Updates on the NFC South picture (minus the Saints.):
Snag with McFarland extension could change BucsÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢ plans
When the Buccaneers decided to focus on signing DT Anthony McFarland to a contract extension this offseason, it signaled that Warren SappÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s days in Tampa might be numbered. But the team may be forced to change its line of thinking now that talks with McFarland have reached an impasse. McFarland hoped to be signed to a new six-year deal by the start of training camp but balked when the Bucs asked that 40 percent of the proposed salary be deferred to the final two years of the contract. McFarland is willing to backload the contract with 30 percent of the money, but the Bucs are holding strong to their offer and no movement seems forthcoming on either side. If nothing can be worked out, McFarland will go into the season playing the final year of his deal hoping to cash in next year on the free-agent market. If that happens, the Bucs could be forced to turn to Sapp once more should the bidding for McFarland get too out of control. McFarland is viewed as a better option for the long term because he is five years younger than Sapp and is just coming into his prime, but those traits also will make him attractive to potential suitors.
The impact of the turnaround of the Falcons has gone far beyond the playing field. With the team enjoying a 97 percent increase in season-ticket sales and a 97 percent renewal rate from last season, the NFL recently asked the FalconsÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢ executive director of marketing, Dick Sullivan, to speak at the leagueÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s symposium on brand development. The Falcons sold out their season tickets for 2003 ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Â only the second time in team history that has happened ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Â and there now is a waiting list of 15,000 people to buy season tickets. They also sold out 1,000 tickets that were made available to the public July 12 for each of the teamÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s two home preseason and eight regular-season games in just 26 minutes. Sullivan and owner Arthur Blank have been credited with making the team more profitable by making the Falcons more fan friendly, and the NFL added Sullivan to its executive marketing committee. But some insiders believe the league may be looking at the wrong person. Although the FalconsÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢ performance at the box office has been impressive, sources say the teamÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s marketing and community ties arenÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢t the reason for the renewed interest. It is QB Mike Vick, coupled with a winning team, that has Atlantabuzzing about a possible Super Bowl run. Blank and Sullivan have made the experience at the game more enjoyable by lowering ticket prices, but without the product on the field ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Â and the electric Vick making everyone hold their breath on every snap ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Â the Falcons might be just another team struggling to sell tickets.
WeÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢re told Panthers QB Chris Weinke has been tearing it up in workouts and has shown the strongest arm of any of the quarterbacks on the teamÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s roster. With everybody looking forward to the Rodney Peete-Jake Delhomme battle for the starting job, Weinke has been the forgotten man at times in Carolina, and there are some who believe he deserves another chance at the starting job. But insiders say that Weinke always has been a great workout guy and has the physical tools to be an NFL quarterback. The problem comes when he is forced to face a real pass rush instead of teammates in T-shirts and shorts. Weinke isnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢t the most accurate passer around and has had trouble adjusting to the speed of the game, often making poor decisions. Considering that head coach John Fox values players who make few mistakes and donÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢t take risks, it is that last point that will keep Weinke out of the running for the first-string gig. In fact, Weinke will be battling second-year QB Randy Fasani for a spot on the roster, and there are some in the organization who would prefer to go with the younger Fasani as the PanthersÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢ quarterback of the future.
Saints head coach Jim Haslett was miffed by the fact that DT Grady Jackson showed up at minicamp in May weighing well over the 330 pounds listed on the teamÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s roster, and he expected Jackson to show a renewed sense of commitment to dropping some pounds. Sources say the team is looking forward to finding out just what kind of shape Jackson reports to camp in, and Haslett is concerned that Jackson wonÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢t be in a good frame of mind should his weight still be a problem. Haslett was very upset with Jackson at minicamp, telling reporters that he was disappointed that Jackson hadnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢t taken part in the teamÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s offseason conditioning program. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã…Â“IÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢m disappointed in GradyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s weight,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬? Haslett said. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã…Â“IÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢m probably more disappointed that Grady wasnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢t here, being with his teammates and as a part of the team. Everybody was here but him.To me, itÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s just being professional, coming in. HeÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s bad-looking and I donÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢t think he's in very good shape.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬? WeÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢re told that Jackson didnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢t take too kindly to the criticism, but he also hasnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢t made an effort to keep the team apprised of his condition, something that has the Saints worried.
Nothing new here on the Saints. I'm interested in how Jackson responds to this however. Will he be back in better shape and change his attitude or does he become lazy and whiny therefore becoming this years version of Turley?
[Edited on 15/7/2003 by iceshack149]
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