Around the NFC South

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers begin practicing Thursday and the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers report to training camp. That means there’s a lot going on around the division. Let’s take a look:


D. Orlando Ledbetter reports that the contract signed by first-round pick Desmond Trufant is a four-year deal worth $8.16 million and includes a $4.31 million signing bonus.

Running back Steven Jackson said he left money on the table with the St. Louis Rams to join the Falcons because he thinks Atlanta has a chance at a Super Bowl. You can’t blame Jackson for that. He played on plenty of mediocre teams in St. Louis and it’s only natural he wants to be part of a winner.


The status of running back Jonathan Stewart, who had surgery on both ankles in the offseason, won’t be determined until he arrives at camp and has an extensive physical. It’s possible Stewart could be held out of the start of camp or limited in his participation. The Panthers are optimistic linebacker Jon Beason, who also is coming back from injury, will be ready for the start of camp.

Although the Panthers have used the combination of black jerseys, black pants and blue socks just once in franchise history, that combination won NFL.com’s “Greatest Uniform in NFL History’’ contest. Equipment manager Jackie Miles told Scott Fowler the team plans to wear that combination at least five times this year.


Mike Triplett has an overview of the situation at offensive tackle. Zach Strief appears set at right tackle, but the job at left tackle is wide open. Veterans Charles Brown and Jason Smith will compete with rookie Terron Armstead. There does not appear to be a clear-cut favorite.


General manager Mark Dominik described wide receiver Mike Williams as a “football junkie." That’s a big part of the reason the Bucs went ahead and gave Williams a six-year, $40.5 million contract. Coach Greg Schiano likes guys who are all about football and that’s why the Bucs were willing to invest in Williams.

Schiano said newly signed running back Peyton Hillis will also get some practice time at fullback. The Bucs can use a backup behind Erik Lorig.