NFC Notes: Buccaneers, Falcons, Panthers, Christian McCaffrey

     

Christian McCaffrey

It was a rough season for Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey, as he ended 2020 playing in just three games after dealing with a slew of injuries. He sprained his ankle and spent time on injured reserve before separating his shoulder his first game back. A quad injury as he worked to return to the field was the final blow, with McCaffrey admitting that injury was probably because he probably tried to do too much. 

“Every year the challenge is to figure out exactly what’s the perfect way to create a machine going into the season. That’s going to be my goal going into the offseason, starting now, is to prepare the best way possible,” McCaffrey said via the Athletic’s Joe Person. “Sometimes that means resting and sometimes that means not going out and training. Because I can be my own worst enemy sometimes with that. I think that’s one thing I’ve learned, too, is just be healthy. And too much is not always good.”

McCaffrey said nothing he went through this year in terms of injuries should linger into next year thankfully. 

“I tried to play every time I could. And if I could go, I was gonna play. But unfortunately, I caught the bug this year,” McCaffrey said. “I’m just thankful it’s nothing too serious that I have. So I’ll be good to go. There’s a lot of guys around the league that had career- or season-ending injuries that they were done for the year as soon as they heard it. That wasn’t my case. My case was just when it rains, it pours. It was one thing after the other.”

Buccaneers

  • Per Pro Football Talk, Buccaneers HC Bruce Arians said they’re not underestimating the Washington Football Team despite its 7-9 record: “We’re not playing a 7-9 team. We’re playing a [5-1] team. When Alex Smith plays they’re a [5-1] team. We’re not playing Dwayne Haskins. We’re playing Alex Smith.”
  • Buccaneers TE Rob Gronkowski said he won’t decide about coming back for another season in 2021 until a few weeks after the season ends: “It’s just the start of playoffs right now. There’s always a time for that.” (Rick Stroud)
  • Buccaneers’ OC and former NFL QB Byron Leftwich is likely being coveted as head coach at his alma mater Marshall, yet it remains to be seen whether Leftwich would be willing to leave an NFL coordinator job. (Joey Knight)
  • Leftwich addressed the rumors on Wednesday, saying he’s focused on the first-round playoff game: “I just heard about that myself . . . I’m just focused on this game.” (Stroud)
  • The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are bringing in LB Deone Bucannon for a workout this week. (Aaron Wilson)

Falcons

With a new head coach and general manager slated to take over, the Falcons are on the verge of entering an entirely new chapter in franchise history. That kind of substantial change means no one is safe, not even franchise pillars like QB Matt Ryan or WR Julio Jones. Falcons owner Arthur Blank confirmed that he would not stand in the way if a new regime wanted to part ways with those two. 

“You cannot hire the very best people you can hire, whether it be general managers or head coaches, and then tie their hands and tell them, well, this person is off-limits and that one is off-limits and that one,” Blank said via Will McFadden of the team website. “What you’re asking them for, which is not off-limits and needs to be probed deeply, do they have a championship plan, do they have a plan on turning around the franchise sooner rather than later so we’re winning in 2021? Do we have a plan that’s sustainable over a long period of time so we can make sure this team is competitive not just for the next year or two but over a longer period of time than that? … However that affects certain players, it affects certain players.”

The financial realities of Ryan and Jones’ contracts plus the Falcons’ cap situation should make the odds solid that both are on the roster in 2021. But Blank reiterated any restrictions on the new general manager or coach wouldn’t come from him. 

“I think it’s a mistake for an owner to lay out a set of dictates like that for general manager and head coach,” Blank said. “If I was a general manager or head coach considering this opportunity and I heard an owner say that, to me I’d be a little nervous because I think that’s crossing a line for me that I don’t believe an owner should ever cross.”

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