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Behind Enemy Lines is a weekly look at Tampa Bay’s NFC South foes every Tuesday morning. Let’s spy on the Bucs’ division rivals, shall we?

Atlanta Falcons

• Falcons owner Arthur Blank spoke with Peter King of NBC Sports on Monday and made some headlines when he predicted the NFL season will happen – but possibly with no fans in attendance.

“I could easily see camps being shorter, players being tested on a daily basis, things of that nature,” Blank said. “No fan attendance. Things like that.

“If I had to speculate now, and I use the word speculate because that’s really all it is, I would say yes [to 16 games]. Only because it’s so far away from where we are today.”

Falcons QB Matt Ryan and Bucs QB Tom Brady

Falcons QB Matt Ryan and Bucs QB Tom Brady – Photo by: Getty Images

• The Falcons came into the 2020 free agency period with little salary cap space, yet were able to sign pass rusher Dante Fowler Jr. and running back Todd Gurley.

Some creative maneuvering made this possible. Atlanta was able to restructure quarterback Matt Ryan, tackle Jake Matthews and defensive end Alvin Bailey’s current deals to create the space to be active in free agency.

By doing so, it may create cap headaches next year and beyond, but head coach Dan Quinn and G.M. Thomas Dimitroff are in a win-now mode after nearly being fired in 2019 after the Falcons got off to a terrible start. A late-season resurgence saved both of their jobs but Blank most likely won’t stand for another losing season in 2020.

• With the XFL season officially over due to the coronavirus situation, NFL teams have begun to search the rosters and sign XFL players. The Falcons have added tight end Khari Lee of the D.C. Defenders, who had eight catches for 91 yards and two touchdowns

Atlanta also is poised to sign another XFL player according to reports. Edmond Robinson was a linebacker for the Houston Roughnecks and notched 22 tackles, two sacks, one interception, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in five games.

Carolina Panthers

• The Cam Newton era officially ended last week when the Panthers said goodbye and cut their long-time starting quarterback. Newton, a three-time Pro Bowler and NFL MVP in 2015, wasn’t happy about the situation and has posted on social media expressing what he feels was a mistake.

Newton is working out and plans to play in 2020 with a chip on his shoulder. The question, the same one that former Bucs QB Jameis Winston faces, is where? Most likely Newton and Winston will have to take a backup job with hopes of a Ryan Tannehill-Titans-type situation.

Saints QB Teddy Bridgewater and Bucs OLB Shaq Barrett

Saints QB Teddy Bridgewater and Bucs OLB Shaq Barrett – Photo by: Getty Images

• New Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgewater knows it won’t be easy to replace Newton in Carolina but is up for the challenge and opportunity.

“It’s a unique situation. I just have to be myself. … I knew when Drew [Brees] got injured I had big shoes to fill in. I reminded myself to be me,” Bridgewater told the AP last week. “I take pride in proving people wrong. They told me I would take 18 months to come back from my injury. They told me I couldn’t win last year and I won. I don’t wake up with the mindset that I want to lose.”

• Despite an influx at the wide receiver position so far this year for the Panthers, Joe Person of The Athletic reported recently that Carolina have no plans to shop Curtis Samuel, instead try to provide Bridgewater with as many weapons as possible. Samuel caught 54 passes for 627 yards and six touchdowns with three different quarterbacks under center last season.

New Orleans Saints

• The Saints re-signed Drew Brees to a new two-year contract this offseason, but also placed a first-round tender on Taysom Hill. Head coach Sean Payton told ESPN that the Saints put a first-round tender on Hill because they think he’s their starting quarterback in the future.

Despite being Brees’ backup, Payton said you won’t see Hill standing on the sideline just holding a clipboard this year.

Saints QB Taysom Hill

Saints QB Taysom Hill – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

“He’s a tremendous blocker – I don’t think people realize how fast he is – he’s one of the two or three fastest guys on our team,” Payton said. “I think Taysom sees himself as being a starting quarterback in this league, and we do too.”

• Speaking of Payton, the Saints head ball coach is recovering after testing positive for COVID-19 earlier this month. And now wants to help others but giving his plasma.

“I’m in that unique group that they believe can’t get it again this season and can’t give it,” Payton said. “I’m waiting to hear if people like me are going to be able to give blood. I don’t know the specifics, whether that’s through a transfusion or plasma replacement. I know they’re looking to see if there’s a benefit to people who have had it and recovered from it and now maybe have the blood or the antibodies built up to help someone who has it. I’m waiting to hear if that’s the case and if it is, what’s the protocol and where do you go to give blood.”

New Orleans has been hit particularly hard by the virus with the latest stats showing 1,500 cases in the city and nearly 200 deaths.

Former Saints QB Bobby Hebert’s father recently passed away from the virus and former Saints kicker Tom Dempsey, who for decades held the NFL record for the longest field goal at 63 yards has tested positive for Covid-19.

• Brees while trying to get some exercise recently encountered a rattlesnake and posted a picture of it, drawing a response from his head coach.

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About the Author: Mark Cook

Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, the beach and family time.Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at mark@pewterreport.com
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1 year ago

Wow, games with no fans. Maybe they can apply the SDR to stadium crowds.

1 year ago

Their TV contracts get them the most money and I could care less if I’m watching it with empty stands. It may suck to not be able to go to games, but I’d rather watch it on TV with no fans than not have games at all.

1 year ago

I’m not sold on this. The noise from the stands help make the game what it is. And many players have already said it would be difficult to play without fans. I’m hoping by the end of September, we will be all past Mr. Corona. You hope too.

1 year ago

Seems like a more practical solution is to delay the start of the season by a month or so, if that is necessary. Playing the pre-season games without fans in the stadium is no big deal – usually not a lot of cheering, noise, or drama in those games anyway. Starting in October and finishing in January, with playoffs in February, that seems entirely do-able. Maybe get a few more snow-bowl games in, that would actually be fun.

Then Super Bowl at the end of February (with no bye after the conference championships). Certainly not a problem in Tampa!

Go Bucs 72
1 year ago

Cam loves him some Cam, what a douche.

1 year ago

The Bucs have been playing home games for years without fans. What’s new?

1 year ago

I saw the rattlesnake Brees posted and it was no baby. That thing looked nasty. Cam’s favorite person has always been Cam. During his Super Bowl season you couldn’t shut up an analyst from throwing superlatives at Newton. But one Super Bowl showed his lack of mettle and he has never been the same since. My lasting memory of Cam will always be of him backing off from a fumble during a crucial part of the game because he didn’t want to get hurt. Compare that with Winston who dove into a pile and was literally fighting the Panthers for… Read more »

1 year ago

What are they going to do when NFL players are infected?

Mb Nfl Lock Of The Szn Pewter 728x90 Jpg