Around the NFC South

NEW ORLEANS -- I’ve just arrived at my hotel and wanted to take you on a quick swoop through what’s been a fairly busy afternoon in the NFC South.

We’ve talked plenty about the youth movements in Tampa Bay and Carolina. Now, we’ve got the numbers to prove we weren’t getting carried away. The Panthers are the NFL’s youngest team, according to their current roster, which averages 25 years and 233 days. If kicker John Kasay wasn’t around to pull up the average, the Panthers might be under 21. The Buccaneers’ average age is 26.

Cornerback Tracy Porter and linebacker Jonathan Vilma are listed as probable for Thursday night on the final injury report put out by the Saints this afternoon.

Right tackle Jeff Otah sat out Wednesday’s practice and it’s looking like there’s a good chance the Panthers will have to start Geoff Schwartz against the Giants on Sunday.

A lot of Tampa Bay fans freaked out when quarterback Josh Freeman didn’t practice Wednesday. Turns out, there’s nothing to worry about. At least according to Freeman and coach Raheem Morris, the day off was part of the plan as Freeman recovers from a fractured right thumb. Morris said Freeman will participate fully in Thursday’s practice.

A day before his season kicks off, Reggie Bush had to address reports that his Heisman Trophy might be taken away from him. Bush said the matter is out of his hands and he is focusing on the season.

Atlanta owner Arthur Blank said the Falcons should be better than last year. That may sound like an owner’s way of putting heat on his coach and general manager. But, in this case, it’s not. Mike Smith and Thomas Dimitroff firmly believe the Falcons will be much better than last year.

The Panthers have announced their captains. Steve Smith and Jordan Gross will represent the offense, Jon Beason and Tyler Brayton are the defensive captains and Kasay will represent the special teams.