Let’s take an afternoon run through the top headlines from around the division:
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Bradley Handwerger reports that the assistant head coach Joe Vitt still hasn’t found out exactly when his six-game suspension will begin. It’s going to come sometime before the regular-season opener (Sept. 9) and likely after rosters are trimmed to 53 players on Aug. 31. The bigger issue is who will step into Vitt’s role as the acting head coach. The Saints still haven’t made that announcement, although it seems a certainty the pool of candidates goes no deeper than offensive line coach Aaron Kromer, offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.
Jeffri Chadiha salutes former New Orleans special-teams ace Steve Gleason for speaking out and, no matter how you interpret his comments, at least admitting that he was offended by the way former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams spoke to his group the night before last season’s playoff loss to San Francisco.
New coordinators Dirk Koetter and Mike Nolan each say they’re happy with what they’ve seen so far in the preseason, but there still is plenty of work to be done.
Justifiably, running back Michael Turner never has been viewed as much of a threat as a pass catcher. But Daniel Cox brings up a good point as he writes that Turner has been getting more receiving opportunities this preseason. I think there could be more chances for Turner as a receiver in Koetter’s offense. I’m not saying Turner suddenly will turn into Darren Sproles, but you might have to account for him as more than a blocker in the passing game.
Receiver Steve Smith missed Wednesday’s practice and was seen on crutches. Team officials said Smith has a foot infection and is not expected to miss significant playing time. With a veteran like Smith, I say shut him down for the final two preseason games and just make sure he’s completely healthy for the regular season. The Panthers have a bunch of young receivers fighting for roster spots. Let them have all the snaps the rest of the preseason.
Joseph Person has a story about how Carolina centers Ryan Kalil and Jeff Byers have undergone a stunning reversal of roles since their college days. Byers once was a blue-chip recruit, but now is fighting for a roster spot. Kalil was supposed to lose his college job to Byers. That didn’t happen and Kalil has gone on to become an All-Pro.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Coach Greg Schiano has had a digital clock installed in the Bucs’ locker room that is counting down the days, minutes and seconds until kickoff of the regular season. Not a bad idea to emphasize the sense of urgency for a young team.
Olympic silver medalist Jeff Demps said he signed with the Patriots instead of the Buccaneers (and others) because several former University of Florida teammates are on the roster and recruited him. I think it also might have helped that New England’s offer included more than $200,000 in guaranteed money, which is unheard of for an undrafted rookie free agent.