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Saturday morning NFC South mailbag

Lloyd in Charleston, S.C., writes: I'm a huge Carolina Panthers fan and I just wanted to know if the rumor of Michael Vick going to the Panthers was ever true because if it was then we missed out on the new and improved Vick. Not only does he still has the moves but he looks better in the pocket and looks to have improved accuracy as well. Do you think the Panthers made a mistake in not pursuing Michael Vick when they had the opportunity?

Pat Yasinskas: I can tell you unequivocally that the Panthers had absolutely no interest in ever pursuing Vick. That came from a reliable source pretty high up the ladder in Carolina. Owner Jerry Richardson instituted a policy of staying away from troubled players after the Rae Carruth saga and he’s made sure his organization has followed it with only a few minor exceptions. Signing Vick after all his problems would have violated that policy in a big way and it was never going to happen. In hindsight and in fairness to Vick, he has handled things well in his new life. In spite of all that, I don’t think the Panthers have any regrets.


Rob in Orlando writes: I haven't read any news about Tampa Bay selling out this week’s game hosting the Steelers. Have you heard if it sold out?

Pat Yasinskas: Rob, I’m not trying to be sarcastic here. But the reason you haven’t heard any news about the Bucs selling out is because they didn’t. The game will be blacked out in the Tampa Bay area. Kind of sad because the Bucs are 2-0 and playing an undefeated Pittsburgh team. But it is what it is.


Ryan in Wilmington, N.C., writes: With the Panthers WR corps in total disarray once you get past #89, why not put Dante Rosario at wideout and let Jeff King handle the full time TE positions?

Pat Yasinskas: Ordinarily, I’d laugh and try to blow a theory like this out of the water by saying a tight end is too big and too slow to play wide receiver. But I’m not going to do that this time because it’s not a ridiculous idea in Carolina’s current situation. They really have nothing besides Steve Smith at wide receiver and we know that Rosario can at least catch the ball a little. I’m not saying this will happen, but it’s not a bad idea.


Joey in Bloomington, Ill., writes: I heard you used "small market" about the Saints quite a few times lately. What does it really mean? I don't understand because lately every time you have Saints on TV, they drew very high record rating. Small market?

Pat Yasinskas: In its annual Record and Fact Book, the NFL includes the rankings of the top 100 television markets in the country. I’m looking at it right now. New Orleans is ranked No. 51 with 633,930 television households. The only television markets in NFL cities that are smaller are Buffalo (No. 52) and Green Bay-Appleton (No. 70) and you could argue that Milwaukee (No. 35) is part of the Green Bay market. Non-NFL cities like Orlando, San Antonio, Harrisburg, Pa, Grand Rapids, Mich. and Oklahoma City all are ranked well ahead of New Orleans, so there’s no doubt it’s a small market. That said, the penetration factor in New Orleans is outstanding. The numbers I saw for the opener said that 60 percent of the households in the New Orleans market were tuned into the game. But it's still 60 percent of the households in the nation’s 51st largest market. For other NFC South readers, Atlanta is No. 8, Tampa/St. Petersburg/Sarasota is no. 14 and Charlotte is No. 24.


Jon in Montreal writes: Should Bucs fans be worried that we're not seeing Arrelious Benn on the field (other than on special teams)? It's too early to call a rookie a bust but...

Pat Yasinskas: No, from what I’ve heard out of the Bucs, they believe Benn is making progress and has lots of upside. Yes, he’s being overshadowed by fellow rookie Mike Williams, but Williams is off to an uncommon start. More often than not, it takes rookie receivers time to make an impact. If you want to talk about drafting wide receivers who turned out to be busts, talk to Carolina fans. Or go back to Tampa Bay’s days of Reidel Anthony and Jacquez Green. But nobody with the Bucs is even close to thinking Benn will be a bust.


Gabe in Washington, D.C. writes: As a Saints fan I've been very excited about how Chris Ivory played in the preseason but know nothing about his status or his injury. Given Reggie Bush’s setback and the Saints' penchant for finding starters in UDFAs like Pierre Thomas, I am surprised we haven't heard more about Ivory. Have you heard anything about if and when Ivory might make it into the mix?

Pat Yasinskas: Hang loose just a bit. I think you might see Ivory this Sunday. He had a knee injury that had sidelined him. But he practiced this week and is listed as probable. With Bush out, I think you’ll see Ivory as part of the backfield rotation.