Hitting the NFC South links

Time for an afternoon trip across the NFC South for some of the division's latest headlines.

  • New Orleans coach Sean Payton said he expects tight end Jeremy Shockey and safety Darren Sharper to return from injuries Sunday. The injury list is getting pretty short with only running back Pierre Thomas, linebacker Anthony Waters and running back Ladell Betts on it. Thomas and Waters were limited in Wednesday's practice, while Betts did not participate.

  • Stephen Holder wonders if we've seen the last of guard Davin Joseph with the Buccaneers. It's a legitimate question because Joseph, who went on injured reserve, can become a free agent after the season. The Bucs haven't been locking up their own players and I think some of that is due to the league's labor uncertainty. It also might be wise for Joseph to test free agency. He's one of the league's better guards and he's in his prime.

  • The Saints signed linebacker Ramon Humber and released quarterback Sean Canfield. Don't be surprised if Canfield ends up on the practice squad shortly. The Saints have been bouncing him between the regular roster and the practice squad much of the year.

  • Joseph Person reports Carolina safety Sherrod Martin was fined $40,000 for a hit on Cleveland tight end Evan Moore and also writes that a teammate said cornerback Chris Gamble was benched for parts of Sunday's game for missing practice last week.

  • In his latest Rookie Watch, our Matt Williamson has three Tampa Bay players among the top 10 -- Gerald McCoy, Mike Williams and LeGarrette Blount. I'm with him on all three selections and I don't want to get too carried away. But let's examine this a little more closely. McCoy was the third overall pick and he's starting to do what he was supposed to do. But Williams was a fourth-round pick and Blount was an undrafted free agent the Bucs picked up off waivers. Tampa Bay is currently carrying 16 rookies and a couple more of those guys are bound to emerge. Receiver Arrelious Benn, a second-round pick, has had some promising moments. Defensive tackle Brian Price, another second-round pick is on injured reserve. Let's say Benn continues to develop, Price comes back next year and does what he's supposed to and another guy or two emerges. The Bucs could end up having one of the best rookie classes in history.