NFC Notes: Buccaneers, Falcons, Panthers


Buccaneers S Antoine Winfield has previously matched up against new WR Russell Gage during his time with the Falcons and has confidence that Gage is a great fit for Tampa Bay.

“I think he is the perfect slot for our system, being at that receiver position,” Winfield said, via Pro Football Talk. “Playing against him, he’s tough in there, so I think we’re going to utilize him just fine in that area. He’s smart, he has good routes, he is shifty — I like his game a lot.”


The Falcons are entering Year 2 of their rebuild and if they win seven games like they did in 2021 it will be a big shock. But don’t use the T-word — tanking — around HC Arthur Smith, even if it’s hard not to look at trading QB Matt Ryan and think that winning in 2022 wasn’t Atlanta’s biggest goal. 

“It’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard — that a team would try to not win football games,” Smith said via the Athletic’s Jeff Schultz. “If you don’t, there’s going to be consequences. OK, you’re at the top of the draft — I got it. But you’re in a very transactional phase of the National Football League right now. Trades in the draft. Trades for quarterbacks. It’s a different landscape than when Jimmy Johnson took over the Dallas Cowboys in 1989. It was pre-free agency. The famous Herschel Walker trade. They blew it up and went 1-15, and … it was a long rebuild. That is not the same NFL as today. Back then, people would’ve given their first born before they gave their picks away. People are still going off old narratives, and it’s comical. Any good team knows how to rebuild every year.”

  • Smith explained they thought about trading Ryan their first year, but decided not to because they felt it was important to try and win and create a foundation for the culture they were building. It also gave them time to evaluate the players on the roster. 
  • Smith declined to discuss 2023 and whether he and GM Terry Fontenot had discussed quarterbacks like Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud or Alabama’s Bryce Young: “This is a waste of your time and my time if you want to talk about ’23.”


Panthers seventh-round CB Kalon Barnes spoke about his high school career in track and always viewed himself as a football player first. 

“Most people say I was a track guy that played football,” Barnes said, via Joseph Person of The Athletic. “I say I’m a football guy that’s just really fast that ran track. I have football skills.”

Barnes recalled Adidas offering him a deal that would allow his father, Chris Barnes, to train him as a runner. However, his dad encouraged him to continue pursuing a football career. 

“They were gonna give my dad a job and everything. I’m 16 years old, just thinking about the money. So I’m like, I wanna go run track,” Barnes said. “My dad went through this same process also. So he was like: ‘Why would you go take that deal when you can go to the NFL and you can get paid on a weekly basis? If you take the track (contract), you just get that one deal.’ So that’s kind of how my decision went.”

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