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Southern Fryed

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

By DARRELL FRY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 14, 2002

ATLANTA: During minicamp last week, quarterback Michael Vick spent time with former MVP Steve Young, whom he says he has idolized since childhood and has forged a friendship with since.

Young, the highest-rated passer in NFL history, accepted an invitation from coach Dan Reeves to meet with the team's quarterbacks and watch Vick run drills.

He thinks Vick is prepared for the job he inherited when Chris Chandler was released.

"There's no question he is somebody who really (understands what is) important for a quarterback," Young said.

CAROLINA: It's early, but there are indications that rookie running back DeShaun Foster could beat out veteran Lamar Smith for the starting job.

Smith was a 1,000-yard rusher for the Dolphins, but slumped, rushing for 968 yards on 3.1 yards a carry in 2001.

Foster has looked solid in offseason workouts and observers think he can push Smith for the top spot. The Panthers hope one of them emerges as a quality back after getting little production from Richard Huntley and the oft-injured Tim Biakabutuka, who were released.

NEW ORLEANS: While the team made no legitimate effort to re-sign him, receiver Willie Jackson is expected to be missed.

Several players said Jackson, the former Florida Gator who signed with the Falcons, will be the team's biggest loss after defensive end Joe Johnson.

"You can have all the speed in the world, but it doesn't matter if you can't be relied on to be in the right place or catch the ball," quarterback Aaron Brooks said. "Willie Jack is reliable. You knew he was going to get open and make the play. That's what it's all about for a quarterback."

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

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