Time for an afternoon run through some news and notes from around the division:
Although rookie cornerback Desmond Trufant has had his hands full with Roddy White and Julio Jones, defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said the first-round draft pick is not struggling. But Trufant might be at a slight disadvantage compared to second-round pick Robert Alford. Trufant missed most of the offseason program because of NCAA and NFL rules, while Alford got an early start working with his teammates and coaches.
Offensive tackle Jordan Gross said if he plays in 2014 it will be only with the Panthers, the only team he has ever played for. Gross could consider retirement, and his contract voids in March. But quality left tackles don’t grow on trees. If Gross stays healthy and productive this year and the Panthers aren’t in a spot to get a left tackle in the draft or free agency, I could see him returning for one more season.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Middle linebacker Curtis Lofton, who had missed some time with a sore back, returned to practice Thursday. The Saints have encountered several injuries at outside linebacker, and it’s important to have Lofton, who is the leader of the defense, on the field as much as possible as the team installs coordinator Rob Ryan’s defense.
Although he apparently is healthy, running back Mark Ingram was given a day off from practice Thursday. Coach Sean Payton said he expects Ingram to practice Friday. This could be a sign the Saints plan to use Ingram more this season and are trying to keep him fresh.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
In yet another sign that rookie Akeem Spence could be an immediate starter at defensive tackle, coach Greg Schiano said the fourth-round pick has shown better pass-rush skills than the team anticipated. Spence was drafted mainly to play the run, but anything he can give as a rusher is a bonus.