NFC Notes: Falcons, Lions, Panthers, Cam Newton


  • Falcons GM Terry Fontenot said the team still has some salary cap issues moving forward: “We just have to make the right decisions.” (D. Orlando Ledbetter)
  • Fontenot added there is no update on WR Calvin Ridley: “Nothing’s changed and we’ll continue to support him.” (Michael Rothstein)
  • Fontenot mentioned OT Matt Gono is scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency after missing the entire season with a neck injury. (Ledbetter)


  • The Athletic’s Chris Burke writes that Lions TE coach Ben Johnson is a strong internal candidate for the offensive coordinator job. Assistant HC/RB coach Duce Staley is another potential internal fit. 
  • Burke notes Lions HC Dan Campbell also worked with former Panthers OC Joe Brady in New Orleans, so there’s a natural connection there. Saints QB coach Ronald Curry is also a possibility given Campbell’s proclivity toward hiring former players. 
  • Detroit interviewed Steelers WR coach Ike Hilliard, Bills QB coach Ken Dorsey and Ravens QB coach James Urban for the position last year, so Burke says it’s possible they could get a look this year as well. 
  • Burke thinks the Lions could be interested in retired TE Jason Witten for an assistant job. He’s currently coaching high school football. 


Despite the lack of success on the field, Panthers QB Cam Newton spoke positively about his reunion in Carolina and the closure it was able to bring. While HC Matt Rhule and GM Scott Fitterer didn’t rule out bringing Newton back and praised the work ethic he brought, Newton also didn’t necessarily sound like coming back to the Panthers was his top option, even if it meant taking a backup job. 

“I still do think I can play at a high level. Absolutely. But if an opportunity presents itself where I don’t necessarily need to play and it’s about winning, yeah, I’m willing to do that, too,” he said via the Athletic’s Joe Person. “Because this point forward, I’m not coming back for no 5-12, I can tell you that now.”

Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey hasn’t been able to shake the injuries and the resulting injury-prone label after an unfortunate past two seasons. But he says he’s coming to grips with the fact that sometimes there’s just nothing you can do. 

“I had a couple 300-pound guys fall on my ankle (at Miami) when I was already down. I didn’t mean for that to happen. I would love to know if there’s a drill that someone’s got out there to prevent that from happening. I’ll do it every day,” he said. “I’ve seen guys get hurt. It’s part of the business. But I’m content knowing I have the capabilities to continue to have success.”

  • Asked whether he’d talked to the coaches or thought about playing more snaps as a slot receiver, McCaffrey said: “No.” 
  • Rhule attempted to explain the controversial decision to exercise QB Sam Darnold‘s fifth-year option, which saddled Carolina with nearly $19 million guaranteed for a player who doesn’t look like the answer at quarterback: “You bring him in here to be the starter, knowing if he had a great year he would be a high-priced guy. And if he’s our starter at that number, that’s low-end starter money. It was a collective decision.”

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