NFC South Notes: Saints, Payton, Bucs

The Saints are considering several scenarios with fullback Austin Johnson, according to Nick Underhill of the Advocate. Johnson recently suffered a knee injury in camp, and New Orleans is hoping that he’ll be able to return in a few weeks and continue to work towards a roster spot. But while they wait for more information, the Saints have signed veteran John Kuhn to compete with incumbent fullback Sione Huma.

Here’s more from the NFC South:

  • Although rumors persisted that Sean Payton would leave the Saints for a new team, it doesn’t as though the New Orleans head coach ever seriously considered defecting. “I understand how that began to build steam, and yet [GM] Mickey [Loomis] and I have a great relationship,” Payton told Albert Breer of “That took basically a day-and-a-half of us sitting down and outlining the next five years and what our goals are and where we see this team going.” Payton is now locked up through the 2020 campaign.
  • Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht took some flak for firing Lovie Smith after only two seasons, especially given that Licht didn’t exactly shake up the coaching staff, promoting offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter to the top job. But as Licht tells Peter King of, his choice of Koetter will likely be the defining moment of his Tampa tenure. “My career’s probably on the line with this pick,” said Licht. “That was the thing I thought about right away: We’ve got to find the guy who’s going to have success and eventually leave on his own terms.”
  • Locked in a battle with rookie Swayze Waters, veteran punter Mike Scifres has not had a productive camp with the Panthers, writes King in the same piece. Scifres signed a minimum salary benefit contract with no guaranteed money, so Carolina could easily move on if they so choose. Head coach Ron Rivera didn’t dismiss the possibility of signing another punter, according to King.
  • Just days after signing with the Falcons, wide receiver Lance Moore announced his retirement from the NFL.
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