Behind Enemy Lines is a look at Tampa Bay’s NFC South foes every week. Let’s spy on the Bucs’ division rivals, shall we?
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• The Falcons have had a rash of players placed on the COVID-19 reserve list this season, and added another on Tuesday with wide receiver Laquon Treadwell being placed on the list. Treadwell joins free-agent prize pass rusher Dante Fowler Jr. who was added on Sunday. Other players this season who have seen their name on the list include defensive end John Cominsky and linebacker Edmond Robinson among others, and even a member of their staff last month in a move that prompted a brief shutdown of the facility.
• The Falcons have a match-up with their division rival Saints this weekend, and are hoping to have one of their best offensive weapons back in the lineup. Wide receiver Calvin Ridley resumed running this week and is recovering from a sprained ankle suffered in Week 8.
While the Falcons are hoping for the best, head coach Raheem Morris told reporters on Tuesday it is still too early to know when Ridley might be able to go.
“We should have a better feel for him on Wednesday, getting him in here, getting him into individual drills, getting him into a little bit of team work and see how he goes, talking him through it and just seeing where he’s at little by little, step by step in order to get him to Sunday and see if we can get him going,” Morris said.
Ridley is tied for the team lead with 43 receptions, and leads the Falcons with 657 yards receiving and six touchdown catches.
• Former first-round pick defensive end Takk McKinley was waived by the Falcons last week after making disparaging remarks about the team on social media and voicing his displeasure that he wasn’t traded last month. McKinley was claimed off of waivers by the Bengals, but was released due to a failed physical. Reports say the 49ers plan to make a claim on McKinley. The Browns and Raiders are also reportedly interested in signing him, but the 49ers have priority.
• When Bucs linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul took Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgewater down late in Sunday’s game, the Panthers organization and fans all held their breath, flashing back to Bridgewater’s gruesome injury when he played in Minnesota. Fortunately for all involved, an MRI on Monday came back showing no major damage, according to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen.
According to reports, it is a low-grade MCL sprain and Bridgewater is listed as day-to-day.
• With Bridgewater’s status for this week unknown, the Panthers signed Tommy Stevens to their practice squad. Stevens was drafted in the seventh round by the Saints last April and was listed as a tight end on the Saints’ practice squad.
• Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey can’t seem to win with injuries this season, and according to Adam Schefter, the star running back may miss multiple weeks with a shoulder injury suffered in Week 9.
New Orleans Saints
• Will the Bucs be able to overtake the Saints for the NFC South title? The path might have gotten easier this week, after it was revealed that quarterback Drew Brees has at least five fractured ribs and a collapsed lung following a sack against the 49ers on Sunday. The Saints have sent his scans to other doctors to get second opinions to determine if he should be placed on injured reserve, which means he would miss a minimum of three games. It was also determined that three of the fractures occurred in the Saints victory over the Bucs two weeks ago.
So who lines up under center in Brees’ absence? Head coach Sean Payton isn’t letting the cat out of the bag just yet. And it is likely both Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill will see time at quarterback until Brees is healthy enough to return.
“The plan we’ll have up and in place for our team this week, obviously to include Jameis (Winston) and Taysom (Hill), will be the best plan we feel like helps us win,” Payton said on Monday. “And those guys, man, they’ve been fantastic. They’ll be all-in.”
QB coach Joe Lombardi talked about the situation the Saints face.
“You never want to lose Drew, and I don’t know exactly what his condition is other than that he’s sore,” Lombardi said. “But we’re very confident in both those guys (Winston and Hill). They’re both smart, hard-working. They understand what we’re trying to do. And I think regardless of what happens, we feel pretty confident going forward.”
• Winston took over for Brees on Sunday and went 6-of-10 for 63 yards. Winston spoke to NOLA.com and talked about getting his first significant playing time since last season when he was the Bucs starter.
“I was very comfortable,” Winston said. “I was excited that I had a marvelous opportunity. I knew that my main job was to go and do what Drew would do — protect the football and try to lead us down there and score.”