NFC Notes: Buccaneers, Falcons, Panthers, Saints, Michael Thomas


  • Bucs HC Todd Bowles said injuries at the wide receiver affected them last year and so they agreed it was a good idea to bring WR Julio Jones in now while he was available. (Rick Stroud)
  • Bowles added Jones can help the team replace the loss of TE Rob Gronkowski, especially in the red zone. (Greg Auman)
  • Jones has 10 incentives in his deal worth $200,000 each for a total of $2 million. Those incentives are for hitting 50, 60, 70 and 80 receptions; 600, 700, 800 and 900 receiving yards; winning the NFC championship and winning the Super Bowl. (Greg Auman)
  • New Buccaneers TE Kyle Rudolph on replacing Gronkowski: “Those shoes are way too big to fill, and I’ve got pretty big feet.” (Sara Walsh)
  • Buccaneers RB Leonard Fournette was back down to 245 pounds when he reported to training camp in shape and in condition to play. (Doug Kyed)


  • The Falcons announced that they have named Sal Conti as a pro scout, Rushell Harvey as player personnel coordinator, Donavan Ellison as a football analyst, and James McClintock and Hakeem Smith as scouting assistants.
  • Falcons HC Arthur Smith told the media he will know more about the potential return of LB Deion Jones next week. (Tori McElhaney)


Panthers HC Matt Rhule believes there’s reason for optimism this year, and while aware of the speculation about his long-term security, isn’t focused on just doing enough to keep his job.

This year I expect to win. I want to win. I’ve never gone into a season and said, ‘I hope I can only win this many games to keep my job,’” Rhule said, via Joe Person of The Athletic. “I’m not doing that, man. I want to win at the highest level, just like Christian does, just like Shaq does, just like everybody in this organization does. That’s why I woke up today ready to go, excited to go, excited to be here. I like where we’re at.

Rhule has been an active supporter of QB Baker Mayfield and doesn’t believe that he’ll have another opportunity to pick another quarterback if things go wrong.

That’s our job. It’s a results-oriented business. And I certainly don’t want to be part of an organization that tolerates mediocrity and a lack of success. That’s gotta start with me,” he said. “Do you like that? No. But at the end of the day, I can promise you my life is about winning and losing. I don’t like losing.

Rhule isn’t writing off QB Sam Darnold and still believes that QB Matt Corral has a bright future in the league. However, the opportunity to acquire Mayfield was too good to pass up.

In spring and OTAs, we really became excited about what Sam was doing. And when we got Matt, we were excited about Matt. So there was a time that wasn’t sure if (Mayfield) was gonna happen,” Rhule said. “But when the time came, at the end of the day, we felt like it was the right thing for the team.

  • Darnold took first-team reps at quarterback in the team’s first training camp practice Wednesday while Mayfield will take first-team reps on Thursday (David Newton)


Saints WR Michael Thomas finally made his return to the practice field after a long, long absence from an ankle injury, and it was a milestone moment for the veteran. 

“Man, I’m kind of lost for words,” said Thomas via ESPN’s Mike Triplett. “I didn’t want to come up here and get emotional or anything. But it was a blessing to be back out there with the guys.”

Thomas isn’t back completely to 100 percent, and there’s speculation about if he ever will reach that level. He’s confident in his abilities, however, and pointed out that he was still effective to a point when he returned in 2020 even if the ankle was still obviously limiting him.  

“I mean, even the year that I played, I was playing injured, and I was still kind of helping this team win games and move the chains. And I was clearly on one ankle,” Thomas said. “I’m just happy to be trending now in the right direction and handling my business. … And I take pride in that challenge.”

  • Saints HC Dennis Allen on QB Taysom Hill: “He’s going to provide multiple roles for us. He’ll still take some snaps from the quarterback position.” (Nick Underhill)
  • Saints GM Mickey Loomis on QB Jameis Winston: “We feel good about where he’s at physically. We’re going to proceed with caution with him, but he’s going to be out there practicing.” (Luke Johnson)

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