NFC South Hot Topic: Nov. 30

Hot Topic is your source for NFC South news at Bucsblitz.com. Today get updated on what's going on in Atlanta, Carolina and New Orleans as they prepare for Sunday's games.

Hot Topic is your source for NFC South news at Bucsblitz.com. Today get updated on what's going on in Atlanta, Carolina and New Orleans as they prepare for Sunday's games.

ATLANTA FALCONS

Todd Weiner became the fifth starter and the 13th Falcons player to be placed on injured reserve Thursday, following season-ending left knee surgery. It was the second procedure in two months for Weiner, a 10-year veteran who had his contract extended through 2011 last year.

There were no specifics given as to the damage to the knee or the specifics of the operation. Weiner's arthroscopic surgery earlier was to repair cartilage damage.

Weiner returned for two games after his initial surgery and moved from his normal right tackle spot to left tackle, where starter Wayne Gandy and backup Renardo Foster were lost to season-ending knee injuries. Weiner re-injured his left knee early in his second comeback game and never was able to play or practice.

Quinn Ojinnaka will start in his place for the rest of the season.

Atlanta has lost starting tackle tandems on both sides of the ball to season ending injuries. Rookie Trey Lewis (knee) and veteran Rod Coleman (triceps, hand) went on injured reserve less than two weeks ago after getting hurt in a loss to Tampa Bay.

The number of season-ending injuries has been crushing to a coaching staff that has had to constantly re-jigger the offense and play calling to fit the limited knowledge of the system and the skill set of the replacement players.

"You've got to figure it's going to balance out but we're not the only team that has that," coach Bobby Petrino said. "Luck plays a part in this game, staying healthy plays a big part in this game. Unfortunately, we haven't had that to this point, but you keep working at it."

PLAYER NOTES

--Lawyers from the NFLPA will argue in front of federal judge David Doty Friday that an October ruling that cleared the way for the Falcons to recoup $19.97 million in bonus money paid to suspended quarterback Michael Vick was wrong.

Falcons officials and NFL lawyers will argue that special master Stephen Burbank's ruling was correct in that the Falcons are seeking money they advanced to Vick for work to be done that can't be completed. Vick is indefinitely suspended and is in a federal jail awaiting sentencing on a federal dogfighting guilty plea, scheduled for Dec. 10.

A ruling is expected before Christmas.

--QB Byron Leftwich is still feeling the effects of a tailbone injury and has been limited during practice, which could result in him being the No. 3 quarterback Sunday at St. Louis. Chris Redman would be starter Joey Harrington's backup.

--One of the reasons for Harrington retaining his starting job is, believe it or not, his mobility. The Falcons' pass protection has really been poor and Harrington is the most mobile of the three.

--FS Antoine Harris may have reclaimed the nickel safety position from second-year safety Jimmy Williams. Harris, a versatile defensive back and special teams player, lost his spot to Williams when Atlanta played some teams with bigger running backs and those that used two tight-end sets (such as Tampa Bay). However, with the Rams' deep routes and big play potential, the faster Harris might be a better fit.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Sensing the Carolina Panthers' season is all but over at 4-7, there's a good faction of fans that would like to see head coach John Fox turn the reigns of this struggling offense over to rookie quarterback Matt Moore.

And, the reasoning is fairly solid.

The Panthers seem to have already given up on David Carr, who has been terrible since his arrival here, and why play 44-year old Vinny Testaverde when he'll likely be retired after the season?

Why not give Moore some experience, just to find out what you have heading into next season?

But Fox disagrees.

He thinks playing Moore might do more harm than good. And, considering how much Carolina's offense has struggled since the injury to Jake Delhomme in Week 3, he may be right.

"It's a fine line you walk," Fox said. "There's a certain NFL team sitting there with the No. 1 pick (Oakland Raiders with JaMarcus Russell) in the draft that hasn't had a lot of playing time. Sometimes that might be the worst thing you can do."

Fox doesn't want to ruin Moore's confidence.

"We think he has promise and he's shown some of those abilities. But we've seen some of the other, too," Fox said.

So Testaverde will start this Sunday against San Francisco as the Panthers attempt to win at home for the first time since Nov. 16, 2006.

Testaverde, who missed last week's start with a back injury, has practiced twice this week.

Testaverde said in an ideal world a quarterback would get about three years to get ready to start -- about the same amount of time Tony Romo had in Dallas.

"The thing is, there are a lot of guys who have ability, but not all of them make it. You have to have some intangibles," he said. "You have to have something special about you. The thing about Tony (Romo) was that he was eager to learn. He looked like a guy who was hungry for it and wanted to be successful. He was always watching film and studying and asking questions. His abilities allow him to play the position."

PLAYER NOTES

--RB DeShaun Foster practiced for the second straight day and is still likely to start this week against San Francisco. He should have some opportunities to run.

--WR Drew Carter, who started last week vs. New Orleans, is likely to start again this week vs. the 49ers.

--CB Chris Gamble practiced for the second straight day with a cast on his injured thumb. Look for him to play this week.

--CB Richard Marshall will return to a reserve role this week with Chris Gamble returning to the starting lineup.

--QB Vinny Testaverde is expected to start this week as long as he is healthy, coach John Fox said. Testaverde seems good so far. It's uncertain who will back him up.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

If the Saints want to make a late push and get into the playoffs, they're going to have to do a better job of winning games in the Superdome. The problem is, that hasn't been so easy to do -- especially since Jim Haslett took over before the 2000 season.

Haslett posted just one winning season in the Superdome in the five seasons he coached in the building (they didn't play home games there in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina) and that came in 2003 when he went 5-3.

Haslett eventually finished his career with an 18-22 record in the Superdome, although he did win an NFC wild-card playoff game there in his first season.

Sean Payton is desperately trying to reverse that trend in his second season with the Saints. Going into Sunday's key home game with the Tampa Bay Bucs, the Saints are 2-3 this season and Payton is 6-7 in two seasons after losing seven of his last 10 at home.

Counting their home playoff wins in 2000 and '06, Haslett and Payton are a combined 26-29 in the Superdome. Starting with Sunday's game with the Bucs, the Saints have three chances to turn that around in December.

"It seems like we play very well on the road," said quarterback Drew Brees, who's led his team to a 9-5 road mark the last two years. "I don't know what our record is at home this year. But it's not where we want it to be."

"You look at it and we have played pretty well on the road and we have obviously not played as well at home," Payton said. "You try to address some concerns that might come up with home games. There's maybe a little bit more of a distraction because you do deal with a little bit more of the ticket issue, the visitors, the family and friends that are coming to visit.

"Those are things everyone has to deal with, including me. Hopefully down the stretch we can do a better job, and we have an opportunity to have a big advantage with the Superdome and our fan base, so this week the challenge is for us is to play our best game against a good football team who's in first place in our division."

PLAYER NOTES

--DT Brian Young practiced at full speed again Thursday and will be back in the starting lineup against the Tampa Bay Bucs on Sunday. Young missed the last four games after having his left knee scoped on Nov. 7.

--RB Reggie Bush, who bruised his left shin on Nov. 18, had full participation in practice Thursday and will likely to be ready to go for Sunday's matchup with the Bucs.

--RB Pierre Thomas, who came out of last Sunday's game at Carolina with a bruised kidney, did not practice on Thursday. Thomas had blood in his urine after practicing Wednesday, prompting the team's medical staff to hold him out Thursday.

--DT McKinley Boykin missed his second straight practice on Thursday with swelling in his left knee.


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