Each of the four NFC South teams has hit the field for its version of 2012 training camp. But before we recap what's been going on, maybe you'd be interested in knowing exactly where each team is holding camp.
Atlanta, New Orleans and Tampa Bay hold training camp at their regular-season practice facilities—Atlanta in Flowery Branch, Ga.; New Orleans in Metarie, La.; and Tampa Bay at One Buc Place in Tampa, Fla. Carolina is the only team that travels to camp. The Panthers work out at Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C., about 75 miles southwest of Charlotte.
Since we're talking about the logistics of training camp, a mention of padded practices is also in order.
Team in the NFL are not in full pads every day. In fact, according to news rules set forth by the collective bargaining agreement, teams can put on pads only once in every four full practice sessions; walkthroughs do not count. That said, the Falcons, Buccaneers and Saints have all put on the pads once thus far. Carolina goes through its first padded practice Monday.
Here are a few other news and notes from around the NFC South this weekend:
Tight end Tony Gonzalez told the media after practice on Friday that he was 95 percent sure the 2012 season would be his last in the NFL. He said his body could withstand another three years of the wear and tear of football, but his family was ready for him to be around more. Gonzalez doesn't want to stick around just be average. He'd rather go out while he's still on top of his game.
Atlanta released offensive guard Vince Manuwai Saturday. There was no apparent injury to the lineman; it just appears that Manuwai, who was signed via free agency in March, wasn't providing the output the Falcons wanted.
One of the biggest personnel changes in the offseason was the addition of corner Asante Samuel. Adding the former All-Pro allows Dunta Robinson the ability to move inside to his natural slot position. Robinson also said that new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan's new scheme is giving him the freedom to roam around the field and blitz more often (via The Atlanta Journal-Constitution).
Since the Falcons are somewhat thin at linebacker because of recent injuries to Matt Hansen and Lofa Tatupu—not to mention the departure of Curtis Lofton—it’s likely very refreshing to the team to see undrafted rookie Jerrell Harris turning heads.
Newly added wide receiver Louis Murphy might have made one of the smartest decisions of his short tenure with the Panthers over the weekend. He pulled Steve Smith aside on the practice field and started picking Smith’s brain. Sunday Murphy was getting pointers on how to beat press coverage off the line of scrimmage.
According to Bryan Strickland of Panthers.com, Linebacker Jon Beason felt that running back DeAngelo Williams got a little too physical during Saturday’s session. But Beason said when the pads go on Monday, Beason will address that issue.
Beason’s taken full part in practice sessions thus far after an Achilles injury kept him from all but one game last year. Defensive end Charles Johnson also plans to take full part in Carolina’s padded practice Monday. Johnson had surgery to clean up the meniscus in his right knee.
Head coach Ron Rivera said his team was a downfield passing team during his conversation about the wide-receiver competition (via Panthers.com). He wants a few of the receivers in camp to show they can catch downfield and make themselves big targets for Cam Newton.
The Saints' 2011 first-round pick, Cameron Jordan, got two sacks in Saturday’s practice and said after that he was unwilling to give a prediction on the number of times he’d get to opposing quarterbacks in 2012, but hoped “it’d be in the double digits.”
Running back Mark Ingram said he never thinks about injury when he's on the field, even after being troubled last year by a lingering toe issue. He did say he's feeling healthy and strong and working on ways to stay that way. Ingram also said he considers himself a back who can do everything—run inside, run outside, short-yardage plays, catch balls out of the backfield—and is capable of being out there on every third-down play.
Interim head coach Joe Vitt likes what he’s been seeing out of newly converted defensive end Martez Wilson. Vitt said Wilson will fit in well because the Saints plan to drop their ends into coverage and Wilson has some ability to do that since he played at linebacker last year (via NewOrleansSaints.com).
Rookie Akiem Hicks hasn't practiced yet in camp because of a broken hand. Vitt hopes to get Hicks into some conditioning drills Monday.
The Buccaneers are hoping for big things from the combination of Josh Freeman and new wide receiver Vincent Jackson. On Sunday, the duo gave a glimpse of good things to come when they both read a safety blitz and silently adjusted Jackson's route for a big gain (via Buccaneers.com).
It wasn't all rainbows and puppy dogs Sunday, according to head coach Greg Schiano, who called Tampa Bay's first padded practice sloppy, according to Tampa Bay Online. The Bucs had lots of offensive penalties and some fumble issues during an 11-on-11 drill.
With no official depth chart in hand, it's only speculation, but Stephen Holder of the Tampa Bay Times thinks rookie Doug Martin looks like the primary running back. Martin is getting more first-team reps than LeGarrette Blount and in position drills is getting a larger share of the repetitions.
The injury bug has already raised its head in camp. Pewter Report confirmed that wide receiver Arrelious Benn will miss as much as four weeks with an MCL sprain, and corner E.J. Biggers broke a bone in his foot and will miss a month.