South Links: Panthers, Antone Smith, Texans

Unlike Adrian Peterson, whose legal case has concluded, Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy has no clear-cut path back to the field now that his trial has been postponed until after the season. Still, if there were a way for the veteran pass rusher to be reinstated in 2014, his teammates would welcome him back, as David Newton of details.

“Selfishly, as a player, would we want him as a player on our team? Of course. He makes us better,” said tight end Greg Olsen. “We also have to understand there’s a bigger picture. There’s bigger things at play, socially, just the environment we’re in. You have to respect that. I’m glad I’m not the one making the decisions. I trust that the people that have that power – mostly on the league side – will do what’s in the best interest of everyone.”

Here’s more from around the league’s two South divisions:

  • While Cam Newton has faced increased scrutiny during the Panthers’ recent slide, the former first overall pick remains the team’s best short-term and long-term option at quarterback, writes Scott Fowler of the Charlotte Observer.
  • As he approaches free agency, Falcons running back Antone Smith has hired Atlanta-based agent Todd France of Five Star Athlete Management, writes Vaughn McClure of France assumed full ownership of the agency after new Bills owner Terry Pegula divested his interest in the firm.
  • Ryan Mallett will get a chance down the stretch this season to prove that he’s capable of being the Texans‘ quarterback of the future, but John McClain of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link) doesn’t envision Mallett back with the team next season. In McClain’s view, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Tom Savage will return, along with a third, new signal-caller.
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