NFC Notes: Buccaneers, Falcons, Panthers


Buccaneers HC Bruce Arians explained his change of tune on WR Antonio Brown after keeping him with the team despite his suspension for a fake vaccine card. Arians said last year when they signed Brown that he was on a one-strike policy.

“When you and I talked last year,” Arians said to NBC Sports’ Peter King, “we were talking on old experiences with Antonio. When he came back to us, he was a model citizen. There was a new history. I really loved the way he tried to fit in, worked his way in and gave us everything he had to go to the Super Bowl. My whole attitude on him changed. I saw him trying to be a better human being. So I’ve got a totally different relationship than when it was when you and I talked last year.”

  • ESPN’s Jenna Laine reports Buccaneers wide receivers coach Kevin Garver tested positive for COVID.
  • Buccaneers HC Bruce Arians believes RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn can be a starting-caliber running back: “I think he’s a lead back. I mean, he has great running skills. Excellent jump cut ability. He’s worked on his hands. He dropped one yesterday. It pissed him off. He’s worked on his hands hard. I think he’s a lead dog.” (Rick Stroud)


Falcons first-round TE Kyle Pitts has made his mark on the league as an ultra-versatile offensive weapon capable of creating mismatches every time he’s stepped on the field. Falcons QB Matt Ryan said the team is lucky to have someone like Pitts to rely upon.

Only a handful of wide receivers in the league can make those kinds of plays,” Ryan said, via the team website. “And we’re fortunate to have a guy at the tight end spot who can go and do that.” 

Pitts and Ryan have worked extensively on deep routes and their chemistry, which has created a special connection between the two.

It’s hard to put a number on it,” Ryan said on practicing deep routes with Pitts. “He probably gets annoyed with me ’cause he’s got to do all the running. I’m just throwing it up there. I do hammer home with those guys; the way you get better is you work at it. You do it over and over and over, and then you just fall into rhythm during the game.” 

In addition to being a deep threat, Pitts has also excelled at moving the chains, something Ryan expects to continue throughout the duration of Pitts’ career.

Those are huge,” Ryan said of Pitts’ shorter receptions. “I see that continuing to expand through his career. I’m certainly proud of him. That rookie year is not an easy year, and he’s continued to push and excel.


Panthers QB Cam Newton threw his support behind HC Matt Rhule, calling him a great coach and acknowledging that the team didn’t play well enough to get the win.

Coach Rhule is a great coach,” Newton said, via ESPN. “Last thing I checked, coach Rhule wasn’t out there playing. I just know we’re a good football team. It may not look like that all the time, but I know what I see in practice and I know what I’ve seen over these last couple of weeks, we’re a good football team and we can win. It’s just about us believing we can win and not taking the easy route and be able to grunt games away.

Newton said the team’s lack of success on the field has nothing to do with coaching, and that the players are giving their all on the field, because they’re all playing for their jobs.

I can tell you right now it wasn’t because of the coaching,” Newton said. “It wasn’t because of what a person may have said or done. The truth of the matter is, we’re all playing for jobs. If you don’ think as a coach you wouldn’t do the right things to win and build your tenure here, you wouldn’t do it.

Rhule said he didn’t take the boos personally, and acknowledged that fans want to see a winning product on the field.

I come from Philadelphia,” Rhule said. “To me, it just shows people care. We’re not winning. I have no problem with that. People spend hard-earned money to come watch us play. When you’re the head coach, the quarterback, that’s all part of it. I would much prefer passion over apathy. I would much prefer pressure over nothing. I could do something else.

Rhule said it’s tough when the team isn’t winning, but when Panthers owner David Tepper hired Rhule, it wasn’t for instant success, it was to build a long-term winner capable of sustainability.

I hate it for our fans that we’re not winning,” Rhule said. “I know how much they want to win. I hear from them. I hear you. But when Dave hired me he said, ‘I want it done right. I want it done for the long term. I want you to build it with young players that grow.”’

Newton reflected on his career to date and said that he’s made a lot of great memories playing the game.

Football has been good to me,” Newton said. “I was able to walk away unscathed. I know it sounds like I’m retiring, but it’s been great memories. I do think about as we move forward that it takes more than one guy, it takes more than one talent, it takes more than a couple of guys. It takes unanimously everyone understanding what their role is and what they have to do.”

  • Rhule said he will address the quarterback situation for this week on Wednesday. (Joseph Person)
  • Rhule added he talked with Tepper after the game: “He’s been unbelievably supportive. All our conversations were about the best thing moving forward.” (David Newton)

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