NFC South mailbag

I didn’t have much time to look at the mailbag while I was making my rounds through the NFC South training camps. But I’m jumping in there this morning and seeing lots of great and timely questions. That’s why I’m going to really let it fly and make this a pretty lengthy post. Here we go.

Jim in Bonita Springs, Fla., writes: Thanks for all the good work you did this week about Double Nickel (Derrick Brooks). As a long-time season-ticket holder, I am glad our NFC South blogger didn't forget the greatest Buc of all time!

Pat Yasinskas: Thank you. There’s no way I could ever forget Derrick Brooks. He’s not only the greatest Buccaneer in history, he’s the best player in the history of the NFC South (Saints fans, let’s give it a little more time before we start bringing Drew Brees into the argument) and, at least in my eyes, Brooks is a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Allow me to get a misty-eyed here, because Derrick is someone I covered closely. I was covering the Bucs for The Tampa Tribune back when Sam Wyche drafted him, and I was fortunate enough to be able to observe something magical. The Bucs might have been the worst franchise in the league when Brooks arrived and they’d been bad for a long time. Guys like Warren Sapp, John Lynch, Hardy Nickerson, Paul Gruber, Warrick Dunn and Mike Alstott all played big roles in making the Bucs respectable. But the two key figures in really turning the Bucs around were Brooks and coach Tony Dungy. Derrick’s play on the field speaks for itself. So does his life off it. I view myself as lucky to have had the chance to cover Brooks.

Greg in Tampa writes: Besides Mark Royals and Ronde Barber, were any of Brooks' teammates at his retirement announcement?

Pat Yasinskas: Mike Alstott also was in the room, standing with his sons along the side of the auditorium. He, Royals and Barber were all I saw of the “old’’ Bucs. There were a bunch of current Bucs in the room, and some of them played at least briefly with Brooks. But I wouldn’t go reading too much into who wasn’t there. This event was put together on very short notice. A lot of Brooks’ former teammates are working in broadcasting and coaching now, and I’m sure that prevented most of them from traveling. The Bucs provided quotes from a lot of former teammates like Nickerson, Sapp and Lynch. Brooks made references to those three, Barber and Alstott in his speech. There’s never been a more respected figure than Brooks in the Tampa Bay locker room.

Dan in Hurley, Miss., writes: I was reading over the whole Brian Westbrook situation. Why don't the Saints look into signing him to a one-year deal? Now that Lynell Hamilton has torn his ACL, doesn't it make sense that Brian might fit in perfect in this offense.

Pat Yasinskas: A lot of New Orleans fans are asking about Westbrook. Honestly, I think you’re barking up the wrong tree. Brian Westbrook was a great running back, no doubt. But I don’t see him as the kind of running back that fits what the Saints need after the loss of Hamilton. They need a big, power back. Westbrook never was anything close to that. He was a speed guy, who could run outside and catch passes out of the backfield. The Saints already have a healthy, younger version of that with Reggie Bush. I think you’ll see them combing the waiver wire as other teams trim rosters, and I think you’ll see them sign a big back to fill their need.

Reed in Atlanta writes: How worried should fans be about Dunta Robinson's lack of participation in this training camp?

Pat Yasinskas: Not at all. Robinson is very close to being healthy. He was lobbying the Atlanta coaching staff to get out on the field last week. But, after admitting he let Michael Turner talk him into returning too quickly last season, Mike Smith isn’t going to make the same mistake twice. He was overly cautious with Robinson, the team’s biggest free-agent signing of the offseason. There was no sense in risking getting Robinson hurt in the workouts with the Jaguars or the preseason opener. I think you’ll see Robinson return before long. But the goal for the Falcons is to make sure he’s healthy for the start of the regular season.

Will in New Orleans writes: With the Saints in need of a power runner to replace Lynell Hamilton, is there any way they could talk Glenn Coffee out of retirement and snatch him up? He'd probably be an upgrade over Hamilton anyway.

Pat Yasinskas: No. We don’t know all the details of why Coffee retired. But, even if he decided to come back, he’d be San Francisco’s property. Like I said, keep an eye on the waiver wire. I think that’s where your big back will come from.

Bob in Tampa writes: Your piece on Josh Freeman and Antonio Bryant was spot on, good job.

Pat Yasinskas: Thanks. I think readers need to realize what really went on behind the scenes with Bryant and the Buccaneers last season. I know there are some who said the Bucs were being cheap by not re-signing Bryant. It wasn’t even about money. The Bucs didn’t even make an offer to keep Bryant. By the middle of last season, they already had decided he was not a guy they wanted in their locker room going forward.

Dominic in Old Forge, Pa., writes: It's your buddy from the Scranton area! This might be an odd comment/question, but I think it bears mentioning. I have watched practically all of the preseason games thus far. I have noticed something very strange. It seems to me that players' helmets are popping off their heads at an alarming rate. I mean, I have probably seen over a dozen players lose their hats already. Have you noticed this? Do you think the league will look into this at all?

Pat Yasinskas: Yes, I’ve noticed a fair amount of this, but hadn’t really thought about it until I saw your note. I’ll keep an eye on this going forward and talk to some people about it and see if there are any league-wide concerns and what can be done to make this situation safer for players. Say hi to all my friends and family in the Scranton area. Good luck to the Old Forge Blue Devils this season, but you already know I’ll be rooting for the Lackawanna Trail Lions.