NFC Notes: Buccaneers, Falcons, Panthers, Saints


Saturday against the Lions, Buccaneers QB Tom Brady will hit another milestone in a career full of them when he plays his 300th career game. Assuming Brady finishes out the regular season next week, he’d finish 2020 tied for 11th-most games all-time and just two games away from Jerry Rice‘s record for the most games played by a non-quarterback. 

“Yeah, I think it’s pretty cool,” Brady said via Scott Smith of the team’s official website. “I don’t get caught up too much in statistics and those types of things, but football has just been a very important part of my life for a long time, 30 years. I love the ability to go out there and compete with my teammates, compete for our fans and I love the game. I love the nuances of the game, I love the relationships I’ve built, all the memories I’ve had.”

Brady has said for a while he plans to play until he’s 45, so there are still two more seasons for him to continue climbing the list. 

“I’m very blessed to be 43 years old and still doing it,” he said. “It’s definitely a challenge for me still. There’s physical challenges, there’s mental challenges, there’s emotional challenges. I just love doing it. It’s pretty cool that I’m still able to do it and still have a team that’s supportive of me being out there, and I want to go out there and do the best I can for them.”


Despite seeing more snaps than RB Todd Gurley over the past few weeks, Falcons interim HC Raheem Morris finally revealed that RB Ito Smith would be the team’s top running back going forward and that it has nothing to do with any knee issue being suffered by Gurley.

“His role has changed,” Morris said of Smith, via Jason Butt of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “His role had changed the one week due to injury when I made him the third-down back and the red zone back. And his role has evolved into that. Probably a little bit more than just some of the things he did when he was hurt that day. It’s definitely changed. Ito’s definitely our lead dog runner. Ito’s played so well. When he’s gotten opportunities, he’s made yards. He’s made hay. He’s made some of the runs look a little bit better. He’s actually gone out there and had a little bit better production when it comes to running the football.

“So he’s been the runner the last couple of weeks. We put him in that role a little more and more as he’s been growing. (Against the Buccaneers), it was a clear cut and defined role for Todd and a clear cut and defined role for all of them. It’s all been talked about with them personally and we’ll move forward that way. Whatever it takes to get a win.”


Unlike a lot of coaches who become more at risk when a new general manager comes in, Panthers HC Matt Rhule isn’t going anywhere and will have a fair amount of say in the hiring process for Carolina’s next GM. He offered some insight into what he will be looking for. 

“I want someone who’s great at personnel, who is great at constructing a roster,” Rhule said in an interview with SiriusXM NFL Radio. “Obviously, like anything else, I have views on how we should play defense but I don’t call the defensive plays. I have views on how I want us to run our offense but I don’t call our offensive plays. It’s in collaboration with Phil Snow, with Joe Brady, with all of our coaches. And that’s how I see personnel. I want someone who knows the ins and outs of evaluation. I want someone who knows the ins and outs of the salary cap and the roster and all the management council notices and rules. For me to try to do that would just bog me down and take me away from what I’m great at.

“To me, I think we want an organization that’s aligned. We want an organization that has the same vision. But we don’t want an organization that all has the same ideas. We want people that are willing to argue, fight, scratch and claw, but everyone is working together. I had that with Marty. I definitely did and I enjoyed my time. Now that we’re moving forward, that’s what I want. I want someone who’s great at building a roster, great at finding talent, and believes in what I believe in and wants to do it together.”

  • Panthers OC Joe Brady said Carolina is unlikely to turn to either P.J. Walker or Will Grier unless the starting quarterback is hurt. (Joe Person)
  • Snow said the loss of DE Brian Burns absolutely will affect him as a defensive play-caller: “He’s a dynamic guy and we use him in a lot of roles. It kind of limits what we can do. The package won’t be as full because of his versatility.” (David Newton)


With Saints WR Michael Thomas on injured reserve for the duration of the regular season, there’s an opportunity for the younger members of New Orleans’ receiving corps to step up. The Saints are getting UDFA WR Marquez Callaway off of IR, former UDFA Lil’Jordan Humphrey caught a touchdown last week and they’ll team up with rookie UDFA Juwan Johnson to try and make an impact. 

“I’ve been preaching to them, ‘Carpe diem, seize the moment, seize the day.’ . . . This is an opportunity, and I’m sure a lot of y’all prayed for these opportunities,” Saints WR Emmanuel Sanders said via Luke Johnson of

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