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Southern Fryed

This is a weekly update compiled by Times NFL writer Darrell Fry on the Bucs' new opponents in the NFC South:

By DARRELL FRY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 23, 2002


ATLANTA: There are some who doubt whether quarterback Michael Vick is ready to be a starter. Cornerback Ray Buchanan isn't among them.

"Michael Vick is a beast, a freak of nature," he said. "The thing is, he probably has the strongest arm in the National Football League. Combine that with his agility and athleticism and I think you're looking at a very rare football player. He has a chance to be very special. He just needs to go out there and play more and get some confidence. Once that happens, watch out."

CAROLINA: Injured quarterback Chris Weinke is ready to practice, but the Panthers may not have receiver Patrick Jeffers. Apparently Jeffers, expected to be a starter, has been slow to recover from offseason knee surgery and might not be ready for training camp late next month.

"It's like speculating the stock market," coach John Fox said when asked about Jeffers' availability.

Jeffers has been limited in his workouts during team minicamps and continues to rehabilitate the knee. He has trouble making sharp cuts and quick stops.

"Your knee just kind of shuts down and gives out on you when you're trying to stop," he said. "You end up taking six steps to slow down where usually you could do it in two."

NEW ORLEANS: The Saints are adjusting to a changing of guard. And the tackle. And the center.

The team has shipped off several key offensive linemen from last season, most notably seven-time Pro Bowl left tackle Willie Roaf. In their place are four free agents and a rookie, giving the line a new look.

"That's an area that we knew we had to shake it up a little bit and mix up the chemistry," player personnel director Rick Mueller said. "There's no question that we're a deeper group there. We think we're better as a whole."

Kyle Turley, infamous for his helmet-throwing incident last season, has replaced Roaf at left tackle.

-- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.


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