NFC South Notes and Quotes

From the SportsXchange, here are the notes and quotes from the NFC South:

From the SportsXchange, here are the notes and quotes from the NFC South:


Joey Harrington didn't show the efficiency in Atlanta's second preseason game at Buffalo that he did in the opener against the Jets. He did move the chains on the opening drive and on some other possessions, but he failed to call a time out on fourth-and-one from the goal line, when there was a formation mistake, and he lobbed a deep pass into heavy coverage and against a strong wind that ended up getting intercepted.

Even so, coach Bobby Petrino said Harrington performed very well.

"I'm very comfortable with the way he's played," Petrino said. "He's prepared well and he's understood the game plan and he's work hard at executing it."

— After allowing an average of 46 yards on kickoff returns in the preseason opener -- including an 86-yard return -- the Falcons limited Buffalo to an average of 21 yards on 4 returns. The key to fixing the problem, according to special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg, was putting the right people in the right places. The Falcons also did more scheming and game planning than they did in the opener.

Another difference: Michael Koenen resumed kickoff duties. The Falcons were saving Koenen's leg by just having him punt in preseason. But they re-inserted the player who has kicked off the past two seasons and he provided more height, location and depth on his kicks than place kicker Billy Cundiff, who kicked off in the preseason opener.

— Recent Pro Bowlers Warrick Dunn (back surgery), Alge Crumpler (knee surgery) and Rod Coleman (thigh surgery) could play in Atlanta's preseason home-opener Aug. 27 against Cincinnati.

Dunn practiced for the first time last week, Crumpler is set to return to practice after being shut down last week because of discomfort and Coleman will practice for the first time this summer.

The rush in getting back the offensive players is to allow Bobby Petrino to start figuring out how he will use each player, especially Crumpler, since he is far more versatile than any of the other tight ends in the rotation.

As for Coleman, he'll be brought along steadily over the next few weeks, with the goal being for him to play in the season opener at Minnesota.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "You think you know somebody for six years and you find out another side of their personality that you didn't know. It's always disappointing. If it's a positive thing you welcome that but something like this ... I don't know if any of his teammates anticipated anything like this. I certainly know this owner didn't anticipate anything like this. It's very sad." -- Falcons owner Arthur Blank on Michael Vick, after reading the statements of Vick's alleged role in a dogfighting ring, for which Vick is under federal indictment.


— The man Kris Jenkins once called a "horrible player" is now his teammate.

OT Kenyatta Walker, whom Jenkins trashed following Carolina's 27-24 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneeers in 2003, signed with the Panthers last Monday to backup starting offensive tackles Jordan Gross and Travelle Wharton.

Following a game in which Walker was penalized four times -- including three personal fouls -- Jenkins went on a rant making a complete mockery of Walker's skill level, saying flat out that Walker "sucks" and he's a "horrible" player who didn't deserve to be in the NFL.

"When you have to hit somebody's facemask every play because you cannot block people fundamentally by yourself, you are supposed to be in the CFL (Canadian Football League)," Jenkins said. "You aren't supposed to be in this league."

The Panthers took exception to some of Walker's comments prior to the game which were perceived by Jenkins and defensive end Julius Peppers as slams.

"He was doing all that talking before (the game), talking about Pep being sorry and Ruck (Mike Rucker) being sorry," Jenkins said in 2003. "The last time I checked both of their contracts weigh a whole lot more than his does... For me, you step up as a man, show me something on the field, show me something off the field, but show me something. Don't run your mouth. He talks too much. I'm saying he sucks. There's no question about it, he's garbage. He's horrible."

Walker, 28, was released earlier this offseason after six seasons with the Bucs.

He said he won't have any problem fitting in with Carolina and that he had lunch with Jenkins on the first day he arrived.

The 6-foot-5, 302-pound Walker played in 75 games with 73 starts for Tampa Bay. The versatile offensive lineman has made 54 career starts at right tackle and 19 at left tackle. He started the Buccaneers first three contests in 2006 before being placed on injured reserve with a right knee injury.

In 2005, Walker started all 16 games at right tackle and opened holes for NFL Rookie of the Year Carnell "Cadillac" Williams to establish a team record with six 100-yard rushing performances. He played in 14 games with 13 starts in 2004 and helped quarterback Brian Griese finish first in the NFL in passer rating. In 2003, Walker provided protection that prevented quarterback Brad Johnson from being sacked in a team-record 160 consecutive pass attempts while making 11 starts at right tackle and three at left tackle.

— DE Mike Rucker is delighted with how his knee feels two days after his first live game action since tearing the ACL in his knee eight months ago.

"As far as me running around, it was a good start," said Rucker. "That was another goal that we reached. We just want to keep stepping up and reaching the next goal. Hopefully we raised the bar for this week."

Rucker said it was nice to get that first game behind him, but he knows there are more challenges ahead. First of all, Rucker only played two defensive series, meaning he'll still have to prove he can play an entire game.

When asked how close he is to being 100 percent, Rucker said he didn't know.

"I know there are times where you get cut or get hit in it and you get that soreness," Rucker said. "So I'm still in uncharted territory. I've never had this before. If it was a sprained ankle or a hamstring I could probably tell you where I was at. But never having gone through this I just don't know what is out in front of me."

Rucker said the knee felt fine on the field but there was one play where he was forced to protect it. When the Eagles ran a bootleg with Donovan McNabb, an Eagles running back was assigned to throw a cut block on Rucker.

"I recognized it and so I tried to protect myself on that one," Rucker said. "There are going to be other plays like that, plays that will put you in tougher situations that we haven't hit yet. But so far, so good."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We didn't play well, to put it mildly and to put it kindly. We didn't start off fast and we certainly didn't finish that way. It was very disappointing, and you don't want to say, 'Aw, it was just preseason.' We played awful." -- QB Jake Delhomme on Carolina's 27-10 preseason loss to the Eagles.

New Orleans

— OT Jammal Brown was seen at practice for the first time in more than a week on Aug. 15, watching part of the workout and then riding a stationary bike the rest of the time.

A Pro Bowl pick, Brown suffered a bone bruise to his right knee in practice on Aug. 7 and has been rehabbing in the training room. Saints coach Sean Payton said he hopes to have Brown back for the Aug. 23 exhibition game at Kansas City or the preseason finale on Aug. 30 against Miami.

"It's his flexibility and range of motion," Payton said. "Structurally, everything checked out fine. It's just getting the swelling down. The last couple of days, he seemed to progress pretty quickly."

— Thanks to country singer Kenny Chesney, the Saints didn't have to practice when they returned to their Metairie training facility Monday after 3 1/2 weeks of training camp.

Chesney, a friend of coach Sean Payton, donned a helmet and soft pads for a "workout" with the Saints during a Friday walkthrough before their exhibition game with the Cincinnati Bengals.

Payton told the Saints they wouldn't have to practice Monday if Chesney, who caught four passes in individual drills and ran a reverse with running back Reggie Bush, cleanly fielded a punt. He did, giving the team a break from the practice field. They did, however, lift weights and watch film of Saturday's game.

"Reggie Bush said, 'I like country music,' after (Chesney) caught that punt," Payton said later.

— When the Saints began looking for a stronger kicking leg last spring to replace 43-year-old John Carney, they targeted veteran Olindo Mare.

They gave the Miami Dolphins a sixth-round draft pick to acquire Mare, who led the NFL with 24 touchbacks a year ago. He also has a league-leading 199 touchbacks since 1999.

Mare has certainly been what the Saints were looking for, especially in their 27-19 victory over the Bengals. Two of his first three kickoffs went out of the end zone on the fly, while the other was fielded nine yards deep in the end zone.

Mare also booted a 48-yard field goal with at least six yards to spare.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think I've ridden 20 miles a day on the bikes. I've also done about five million abs (exercises). When I'm done playing, I'm going to be an underwear model. I've got the abs for it now." -- DT Brian Young, lamenting the rigorous rehab work he had to do while missing all three weeks of training camp with a fractured foot.

Tampa Bay

— The Bucs' position is that QB Chris Simms is healthy and his performance just stinks. When they release him -- which seems likely barring an injury to another quarterback or rapid improvement by Simms -- you can look for a grievance.

In fact, the Bucs may already be preparing for one.

"The guy's out there practicing because he's been cleared to play," Gruden said. "He throws 125 passes a day because I have my sons count. That's all I can say."

— Worth noting is the Buccaneers' relationship with the men and women stationed at McDill Air Force base. The team held its walk-through there Friday and signed autographs for the troops and their families.

"To see the amount of people who give their life to fight for their country, it blows your mind," Gruden said. "It really is an awesome display of unity and discipline and overall teamwork that makes it all work. Any way we can give something back, it's a great experience for all of us. Hopefully, our players got something out of it."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm tired of talking about it everyday. You see it, he's out here practicing. He's healthy. Why the hell would he go on I.R.? I don't understand why he's practicing. I'm not trying to mislead anyone, although I have to be honest at times and say we've cleared him to practice. If he was injured, he wouldn't be practicing and throwing 125 balls a day. It's the performance that needs to improve. I'm confident in time it will. He has been inactive for a long period of time. That's all I'm going to say. It's a work in progress. Right now he's behind and he knows that. We'll adjust accordingly." -- Coach Jon Gruden on Chris Simms.

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