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Southern Fryed

This is a weekly update 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 September 1, 2002

ATLANTA: Quarterback Michael Vick has been working with a Los Angeles-based speech coach. Vick apparently wants to learn to give better media interviews, something he figures he'll be doing a lot more of this season as the starter.

"It's helped me on and off the field," Vick said. "It's about speaking up, looking at people in the eye. (Speech coach Gary Hankins) asked me, "What are your goals?' I said I want to be able to give an interview and not go, "Um', and, "You know', all those words that don't mean anything."

CAROLINA: The team is optimistic about the return of rookie running back DeShaun Foster, who recently had arthroscopic knee surgery. Doctors found additional problems in Foster's knee and fixed those as well.

"It was a real blessing that they got in there and got that done," coach John Fox said. "It went really well, and that should speed up his recovery."

The team expects Foster back in four weeks rather than six.

In the meantime, there's hope backup Lamar Smith will flourish. Smith had 1,139 yards for the Dolphins in 2000 while being guided by offensive line coach Paul Boudreau, who's now with the Panthers.

NEW ORLEANS: Aaron Brooks was solid during the preseason (27-for-51 for 313 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception), but some observers have found reason to criticize him, questioning things as negligible as his footwork. Others say he isn't as sharp because of distractions surrounding his contract dispute.

The coaches, though, couldn't be more pleased with him.

"Some guy made a statement one time that he's got bad footwork, and I think a bunch of guys jumped on it and that's kind of the battle cry that's against him. It's totally ridiculous," offensive coordinator Mike McCarthy said.

"This city should embrace this young man. They are seeing the development of an elite quarterback. He can be a championship-caliber quarterback."

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

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