NFC Notes: Buccaneers, Falcons, Panthers, Saints


Buccaneers QB Tom Brady believes TE O.J. Howard is in line for a strong year.

“OJ’s worked really hard to put himself in the position he’s in,” Brady said, via “I think he’s prepared to have a great season. He’s worked really hard through training camp, been available to the team. Very hard worker, doing all the right things. So, really happy to have him back out there.”

  • Buccaneers HC Bruce Arians said he has confidence in third-round QB Kyle Trask: “I don’t think he could be in a better situation, and if we had to play him, I’d feel comfortable.” (Joey Knight)
  • Buccaneers S Jordan Whitehead (hamstring) has been ruled out from Week 1. (Rick Stroud)


Falcons TE Lee Smith has never made a Pro Bowl, never had 100 yards receiving, never even had more than 12 catches in any one season. If all goes according to plan, Falcons first-round TE Kyle Pitts could beat most of Smith’s career totals after just one season. But Smith has carved out a 10-year NFL career in a league where the average is just three, which gives him something of value to impart to Pitts. 

“I would give Kyle Pitts the shirt off my back,” Smith said via Kris Rhim of the team website. “In my opinion, there’s nothing more cowardly than a veteran that won’t help a young player grow. I’m gonna teach him everything I know.”


Panthers QB Sam Darnold is good friends with Bills QB Josh Allen. The two train together and even lived together for a portion of the pandemic along with another former Panthers QB, Kyle Allen. So it’s probably wise to take Allen with a grain of salt when he says he thinks Darnold can be an elite quarterback. Then again, it’s also worth noting just how strongly Allen believes this.  

“I don’t think that. I know that. I have so much faith in what he’s gonna do. And obviously, we play him this year, so that’ll be a fun one to go against him,” Allen said via the Athletic’s Joe Person. “The conversations that I’ve had with him, he feels so comfortable. … I don’t think that’s gonna happen. If I was a betting man, I’d put a lot of money on it actually happening that way.”

The Panthers obviously hope Allen is right, as they’ve made a bet that getting Darnold into their offensive ecosystem will be good for him after the dysfunction he dealt with his first three seasons. 

“The recipe for drafting a quarterback and having him be successful is keeping him in the same system, with the same coordinator and the same protection calls. The recipe for disaster is changing your coordinator every year and playing under different systems,” Panthers HC Matt Rhule said. “So, I think for Sam, this is his third offensive system in the National Football League in four years. That’s not easy. But he’s working at it and you can see him now look a little more confident than he did last spring because it’s his second time going through the installation.”


Saints QB Jameis Winston mentioned that he is happy to be starting for a team again.

“It’s just fun,” Winston said, via “It’s a blessing. It’s a blessing to have this opportunity to lead the pack, and I’m just grateful for it. It’s been more than a year removed for me having the opportunity, and I’m not taking anything for granted. I’m just blessed, and grateful.”

Winston added he was grateful to have a QB competition with QB Taysom Hill.

“It felt great,” Winston said. “I think the whole training camp, we made each other better and this team grew while we were competing. I was blessed to get the nod and I’m just grateful for that. I’m grateful for my teammates for pushing me, I’m grateful for Taysom for pushing me and us helping each other get better.”

  • Saints HC Sean Payton said recently signed veteran CB Desmond Trufant is a proven player but must be quickly brought up to speed: “We’ve seen a lot of him over the years. I like his experience. I think he’s a smart player we just need to bring him up to speed quickly here.” (Jori Parys)

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