NFC South Notes: Buccaneers, Falcons, Panthers, Saints

     

Buccaneers

Buccaneers LB Shaquil Barrett joined Tampa Bay this offseason on a prove-it deal after spending the past four years in Denver. His one-year, $4 million deal included a $250,000 bonus for reaching eight sacks. It took him only three games to hit that number, as he became the first player since Mark Gastineau to record eight sacks in the first three games of the season. 

“It’s just everything working perfectly — the playcalls, the guys in the back and the inside, the inside push, the push from the other edge [rusher] Carl [Nassib] — so everything’s just working and I’m just beating my one-on-ones at the right time and making a play,” Barrett said via ESPN’s Jenna Laine.

  • The Bengals were the only other team to offer Barrett a deal in free agency this offseason, per Laine. 
  • Buccaneers DE Jason Pierre-Paul was at the team facility working out on Monday, though there’s still no update on when he might be able to return to the field from his neck injury. (Greg Auman)
  • Buccaneers HC Bruce Arians says he has no plans to make a change at kicker. Fifth-round rookie Matt Gay missed a potential game-winning 34-yard field goal Sunday against the Giants as well as two extra points, though one was blocked: “He ain’t goin’ anywhere.” (Laine)

Falcons

  • Per Kelsey Conway of the official team website, Falcons HC Dan Quinn didn’t say if the team had any interest in free-agent S Eric Berry following the season-ending injury to S Keanu Neal: “There’s nothing we’re really hitting on today. We’ll have an update on Wednesday.”
  • Falcons RBs Ito Smith and Kenjon Barner are both in the concussion protocol. (Conway)
  • Falcons waived P Matt Wile. (NFLTR)

Panthers

Panthers TE Greg Olsen became the first tight end in NFL history to record three consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons. However, the next two years for Olsen were marred by a broken foot injury that never quite healed and sapped his athleticism. With a promising broadcast career looming whenever football is finished, Olsen considered retirement this offseason before deciding he couldn’t leave the game on a bad note. 

“I felt like I had a lot of unfinished business left to do,” Olsen said via Brendan Marks of the Charlotte Observer. “That would have been a sour way to end my career.”

So far, it’s been a much better start to the season for the veteran tight end than the past few years. Olsen caught six passes for 75 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday against the Cardinals and the 34-year-old leads Carolina in receiving yardage through three games. 

“Today, I felt like finally I could run and separate and not be caught in my own head of being in pain. Just go out and play,” Olsen said. “I haven’t had that in a long time. Since 2016, I haven’t played a game where I felt normal. And it’s nice. It’s a lot easier to play when you’re not a disaster.”

  • Per Max Henson of the official team website, Panthers HC Ron Rivera said the team would continue to rotate second-round OT Greg Little in with starting left tackle Daryl Williams like on Sunday: “We wanted him to get an opportunity to settle in. He was drafted for a reason and he’s got to get opportunities to play, and same thing with Daryl. He is a big, stout football player and we’ve got to find ways to use him as well.”
  • Rivera said Panthers QB Cam Newton would start when he’s healthy, but until then the team is “rolling” with Kyle Allen. (Joseph Person)
  • Rivera didn’t want to comment on if Newton would need surgery on what’s being termed a midfoot sprain: “The medical side of it, I’m staying out of it.” (Person)
  • The Panthers plan to sit Newton until his foot is 100 percent and he has no issues at all. (Ian Rapoport)
  • Carolina tried out four offensive linemen on Monday including Christian DiLauro, Justin Evans Matt Kaskey, and Pace Murphy. (Howard Balzer)

Saints

  • According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Saints QB Drew Brees consulted with Los Angeles Angels star baseball player Mike Trout, who had a similar thumb injury to Brees in 2017.
  • Trout, who returned after six weeks, told Brees he felt good enough that he could have returned after five weeks if necessary. Estimates of Brees’ timeline have ranged from six to eight weeks. 
  • While Saints HC Sean Payton didn’t confirm to the media QB Teddy Bridgewater would start Sunday, Bridgewater confirms he knew all along he would get the start: “Right after the game last week, we knew. … I guess [Payton] just didn’t want to give the opponent some insight.” (Albert Breer)

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