By DARRELL FRY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published August 4, 2002
This is a weekly update by Times NFL writer Darrell Fry on the Bucs' new opponents in the NFC South.
ATLANTA: Watching the development of second-year quarterback Michael Vick is exciting -- unless, of course, you're playing behind him.
That's the predicament of backup Doug Johnson, who probably won't get to show the passing skills that dazzled folks when he was at Florida unless Vick gets hurt.
Like most players, Johnson wishes the situation were different, that he was the starter instead of the backup. But he understands things could be a lot worse.
"I'm the No. 2 QB, I'm staying healthy, I'm learning a lot, I'm making a good living," Johnson said. "So, I'm not going to sit here and complain about it."
CAROLINA: All eyes were on first-round draft pick Julius Peppers during the team's first week of training camp. The defensive lineman, who was impressive during offseason workouts, continues to delight coaches with his quickness and tenacity.
He still is learning the team's system and has gotten knocked around a few times, but he has been good for a few highlight moves each day, to the satisfaction of the Panthers, who heard the whispers about Peppers' supposed lack of commitment and consistency before they drafted him.
He has yet to see NFL action, but the Panthers believe he is as good as advertised.
"So far he hasn't done anything to make you think otherwise," coach John Fox said. "I've been very, very impressed with what I've seen, not just with his athletic skills, but just the way he has gone about his business. He really wants to be good and that's something that any great football player I've ever been around has had."
NEW ORLEANS: Third-year cornerback Michael Hawthorne is the likely replacement for starter Dale Carter, who was suspended for his fifth violation of the league's substance-abuse policy.
The team planned to emphasize man-to-man coverage because Carter and Fred Thomas are good at it. But that's likely to change with Hawthorne in the mix. Fellow cornerbacks Ken Irvin and Keyuo Craver also could get a shot.
"Dale is a great player, but we'll be fine in the secondary," coach Jim Haslett said. "I'm going to give Michael Hawthorne the first crack at the starting spot. He and Kenny and Keyuo are going to have to step up and take advantage of this opportunity."
-- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.
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