NFC Notes

Get the latest updates on what is happening with the teams in the NFC South. Are the Panthers already trying to sign Witherspoon to a long-term deal?

Panthers News

Rouen and Baker to Battle
Team sources indicated that Tom Rouen appears to have a leg up in the battle for the team's punting job. Unless he has a great minicamp, the Panthers will likely cut Steve Cheek and take Rouen and Jason Baker to training camp as their two punters and let them battle it out there.

Long-Term Deal for Witherspoon?
The Panthers have spoken with the agents for linebacker Will Witherspoon about working out a long-term contract, but no deal has been reached as of Memorial Day weekend.

Panthers Waive Hunter
The Panthers waived WR Javin Hunter late last week.

Hunter played WR at Notre Dame and was originally drafted by Baltimore in the 6th round of the 2002 draft.

Falcons News

It's not hard to figure out where Falcons owner Arthur Blank stands on the issue of changing the NFL's revenue-sharing model, even though he's very political in the way he comments on the matter.

The mere fact the Falcons have such a crummy stadium deal with the state of Georgia, which owns the Georgia Dome, should be all the evidence necessary. The numbers changes from one year to the next, but the Falcons are guaranteed a mere $4 million per year, roughly, in their deal.

They can, and do now that Blank has bought the team and maximized earning possibilities beyond all thresholds thought possible prior to his ownership, but they still lag most of the league in local/stadium revenue.

Add the fact that the Dome deal is almost iron-clad, meaning that for Blank to escape it (like if he wanted to go build his own joint, or move the team) would cost him roughly $200 million, and, well, it doesn't take a genius.

Although the theory that Houston's Super Bowl bid was scuttled last week in large measure because so many small-market owners held in contempt Houston owner Bob McNair (a big-revenue owner who has shown little or no sympathy toward small-market owners or the concept of sharing some of his currently unshared revenue) makes sense, the fact Blank's on the other end of the spectrum may have hurt him with some large-market teams.

Whatever the case, Blank's sticking to his guns; he just so happens to be holstering them.

He's not going out of his way to inflame on the subject. But he's not hiding, either.

"The issue is very complicated, and it definitely affects the CBA extension," he said. "You have a definite spread between the haves and have-nots in the NFL. Certain teams, because of the way the system works and because of (an owner) being an entrepreneur and taking advantage of the system and doing things good business men do, have produced a tremendous amount of revenue.

"They're to be credited for that. But the NFL is based on a shared (revenue-sharing) basis, and it is out of proportion."

Blank's not saying all currently unshared revenues should be shared. Much as the NFL is partly socialistic now (see the current revenue-sharing scheme) and partly capitalistic (see the disparity of roughly $100 million between the league's fat cats when it comes to local/stadium revenue and the poor boys), he thinks that should continue -- but not to the disparate levels now in place.

"Whatever revision comes in the system, there will always be room for the entrepreneur to do the things as a businessman -- through investments -- to push (local revenue) up higher," said Blank, who has proposed spending up to $150 million of his own money to renovate the Georgia Dome if he can reach new agreements with the state that will allow him to reap a sizable portion of the new revenue streams that would come on line with said improvements.

"That's not going to be taken out of the system. There's a balance that represents more shared revenue than we've had in the past to make sure competition is level on the playing field."

Falcons Open Their First Retail Store
The Falcons opened their first retail store, a 2,000-square-foot paradise at a mall on the northern edge of the city, in an attempt to "spread their brand," and increase local revenues. It's called "Falcons 365," and is located in Perimeter Mall. "The Atlanta Falcons organization has been thrilled with the overwhelming response we have received from our fans to name the store," said owner Arthur Blank. "Falcons 365 is symbolic of our organization's commitment to working year round to provide our fans with the best professional sports experience both on and off the field."

Hall Quits Redskins
S Cory Hall, whom the Falcons cut in February and tried to re-sign immediately after the draft, parted ways with the Redskins this week, just two days after signing with Washington. There are people who played with Hall the past two seasons in Atlanta concerned about his mental well-being after he scuttled his re-signing with the Falcons, and then scuttled his deal with Washington. But he is believed to have a line on an assistant coaching job at Washington State, where he played collegiately.

Saints News

As it has been for most of the off-season, it was another strange week for the Saints and their fans who fear that owner Tom Benson will move the team to San Antonio, Albuquerque or even Los Angeles.

After emphatically stating during the NFL owners meetings that he doesn't want to relocate the club he purchased back in 1985, Benson late last week put the onus on the New Orleans community.

Saying that the future of his franchise's strained relationship with the state of Louisiana wasn't his decision to make, Benson challenged the fans with this question: "Are we an NFL community or are we not an NFL community?"

Benson said that while he wants the team to stay in New Orleans, the community must prove that it has the means and desire to continue supporting an NFL franchise.

"It's going to take the backing of everybody in the community, not just Tom Benson by himself," he said. "He can't do it by himself. The state can't do it. Tom Benson and the state together can't do it.

"It's going to take the businesses and the community to say, `We want an NFL team, and whatever it takes, that's what we're going to do.'"

Benson said the issues are the team's sagging season-ticket sales and the community's lack of support for a new stadium. He is also frustrated about a series of "short-term" agreements with the state over the years.

When asked if the team would stay or go, Benson said that was a decision for the people to make -- not his.

"Can we afford it?" he asked. "Can we afford it, you know? Ticket sales aren't very good right now (only 26,000 season tickets have been sold), and the biggest complaint that we have is that our prices are too high. And we've got one of the lowest prices in the league. What do we do? Should we give our tickets away? I mean, who's going to pay the freight?

"That is what we have to decide as a community, not me. I want to stay."

Brown Skips Practices
Starting right cornerback Fakhir Brown missed a second straight week of coaching session workouts last week, bringing to eight the number of practices he's skipped while trying to renegotiate his contract.

Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis said he had not spoken with Brown or his agent, Ted Marchibroda Jr., about a contract extension, and said he doesn't plan to.

"He's under contract," Loomis said. "I have no interest in talking to him until he's here participating with this team."

Brown, a seven-year veteran, is entering the second year of a two-year contract he signed in March 2004. He became a starter opposite Mike McKenzie midway through last season.

Horn Contract Numbers
The final numbers for the six-year contract extension four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Joe Horn signed last month are in. although it's unlikely that the 33-year-old will collect all of it.

The $41 million deal includes a $7 million signing bonus as well as roster bonuses of $1.5 million (2006), $1 million (2007), $2 million (2008), $3 million (2009) and $4 million (2010).

Horn will collect base salaries of $665,000 (2005), $1.635 million (2006), $4.450 million (2007), $4.73 million (2008), $5.010 million (2009) and $5.29 million (2010). He'll also receive workout bonuses of between $100,000 and $200,000 each season.

Buccaneers News

Bucs owner Malcolm Glazer won the Super Bowl. Again.

This time, Tampa Bay defeated favorite Atlanta for the right to play host to Super Bowl XLIII by a narrow vote of NFL owners at their spring meeting in Washington.

The game, which will be played in February of 2009, will mark the fourth Super Bowl in Tampa, which also played host to the big game in 1984, 1991 and 2001.

Many considered Atlanta the frontrunner after Falcons owner Arthur Blank proposed a $150 million renovation to the Georgia Dome as part of their bid.

But Tampa Bay has a state-of-the-art facility in Raymond James Stadium and offered enticements like a party for league owners and personnel at Busch Gardens, golf packages and, of course, warm weather.

The last time Atlanta played host to the Super Bowl was in 2000, when an ice storm spoiled festivities.

"Everybody understands Tampa has great weather in February and that's why they won't give us one in Denver," said Broncos owner Pat Bowlen. "Tampa has put on a couple of Super Bowls that have been pretty good. It's a nice place to be."

It concluded quite a month for the Glazers, who recently completed a more than $1 billion takeover of the Manchester United soccer franchise.

Dick Beard, Tampa Bay's task force chairman, said the Glazers were very instrumental in lobbying owners behind the scenes.

"It's such a wonderful community and wonderful weather," Glazer said. "What a combination. We love the people, we love the area."

When neither Atlanta nor Tampa received the required three-fourths vote, a final head-to-head vote was decided by simple majority. But the final tally wasn't disclosed.

"We left everything on the table," said Bucs executive vice president Bryan Glazer. "The community put an amazing bid together that could not be matched. We worked behind the scenes to talk to owners and they were very impressed with the bid package. You're just sweating it out."

Buenning Not Used to Heat
Rookie guard Dan Buenning practiced in some warm temperatures at the University of Wisconsin, just not in the spring.

"This is comparable to Wisconsin in August," Buenning said. "It's good for you, though, because it's only going to get worse."

Hometown Boy
Rookie running back Fred Reid knows he is a longshot to earn a spot on the Bucs roster, but right now he is living a dream. The former Tampa King High School star grew up rooting for Tampa Bay.

"I've always loved the Bucs growing up," Reid said. "I never thought I'd be playing for them one day. I feel like I'm in the perfect spot."

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