Following are whispers we've been hearing from our sources around the NFC:
• Does the fact Packers first-round draft pick Nick Perry spent the team’s recent rookie camp at left outside linebacker — the position that Pro Bowler Clay Matthews has played the past two seasons — mean that Matthews could be moving to right outside linebacker this coming season? Considering how much bigger Perry is than Matthews, which makes him a more natural fit for the strong side, and the problems Matthews had on occasion with certain right tackles last season, we’re hearing a right-side shift for Matthews just might be in the offing.
• We hear it doesn’t remain out of the question that “Dancing with the Stars” favorite Donald Driver will be back with the Packers this coming season, with a hometown discount quite possibly coming into play should that indeed end up being the case. But we also keep hearing that the striking presence of 6-foot-4 WR Tori Gurley, who stood out at the team’s recent rookie camp, could ultimately make it just too difficult for the team to justify giving Driver any more snaps at Gurley’s expense. (Gurley was eligible to participate in the camp because he was on the practice squad last season as an undrafted rookie free agent). Meanwhile, the Packers continue to come up with intriguing new WR prospects, the latest being undrafted rookie Michael Zweifel, who also made his presence felt in the recent rookie camp with his natural pass-catching skills. Zweifel caught 140 passes last season at the University of Dubuque.
• The Vikings have made a series of small additions and deletions to the roster, most of which have flown under the radar, but our league sources see it as a tactic similar to the one employed by the division-rival Lions when they were coming up from the bottom following a winless season. Vikings GM Rick Spielman knows that the lack of depth last season was a problem, and the view here is that the final spots of the 53-man roster should generate much better competition this year.
• We took notice when Giants head coach Tom Coughlin singled out the rookie minicamp performance of second-round WR Rueben Randle. Praise at this stage of a rookie’s career, after he has practiced only in shorts and shells, is a bit rare for Coughlin. Wearing Mario Manningham’s old No. 82 jersey, Randle dropped a few passes last week but also made a couple of eye-opening grabs. He will have every chance in the fall to take over Manningham’s No. 3 WR spot.
• The Panthers do not yet have a clear answer as to who will start at right cornerback for them come Week One, but we hear the club would be pleased to see someone step up and beat out fourth-year veteran Captain Munnerlyn for the job in training camp. The Panthers expect second-year player Brandon Hogan and rookie Josh Norman to push Munnerlyn, who started a career-high 14 games at corner last season. Munnerlyn is heading into the final year of his rookie contract, and the team would be more comfortable using him in a reserve/sub-package role.
• The Buccaneers consider 16th-year veteran Ronde Barber their best option at free safety for the time being, but a dark-horse candidate to compete for reps at the position, we hear, is Ahmad Black, who played in four games last season as a rookie. Team observers have been impressed with Black’s quickness and ball skills in offseason workouts.
• Falcons QB Matt Ryan recently told PFW the team’s playbook “is very flexible” at this point in the offseason. “I see it being different, for sure, just because when you have a different coordinator (Dirk Koetter), things are different, but I think it’s too early to say how much different or what percentage is going to be different moving forward,” Ryan said.
• After losing three starting offensive linemen with season-ending injuries last year (OTs Russell Okung and James Carpenter and OG John Moffitt), the Seahawks certainly have no shortage of experienced reserves, with former Rams-Cowboys OT Alex Barron becoming the latest free-agent addition for the line this offseason, following in the footsteps of OT-OG Frank Omiyale, most recently with the Bears, and former Cardinals OG Deuce Lutui. “It’s a good situation for him,” one daily team observer said of Barron, a former first-round draft pick who started 74 games in five seasons with the Rams. “He sat out all of last year (knee injury) and says he’s feeling healthy. They really want more insurance just in case Carpenter has problems coming back.”
• Gearing up for what is expected to be a pretty spirited battle for the Cardinals’ starting LCB job, word is Greg Toler, who missed all of last season with a knee injury, has added just over 10 pounds (up to 198) and looks a bit more bulked up in the upper body.
• Our Cardinals sources believe TE Steve Skelton, who spent part of last season on the practice squad, has a good shot at making the final roster. He is the brother of backup QB John Skelton.