NFC South Notes: Buccaneers, Falcons, Panthers



Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston‘s uncertain contract status beyond this year reflects the former No. 1 overall pick’s inconsistent level of play in Tampa Bay so far. But new HC Bruce Arians, hired in large part because of his reputation working with passers, says Winston’s uneven start to his career hasn’t all been on him. 

“Put a better team around him,” Arians said via Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times. “Run the ball better. Play better defense. Don’t play from behind where he’s got to throw it 50 times and put the onus on him to win the game and make kicks. That’s been a bugaboo around here for a while. So yeah, just put a better football team around him so that he can just play quarterback. He doesn’t have to be Superman.”

  • According to ESPN’s Jenna Laine, a source says the earliest Buccaneers DE Jason Pierre-Paul could return to the field following a fractured neck suffered in May would be November. 
  • Per HC Bruce Arians, doctors have said the best-case scenario for Pierre-Paul would be a return in October. (Greg Auman)
  • Regarding CB Ryan Smith‘s four-game suspension, Arians said it was a “dumb mistake” but said the corner will move on and work to be ready when he comes back. (Auman)
  • Arians added he hoped the team would have a roster spot available for Smith when he returns: “A lot of these guys put something in their body they didn’t get here and that’s the consequences. So, yeah, we’ll live with that and hopefully he’ll be back after those four games if we still have a spot.” (Rick Stroud)
  • Arians said the team didn’t change their draft plans, selecting two additional cornerbacks, because of Smith’s suspension: “No, I wasn’t aware until a little bit later. No, those draft guys would’ve been taken anyway.” (Stroud)
  • According to Arians, his confidence in the team’s running backs, Ronald Jones and Peyton Barber. Both have gained weight this offseason, Jones is at 221 pounds and Barber weighed in at 229. (Auman)



Panthers LB Shaq Thompson hasn’t had the usual path of most first-round picks. Selected by Carolina in 2015, Thompson has had his path to significant playing time blocked by former Panthers LB Thomas Davis, who contributed at a star level well into his 30s. Now that he’s gone, though, Panthers LB Luke Kuechly says Thompson is primed to break out. 

“It’s a great opportunity for Shaq now,” Kuechly said via Max Henson of the official team website. “He’s waited patiently for a long time. I think the team has decided now is his time.”

Davis is now in Los Angeles with the Chargers, mentoring the young linebackers there. While Thompson says he’ll miss Davis’ presence in the locker room, he says he won’t hesitate to ask for pointers as he adjusts to being a full-time starter. 

“I’m gonna miss TD. That’s my guy since I’ve been here,” Thompson said. “I’m always going to go back to TD and ask him for pointers.”

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