Around the NFC South

Time for a quick trip through some headlines from around the NFC South.

New Orleans general manager Mickey Loomis said the team’s personnel department and coaching staff are going on with “business as usual’’ in draft preparation and are ready to hit the ground running in free agency if the labor situation is resolved.

Tom Sorensen writes that all signs are pointing to the Panthers taking Auburn quarterback Cam Newton with the No. 1 pick in the draft. I know Tom well and he wouldn’t be writing this if he didn’t have a pretty strong vibe. Sorensen also brings up the point that it might be wise to sign a veteran to allow Newton some time to absorb the game. If he’s on the sideline, that’s not going to sit well with Carolina fans, who can be a little impatient and certainly have a right to be after what has gone on recently. But think back to how Tampa Bay handled Josh Freeman’s rookie year. The plan was to make sure he didn’t start for the first half of that season. In the long run, that turned out to be a great move.

The Buccaneers are offering to cover potential budget shortfalls for the Tampa Sports Authority, which runs Raymond James Stadium if the lockout cuts into preseason or regular-season NFL games. That would prevent a sharp rise in parking and food prices at concerts and other events at the stadium. But the team is asking to be reimbursed by the authority over the long term and the issue will be discussed at a Tampa City Council meeting Thursday.

Here’s a look at how Georgia’s Justin Houston could fit into Atlanta’s draft plans. Some think Houston is a better fit as a linebacker in a 3-4 defense. The Falcons run a 4-3 defense and likely would look at Houston as a defensive end. Even if he’s a “tweener," Houston is worth a look because of his pass-rush skills.