Below are several whispers we've been hearing from around the NFC South:
• It's clear the Panthers don't want to play rookie QB Tony Pike at the moment, but one source said that the front office still views him as a prospect worth developing, and Pike, a sixth-round pick, is expected to be on the team next season. Head coach John Fox started Brian St. Pierre, who had just been picked up off the scrap heap, over Pike in Week 11 while Jimmy Clausen sat out with a concussion. We hear the Panthers don't think Pike has a good enough grasp of the offense to get them through a game right now.
• After being arrested for DUI on Nov. 19, Buccaneers rookie WR Mike Williams offered to take a drug test at an independent facility soon after the incident. According to the team, the test revealed he had no illegal substances in his system. While the Bucs still fined Williams, we hear the team viewed his decisions on the night of the DUI as a lapse in judgment, and not a sign that Williams had significantly regressed after showing signs of maturity since they drafted him in the fourth round out of Syracuse.
• Saints MLB Jonathan Vilma has been in on a lot of hits this season, as he's on pace to make more than 100 tackles for a third straight year, and he recently told PFW his body is holding up well. "I actually feel pretty good," he said. "The best thing that happened on that (Week 10) bye was getting the mental rest. I think that's key — being able to mentally get away, not just physically. Being able to get that week off, it couldn't have come at a better time, right in the middle of the season. It let me recharge mentally just to get ready for this backstretch."