NFC Notes: Buccaneers, Falcons, Panthers, Saints


  • Buccaneers QB Tom Brady is hopeful the team can get some key contributors back in time for the playoffs: “We’ve got a tough group of guys, and hopefully we can get some reinforcements in next week.” (Greg Auman)
  • Buccaneers HC Bruce Arians expects RB Leonard Fournette, OLB Jason Pierre-Paul and OLB Shaq Barrett to play on Sunday. (Sara Walsh)
  • Arians added he’s happy to have DT Vita Vea extended: “Vita, he’s a little different body type than most. Really happy for him and glad for the organization to have that done.” (Auman)
  • Arians mentioned WR Cyril Grayson may not play this week with a hamstring injury. (Auman)
  • Buccaneers TE Rob Gronkowski called WR Mike Evans the spark the team needed: “You got to give it to Mike. We needed that little spark…once that spark lit we were on fire.” (Rick Stroud)
  • Gronkowski hit both of his contractual incentives with his seven-catch, 85-yard performance against the Panthers. Gronkowski earned an extra $1 million for reaching both. (Adam Schefter)
  • Evans surpassed 1,000 yards for his eighth-consecutive season, which is first all-time in the NFL ahead of Randy Moss with six-consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. (Buccaneers Communications)


  • Falcons HC Arthur Smith was non-committal on if QB Matt Ryan would be the team’s starting quarterback next season: “Matt knows how we feel about him. But you’re not going to get a hot take from me today to back ourselves into a corner…we do a fair evaluation top to bottom.” (Tenitra Batiste)
  • Falcons WR Russell Gage said that the Falcons “in my mind, they have first priority for me,” regarding his upcoming free agency, but noted that it’s his first time through the process and he doesn’t know much about it yet. (Michael Rothstein)
  • Ryan noted that he wants to stay in Atlanta, and feels good about the foundation that Smith has built: “I want to be here and I feel good about this group of guys.” (Rothstein)
  • Smith also feels the team built a solid foundation for the future: “I feel like we built a good foundation and that there are better days ahead.” (Tori McElhaney)


  • Panthers HC Matt Rhule said the team will cast a wide net for the team’s offensive coordinator job: “Kind of like we did the GM search, we’re gonna talk to a bunch of people. There’s a bunch of really smart people out there from a lot of different places.” (Joe Person)
  • Rhule said he doesn’t want to speak for team owner David Tepper, but “every conversation I’ve had has been about the future and the plan, free agency and the draft.” Rhule doesn’t believe his job is “in peril.” (Person)
  • Rhule explained why he used QB Sam Darnold instead of QB Cam Newton on Tampa Bay’s one-yard line: “The fourth and inches from the one, that was just a quarterback sneak. Really, fourth and inches you’re assuming your line will knock them backwards. Sam [Darnold] is 6-4.” (David Newton)
  • Darnold believes he was set up for success in 2021 despite the poor OL and the staff instability: “Yeah. A hundred percent.” (David Newton)
  • Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey said he is at peace with his attempts to stay healthy: “I can honestly look at myself and say I’ve tried everything…you can’t prevent everything.” (Joe Person)
  • Panthers first-round CB Jaycee Horn expects to be healthy by OTAs. (Person)
  • Pending free-agent OLB Haason Reddick said he wants to go to a team where his talent fits best, but that still could be Carolina. (Person)
  • Panthers CB Donte Jackson wants to stay in Carolina as well: “This is home. And anything we can do to make sure this is home for the next four years or so, that’s what we’re gonna do. … But we shall see.” (Person)
  • Newton was happy he had a chance to return to Carolina: “I think I got closure on a lot of different things. It was meaningful for my life and my career. … I think it was very purposeful.” (Jonathon Jones)
  • Newton does have to think about playing next year: “Do I have a lot of football [left]? Do I want to play? Yeah. But under the right conditions. I have to sit down with my family, my counsel, and just decide.” (Jones)
  • Newton added the team needs more players to buy into the culture for the Panthers to have success. (Person)
  • Rhule acknowledged they need to play better at quarterback, including Darnold: “We recognize we have to improve the overall quarterback play. We started four quarterbacks in two years. That’s not a recipe for success. Whether he’s the future or not, he’s got a lot to prove.” (Newton)
  • Rhule added he has to look at “our staff top to bottom” for improvements. (Newton)
  • Rhule wants an experienced offensive coordinator in 2022. (Newton)
  • On Newton, Rhule mentioned he loved coaching him: “That’s something Cam and I talked a lot about. Cam has a level of buy in, or work ethic, from my time I haven’t seen anything like it.” (Newton)
  • Rhule doesn’t believe they will trade McCaffrey: “I fully expect Christian to be here next year.” (Newton)
  • Rhule thinks the team may consider McCaffrey in the slot more often in 2022. (Newton)
  • Panthers GM Scott Fitterer isn’t closing the door on Newton returning: “Yes, I think we’re open to it.” (Newton)
  • Fitterer expects to be aggressive in finding a quarterback. (Newton)
  • Fitterer added that the offensive line is also a priority: “We have to fix the offensive line. We can’t have all this leakage.” (Newton)
  • Fitterer mentioned he still believes in Darnold: “He looks like an NFL quarterback…The story’s not written on Sam. He’s still developing.” (Newton)
  • Fitterer intends on working towards a long-term deal with WR D.J. Moore. (Newton)
  • Fitterer mentioned Pittsburgh QB Kenny Pickett as a guy they will look at this offseason. (Newton)
  • On McCaffrey, Fitterer said there “is no intention at all” to trade him, but he will always answer the phone if someone calls. (Newton)


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