Hitting the NFC South hot spots

Let’s take a plunge into the NFC South mailbag.

Shane in Seminole, Fla. asks if Tampa Bay safety Tanard Jackson will be allowed to participate in offseason programs and preseason games, assuming the lockout is resolved, as he finishes his suspension.

Pat Yasinskas: No, Jackson was suspended late last September and the league suspended him for at least a full year. He’s not even eligible to apply for reinstatement until the full year has passed. He’s not allowed to have any contact or involvement with the Bucs until he is reinstated. Logically, the Bucs aren’t really counting on having him back. Even if does get reinstated, I’m not sure they’ll keep him because it’s tough to put a lot of stock in a player who could be one more mistake away from a lifetime ban.

Jonathan in Odessa, Texas wrote to say that he understands players can’t be contacted by teams and asks how that applies to the draft. He wonders if teams can even call players to tell them they’re going to be picked.

Pat Yasinskas: I don’t think that’s an issue with rookies. Teams are still allowed to talk to draft prospects and visit with them over the coming weeks. Unless there’s some real bizarre rule I’m not aware of, I’m sure they’ll be able to call the players they’re drafting. It’s after the draft that things get weird, and draft picks fall into the same category as other players. They won’t be able to sign contracts until there is some sort of resolution, and they can’t take part in any workouts at the team facility or under the guidance of the coaches as long as there is a lockout.

Mike in Vicksburg, Miss. asks if Drew Brees' heavy involvement on the players’ side of the labor situation could impact his relationship with coach Sean Payton, general manager Mickey Loomis and owner Tom Benson.

Pat Yasinskas: I doubt it. Yes, Brees has taken a very active role in the labor situation. But that’s just Brees being Brees. He’s a leader in whatever he does. Payton and Loomis aren’t really involved in this whole labor mess, and I believe they see Brees as one of many players who are just looking out for long-term welfare. As far as if this could create friction with Benson, again, I think the relationship is strong enough to withstand this. Also, Benson hasn’t exactly been one of the owners at the front of the negotiations.

JM in Charlotte asks if I were Carolina general manager Marty Hurney and was going to use the first pick on a quarterback, would it be Cam Newton or Blaine Gabbert?

Pat Yasinskas: Personally, I’d get a transition quarterback via free agency or a trade and look for the franchise guy in another year or two. But, since you framed the question like that, I’ll go with Gabbert. While I think Newton has much more upside, I also think he comes with a lot of downside. Gabbert might not have as much upside, but he doesn’t have the downside. This is a pick where the Panthers can’t really afford to swing and miss.