with our recent history with Michael Vick, DeAngelo Hall and especially Bobby Petrino the Falcons are committed to "character" guys throughout the organization. While they have done well so far, do you think this approach is effective enough to win Super Bowls or will they have to loosen the standards and take more risk on high talent perhaps marginal character players that we see playing in Pro Bowls and getting the lion share of media hype?

Pat Yasinskas: I like the approach and I salute owner Arthur Blank, coach Mike Smith and general manager Thomas Dimitroff for carrying it out. I’d give it a little more time before you start shouting for the rules to bend. I saw this approach work pretty well in Tampa Bay during the Tony Dungy/Rich McKay years and it’s been working in Carolina after owner Jerry Richardson took some early lumps and decided he didn’t need any more players who were prone to trouble.

Brett in Raleigh writes: I just saw Jonathan Stewart was put on the PUP list. What do you know about this? Is it the active one that Wes Welker is on that doesn't really mean anything or is he on the one the makes him ineligible for the first 6 weeks?

Pat Yasinskas: No, this is only a procedural thing for the start of training camp. Stewart can come off the list and begin practicing at any time in the preseason. I suspect the Panthers are just being cautious on this one and you’ll see him before too long.