NFC South Notes

From the Sports Xchange, here are the news and notes around the NFC South:

Atlanta

RB Jerious Norwood returned to practice late last week after a stomach infection sidelined him for a week. Some of Norwood's blood levels were off balance during the peak of the infection and he has to be monitored.

KR/CB Allen Rossum, a nine-year veteran, could be on the roster bubble. Though he's as solid a kickoff and punt returner as there is in the league, he has been bypassed on the defensive depth chart by rookie David Irons. That leaves Rossum as the No. 3 left corner. With $770,000 owed to him this season, Rossum could be replaced by second-year KR/WR Adam Jennings, who plays on more special teams units and gets some reps at wide receiver.

RB Warrick Dunn likely will open the season as the starter, ahead of Norwood. Dunn played for the first time this preseason against Cincinnati Monday night after having offseason shoulder and back surgery. In two weeks of practice, Dunn's experience with pass protection and in adjusting to the type of downhill running game coach Bobby Petrino prefers has given him an advantage over the speedy Norwood, who has done most of the heavy lifting in training camp.

DT Rod Coleman (right quadriceps surgery) is being treated with caution, even though he medically is close to being ready to start practicing. The Falcons have not allowed Coleman to practice, which means he won't play in Atlanta's two preseason games this week. Coleman could begin drills early next week. Jonathan Babineaux has replaced Coleman.

The Falcons might wait until after final cuts Sept. 1 before signing a quarterback for depth. Chris Redman is the No. 2 quarterback, behind starter Joey Harrington. If someone becomes available after the first round of cuts, Atlanta would act, but all signs are that significant cuts won't take place until next weekend. There is a chance the Falcons make a trade but it appears they are willing to wait.

Carolina

S Nate Salley could return to the starting lineup this week and take the spot of Deke Cooper. Salley didn't play on Friday night because he's still recovering from a knee injury. Cooper has struggled some in coverage. The Panthers defense simply couldn't get off the field against the Patriots. New England controlled the time of possession and hammered out several long drives.

QB Brett Basanez (wrist) was placed on injured reserve on Sunday.

WR Keary Colbert showed a burst of speed on a 48-yard touchdown reception on a crossing route against the Patriots. Jake Delhomme went deep for Colbert again later on, but Colbert dropped the ball in the end zone and was called for offensive pass interference. Look for Colbert to begin the season as the starting receiver.

P Jason Baker had another strong game for the Panthers, booming a pair of 50-plus yard punts in the first half, pinning the Patriots at the 5-yard line.

QB Jake Delhomme completed 11 of 18 passes for 162 yards and one touchdown and had four of his passes dropped. You can't pin this one on Delhomme. Throw the blame toward his receivers.

CB Chris Gamble knocked a pass away from Ben Watson in the back of the end zone, saving a touchdown, and finished with six tackles. However, Watson made a few nice catches on Gamble.

RG Ryan Kalil and the offensive line didn't do a bad job protecting Delhomme against the Patriots. Delhomme wasn't sacked, but then again there weren't many holes for the team's running backs either. Kalil started his second game for Carolina, this time at right guard. He's expected to start the first two games of the season at right guard. The Panthers may go back to Jeremy Bridges after he completes his two-game suspension.

RB DeShaun Foster was held to zero yards on three carries before making an early exit. There just wasn't much there for Foster, who was stuffed on one rush for minus-four yards.

SS Chris Harris gave up a touchdown pass to Marcellus Rivers in the first quarter and was part of a secondary that was picked apart all night long by Tom Brady. He has struggled since coming to Carolina but coaches still like his talent.

WR Drew Carter caught three passes for 52 yards, but he also dropped an easy reception on Carolina's opening drive on third-and-seven. That seemed to set the tone for the night. Carter should start the season as the No. 3 receiver.

New Orleans

LT Jammal Brown, who has been out since Aug. 7 with a bruised bone in his right knee, returned to work on a limited basis last week and should be ready for the season opener on Sept. 6.

WR Marques Colston missed his second straight exhibition game because of a sore left knee last week, but MRIs have revealed no structural damage to the joint.

WR Devery Henderson is progressing and will likely return to the lineup for the regular-season opener after missing the last two exhibition games with a hamstring injury.

MLB Mark Simoneau has a right knee injury that is not considered to be serious, which should allow him to return to the starting lineup for the season opener.

DT Brian Young continues to make progress from his fractured right foot, which caused him to miss all of training camp, and could be ready for the game with the Indianapolis Colts on Sept. 6.

DE Rob Ninkovich will likely be out for another week as he continues his rehab from an MCL injury to his left knee. Ninkovich has been out for 4 1/2 weeks.

WR David Patten and WR Terrance Copper, who have started the last two weeks because of injuries to Marques Colston and Devery Henderson, continue to battle for the third receiving job.

WR Lance Moore will likely be the main kickoff returner and may occasionally spell Reggie Bush on punt returns.

Tampa Bay

QB Chris Simms made his first appearance of the preseason, playing in just one series against the Dolphins. He attempted one pass that was dropped and was called for an illegal forward pass.

"He just wanted to get me out there, and in his words, he said, 'Smell the huddle,'" Simms said of Gruden. "So I smelled it and it smelled just like I remembered it."

RB Cadillac Williams, who entered the game with more rushing attempts (four) than yards (three), had his best preseason game ever, rushing four times for 25 yards. That also included a five-yard loss on his first carry of the night.

QB Jeff Garcia, who was 6-for-6 passing with a touchdown last week against Jacksonville, wasn't nearly as sharp Saturday. He finished 4-of-10 passing for 54 yards with one touchdown and an interception.

But Garcia did throw a beautiful 26-yard touchdown pass to receiver Joey Galloway, who tight-roped the back of the end zone.

"We did some good things, going against another good defense this week," said Garcia, who had pass plays called on eight of the first nine snaps. "We were just off a little bit at times, but making a play at the end to get the ball in the end zone, I think those are things we have to value and build upon."

TE Alex Smith suffered a sprained ankle against Miami in the first half and did not return.

WR David Boston, despite being arrested for a DUI Wednesday night, played in Saturday's game against the Dolphins.

QB Bruce Gradkowski improved his stock by going 10-of-16 passing for 104 yards and two touchdowns against the Dolphins. His six-yard scoring strike to Earnest Graham and one-yard toss to Paris Warren in the back of the end zone twice enabled the Bucs to recapture the lead.


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