Around the NFC South

SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- I’m getting ready to head out to watch the Carolina Panthers go through their morning walk-through session, and then I'll do some interviews. But first, let’s take a run through the headlines from around the NFC South.


There has been a lot of talk about how the Falcons plan to reduce the number of carries for running back Michael Turner. That’s fine with Turner, as long as the reduction isn’t too substantial. I don’t think it will be. I don’t see Turner getting chopped to 10 carries a game. I just don’t see him averaging more than 20 carries a game as he has in past seasons. I think the Falcons are serious about getting Jacquizz Rodgers more playing time, but I think Turner still will get at least 15 carries per game. The whole reason behind this plan is to keep Turner fresh late in the season and into the postseason.

The Falcons will hold a joint workout with the Tennessee Titans on Monday. The last time these teams worked out together was 2004, and that session spawned a series of fights that led to several injuries, including a strained hamstring for former Falcons quarterback Michael Vick. I wouldn’t look for things to be as heated. Atlanta coach Mike Smith runs a calm, but firm ship, and nobody ever said that about Jim Mora Jr., who was coaching the Falcons in 2004.


Ron Green Jr. has an in-depth profile of Carolina rookie linebacker Luke Kuechly. It includes a great anecdote about Kuechly having dinner with quarterback Cam Newton and NBA legend Michael Jordan on his first night in Charlotte after being drafted by the Panthers.

The only current Carolina player that was at the franchise’s inaugural game in 1995 is undrafted rookie receiver Brenton Bersin. He was 5 at the time and was sitting in the stands. Bersin also grew up as a neighbor of Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, and played at Richardson’s alma mater. That’s Wofford College, where the Panthers hold training camp.


Jeff Duncan writes that you shouldn’t draw too many conclusions from the Saints’ victory against Arizona in the Hall of Fame Game, but the important thing is the team got back to playing football after a turbulent offseason. He’s right. Preseason games mean very little, but just getting back on the field was a major step as the Saints try to move forward.

New Orleans wide receiver Adrian Arrington has a knee injury and will visit a specialist. It’s not yet clear if Arrington will require surgery. If it does, that could increase the chances of a young receiver, such as Joseph Morgan or Andy Tanner, claiming a roster spot.


Stephen Holder has a list of guys that have surprised so far in training camp. This isn’t the typical list of long shots that are making a bid for a roster spot, because it starts off with veteran tight end Dallas Clark. But Clark’s performance so far has been a surprise. After a lot of injury problems in Indianapolis in recent years, Clark appears to be totally healthy, and has yet to miss a practice.

Roy Cummings has a feature story on safety Cody Grimm, a former starter who could be on the roster bubble. Ronde Barber and rookie Mark Barron have been getting the first-team work, and Ahmad Black and Larry Asante have been running with the second team. But Grimm was held back in the offseason program as he recovered from injury and just now is getting back to full health. Grimm might need a strong showing in the preseason to land a roster spot. But I wouldn’t count this guy out, because he’s been surprising people since the moment he entered the league.