NFC Notes: Buccaneers, Falcons, Panthers


Regarding Buccaneers RB Leonard Fournette being a healthy scratch in Week 14, HC Bruce Arians said the running back was “unhappy” with his role and nearly decided to release him. 

“Yeah, it was going into the end of the season, and he was unsure of what his role was, or unhappy with what his role was,” Arians said, via Mark Cook of “We had a walk-through and he was a little bit disinterested. And we had a nice conversation. I said, ‘look, when you come back on this field, you have 30 seconds to come back here and tell me that you’re all in, or you’re going to ask me to release you. Go inside, call whoever. But you’re not going to sit over there away from everybody. You have a tough decision’.”

Arians added that his conversation with Fournette had a positive impact after the back returned to practice ready to be “all in.” 

“I mean he had been the guy everywhere he’d ever been his whole life. And (at this time) he wasn’t the guy and it was hard for him. And I respected that, but he had to make a decision then and there. Because we weren’t going to have anyone who was pouting going down the stretch. We couldn’t afford it. He came back in 30 minutes and said, ‘Coach, I’m all in’. I said ‘great, because we are going to need you’. Then RoJo got hurt and Lenny came right to the front and led us all the way.”


  • The Athletic’s Jeff Schultz writes he was told the Falcons initially didn’t want to restructure QB Matt Ryan‘s contract yet again but if they hadn’t lowered his $40.9 million cap hit for 2020, they would’ve had to cut LB Deion Jones.
  • The Falcons need about $8 million to sign their rookie class and only have about half a million in cap space currently, per Schultz. He adds Atlanta has just two avenues to create space short of cutting starters: DT Grady Jarrett and WR Julio Jones.
  • A restructure or extension for Jarrett would lower his $20.833 million 2021 cap hit and Schultz notes Jarrett is in the team’s long-term plans. However, the Falcons have yet to approach Jarrett about a new deal. 
  • The Falcons could restructure Jones to create space but that just kicks the problem to future years and the Falcons would rather avoid that, per Schultz. That leaves a trade as the most logical way to create cap space. 
  • While the selection of TE Kyle Pitts at No. 4 overall over QB Justin Fields was seen as an indication the Falcons weren’t rebuilding, Schultz contends it’s as simple as Atlanta thought Pitts was special and didn’t love Fields. 


  • The Athletic’s Joe Person lists several players who could find themselves on the wrong side of the roster bubble, including QB Will Grier, RB Trenton Cannon, WR Keith Kirkwood, WR Brandon Zylstra and LS J.J. Jansen
  • Person writes that former second-round OT Greg Little will probably begin training camp as the No. 4 left tackle and is looking like a long shot to make the roster. 
  • A number of 2020 draft picks also aren’t totally secure, according to Person, including DT Bravvion Roy, CB Troy Pride, S Kenny Robinson and CB Stantley Thomas-Oliver.
  • Person also notes OLBs Marquis Haynes and Christian Miller will have a lot of competition for spots. Both have flashed in the past but Miller is coming off of an opt-out and Haynes is a bit of a one-trick pony. 
  • Around 80 players attended the Panthers’ voluntary workout on Monday. (Person)
  • Panthers executive director of player personnel Jeff Morrow will transition to a senior advisory role on the college scouting side. (Person)

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