Around the NFC South

Let's take a look at some of the top headlines from around the NFC South.

Atlanta left tackle Sam Baker returned to practice Wednesday on a limited basis. Baker has missed the past three games because of a back injury. Coach Mike Smith said the plan is to have Baker do a little more in practice Thursday. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Falcons proceed cautiously and wait another week before letting Baker play. When he does return, it’s going to create an interesting situation. Baker had some tough games early in the season. Replacement Will Svitek has played reasonably well, so the Falcons will have to decide if Baker jumps right back into the starting lineup.

Although New Orleans coach Sean Payton still has not directly confirmed a report that Jonathan Vilma had knee surgery last week, he said he’s optimistic the linebacker might be ready to return after the bye week. Vilma has missed the past two games. Payton said Vilma is going through rehab and making progress.

Although some Carolina fans have been critical of the sideline behavior of Cam Newton when things aren’t going well for the Panthers, the rookie quarterback said that’s not going to change. Newton said he’s not used to losing. He wants to win and, if that’s not happening, he’s going to continue to show his emotions.

After effort became a question in Sunday’s loss to Houston, Tampa Bay’s captains addressed the topic with the team. There was no big team meeting, but some position groups were talked to. So were some individuals who seemed to be part of the problem.

The Falcons are doing something similar. Their veterans have been talking to other players about the importance of putting Sunday’s overtime loss to the Saints behind them.