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Southern Fryed

By DARRELL FRY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 28, 2002

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

* * *

ATLANTA: Despite the team's rising expectations, training camp didn't get off to a good start.

Defensive lineman Shane Dronett was expected to start until the shoulder he injured weightlifting was diagnosed as a torn ligament. He's expected to be placed on injured reserve, meaning he'll likely miss the season.

Last season he had 51 tackles and 5 1/2 sacks.

"It's huge," coach Dan Reeves said of losing Dronett. "I think definitely now with the 3-4 defense we're better able to handle that than if we were playing a four-man front (which they did last season). When you lose a veteran like that, it hurts."

Management said running the ball will be the team's priority.

"All I know is if you can't run, you can't win," vice president Ron Hill said. "Jacksonville had Mark Brunell at quarterback and Jimmy Smith and Keenan McCardell at wide receiver, but when (running back) Fred Taylor got hurt, what happened?"

CAROLINA: Rookie running back DeShaun Foster is sweating out his contract negotiations through the start of training camp and it might be ex-Gators receiver Jabar Gaffney's fault.

Gaffney was picked just ahead of Foster in the second round and got a $2.15-million signing bonus from the Texans, the most for a second-round pick. That likely is forcing the Panthers to pay Foster a similar bonus, which is likely the reason Foster remained unsigned.

The team's other high-profile rookie, Julius Peppers, has plenty of incentives to have a huge rookie season. His $50-million contract includes $12-million in incentives that could push it to $62-million.

NEW ORLEANS: The signing of veteran running back Terry Allen raised some eyebrows. After all, Allen has been in the league 13 seasons.

But the Saints think Allen has plenty of tread left on his tires after gaining a team-leading 658 yards for the Ravens last season as a replacement starter for the injured Jamal Lewis. Plus, they might still have some reservations about Deuce McAllister's readiness to be a regular starter.

"He proved last year he can still create yardage and be a consistent starter when called upon," general manager Mickey Loomis said. "Terry has seen it all during his time in the NFL, so he can be a positive influence on Deuce as well."

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

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