NFC South evening update

Let's take a look at some of the day's top headlines from around the division.

  • Atlanta outside linebacker Sean Weatherspoon already had emerged as a vocal leader and somewhat of a playmaker in his first two seasons. With middle linebacker Curtis Lofton gone via free agency, Weatherspoon will get even more of a chance to be a leader. But coming up with more big plays might be the best way to assure that he’s the leader of the defense.

  • James Varney reports that the NFL says it has evidence that former New Orleans linebacker Scott Fujita pledged a significant amount of money toward the bounty program. That evidence could come into play Monday when NFL commissioner Roger Goodell hears appeals from Fujita and three other players facing suspensions.

  • Fujita, New Orleans linebacker Jonathan Vilma and defensive end Will Smith and Green Bay defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove have asked that the league “compel’’ suspended New Orleans coach Sean Payton, assistant head coach Joe Vitt and former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams to be present for the appeals.

  • As Carolina wrapped up its minicamp, coach Ron Rivera said the Panthers are way ahead of where they were when they opened training camp. No kidding. Since then, the Panthers found out quarterback Cam Newton can play. Now, they’ve patched up a defense that held them to a 6-10 record last season.

  • Despite all those stories about Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano having a hard edge, he has a soft side. Schiano let his team out of minicamp a little early. He also did it in a fun way -- by putting offensive tackle Donald Penn out there to attempt to catch a punt. The deal was if Penn caught the ball, practice was over. Penn fielded the punt.

  • Tampa Bay running back LeGarrette Blount has worked hard this offseason to try to show the new coaching staff he can catch passes out of the backfield and be trusted as a pass- blocker. We’ll find out for sure if Blount has all that down when the real stuff starts in training camp.