Atlanta Falcons Info Thread


EOG Master
Kicker, backs stand out in opener

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 08/13/06 Michael Koenen's right leg might be a little worn after taking part in every facet of the kicking game, including booting a game-winning 40-yard field goal in the Falcons' 26-23 exhibition-opening victory over New England on Friday.
The Falcons' offensive line might be a little tired, too, after creating an abundance of running lanes for Atlanta's backs, who ran for 196 yards. Of those backs, rookie speedster Jerious Norwood only got caught because Patriots defenders were able to draft into tackling distance.
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Curtis Compton / AJC
</td></tr><tr><td class="caption"> Michael Koenen (right) gets congratulations from holder Matt Schaub after kicking the game-winning 40-yard field goal in the Falcons' exhibition victory over the Patriots on Friday.
Curtis Compton / AJC
</td></tr><tr><td class="caption">Rookie Jerious Norwood enjoys his first professional game with fullback Fred McCrary after scoring on a 34-yard reception.
</td></tr></tbody></table><!--startclickprintinclude--><!--begintext--> T.J. Duckett, meanwhile, showed that even though Norwood has some giddyup, his tank still has plenty of juice.
Plenty of questions were answered ? or at least set in motion ? in the first of four exhibitions. But there are still a lot of areas in need of fixing, especially on defense, where the starters have to prevent leaks against the run that sank them last season.
Here are some things we learned from Game 1:
1. Koenen's kicking versatility is just one of many developing special teams scenarios. Following his four-field goal, four-punt, three-kickoff bonanza against the Patriots, Falcons coaches countered what they'd been saying for weeks: They don't want Koenen handling all three jobs.
But coaches admitted they are now seriously looking at the possibility of the second-year player being Mr. Everything.
It could turn out that Koenen ends up kicking field goals and punting, with Tony Yelk holding down kickoff chores. Or, another player could be invited to camp over the next few weeks to kick field goals.
Whatever the case, Koenen, the punter and kickoff specialist, has thrown a potential monkey wrench into the already unsettled situation.
Though it may seem minor, the Falcons are also taking a deep look at their long snapper situation. Rookie free agent Boone Stutz handled all snaps against the Patriots and defensive end Josh Mallard will get a look. Seven-year veteran Derek Rackley is a solid deep snapper, but with a fairly hefty salary ($625,000 against the salary cap) he could be a victim of the numbers game.
Return-wise, Atlanta returned just one punt. However, rookie Adam Jennings and second-year running back DeAndra Cobb combined to average 26.8 yards on kickoff returns. Former Pro Bowl player Allen Rossum, who didn't play and hasn't practiced much because of a hamstring injury, is being pushed, with coaches saying again Friday that all return jobs are up for grabs.
2. The backup running backs should be fine. Norwood dazzled with two long runs after catching screen passes, leaving a wake of defenders chasing his shadow. He also gained 22 yards on seven carries.
Norwood is the cool new flavor, but don't forget what's already in the fridge.
Duckett, who's in a contract year, was solid Friday, leading the Falcons with 59 yards on 10 carries, including a 20-yard burst. Though he might not seem to be an ideal fit in Atlanta's cutback running scheme, there are times when a downhill run is needed and Duckett, who scored 27 touchdowns the past three seasons, is the Falcons' best option.
3. Bryan Randall is not conceding a thing. With D.J. Shockley having a strong training camp and being the hometown favorite, it's easy to think Randall is doing nothing than taking snaps so the other quarterbacks can take a break. But the second-year player from Virginia Tech served notice that he's not going to relinquish the No. 3 quarterback job without a fight.
Randall, who played in the third quarter, completed five of nine passes ? two were screens to Norwood, who did the heavy lifting after the catch ? and broke off a nifty 29-yard run, the longest carry for either team. He finished with a 123.4 quarterback rating.
"It was good to be on the field because I hadn't really been involved in full contact for a couple of years," Randall said. "I was real anxious, but I felt real poised out there and comfortable with the offense."
4. T.J. Jackson no longer under the radar. Though the Falcons have spoken highly of the undrafted rookie nose tackle, they have tried to temper expectations for the Auburn product.
That plan might have to be readjusted after Jackson, who played several series with the first- and second-team units, recorded three tackles and provided the interior push the coaching staff desires.
Whether he can sustain it remains to be seen, but Jackson could be the plug at the line Atlanta needs against the run.


EOG Master
Storybook start for Shockley

By Furman Bisher | Saturday, August 12, 2006, 05:57 PM
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Furman Bisher

Say it?s baseball. The Falcons go to their ?closer,? and he not only saves the game, he?s the winning pitcher. Such was opening night as a professional quarterback for D.J. Shockley, accompanied by a din of ?woofing? that raised the woof of the Georgia Dome.
Preseason games are just that. Baseball calls it spring training. Nothing counts, but a fellow from the lower level of the roster can build up points. Others will be playing the last game of football they?ll ever play. It?s just that, preseason and back to the car wash or gas station. Some guys have their pictures in Reggie Roberts? press guide, but they never make it to the game. Gone before they played a game. Cut, the most depressing word in sport.
Some may or may not have played against New England, but their picture is in the back of the book. They can always be listed back home as a ?former professional football player.? There?s one guy from Finland, Klaus Alinen, force-fed through through the farm league in Europe. There?s Chris Reis, a defensive back from Georgia Tech. Strange, not a lot of local players get a call from the local pros. There?s the son of the coach at Iowa, Brian Ferentz, a center with academic credentials. No car wash for him.
You know this, you can?t prejudge these fellows. Whoever would have thought that Patrick Pass would find work in the NFL? The former Bulldog is now in his seventh season with the Patriots, though he was out of action Friday night. On the other hand, last time I saw Heath Evans, he was a fullback at Auburn and having a blowout night in the same Dome. A can?t-miss future, I thought. Well, he got lost in Seattle, then Miami, now making his third stop with New England.
But, back to what it?s all about. All four quarterbacks performed nicely, though Michael Vick made no more than the required cameo appearance, as did Tom Brady. Each threw three passes, then retired. Matt Schaub, Bryan Randall and Shockley followed in that order for the Falcons. The Patriots turned to Matt Cassel, and the rest of the evening was his.
This fellow Cassel has had a peculiar career living in the shadows. He was backup to two Heisman Trophy winners at Southern Cal, Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart, and now to a Super Bowl champion at New England. You think D.J. Shockley had it bad at Georgia? He only had to back up David Greene. Now he?s applying to become the backup to a backup with the Falcons.
Some Falcons had good evenings, some fair, some ordinary, but a caveat goes with all this: While some were matched against grade-A personnel, others were on the field against some of those who?ll be back at the car wash. As for those ?woofers? in Red and Black, makes no difference who Shockley was matched against. They liked his cool, they liked his game management, they liked the results he put on the board. It was really storybook stuff for a hometown kid.
He came on the field for the crucial series just before the two-minute break and quickly made himself at home, starting at the Falcons? 22-yard line. The key play was a third-down pass to Kevin Youngblood, a second-year aspirant from Clemson, his second catch of the game. When they reached Michael Koenen?s 40-yard range, this utile guy came out and kicked the field goal that broke the tie and won the game, 26-23, as time ran out. Winning pitcher: Shockley.
You look back on such games and feel you?ve watched some emerging futures. The Patriots broke out an impressing running back from Minnesota, Laurence Maroney, and a solid tight end from Texas, David Thomas. For the Falcons, Jerious Norwood from Mississippi State showed bursts of speed that left you agape; Youngblood, big and rangy, might be the wide receiver they?re missing with Brian Finneran gone; and they probably found the field goal kicker they?ve searched for right under their noses. Koenen, who punted as a rookie, last year kicked a 58-yard field goal, kicked off, punted and took orders for dinner. And then there?s Shockley.
In all cases, remember, it?s still August.
Permalink | Comments (15) | Post your comment | Categories: Falcons / NFL, Furman Bisher, UGA / SEC


EOG Master
Patriots attack run defense early

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 08/12/06 New England touched Atlanta's starters for 82 yards on 11 carries in the first quarter, most of which came right up the middle.
Patriots rookie tailback Laurence Maroney, a big, fast, hard-charging runner from Minnesota, inflicted the most damage, shedding several tacklers en route to gaining 55 yards on six carries in the quarter, 27 yards coming on one impressive jaunt.
<!--endtext--><!--endclickprintinclude--><table align="left" border="0" cellpadding="2" cellspacing="0" width="175"></table><!--startclickprintinclude--><!--begintext--> The incorporation of safeties Lawyer Milloy and Chris Crocker and the reintroduction of middle linebacker Ed Hartwell after a season-ending Achilles tendon injury could have factored into the defensive shortcomings.
However, tightening the run defense certainly will be an area of emphasis over the next three weeks.
"It's a talented group that will start to jell the more they play together," coach Jim Mora said. "It's their first bit of rough hitting and real competition and they're feeling each other out. I'd like better results in that first drive. We've got a lot of work to do and they'll do it."
Norwood displays impressive moves
Falcons rookie tailback Jerious Norwood provided two of the most electrifying plays in Atlanta's 26-23 preseason victory, spurring curiosity about what is to come.
The speedster from Mississippi State showed his game-breaking speed on a 37-yard run after catching a screen pass from Matt Schaub that moved the ball to the Patriots 27 and set up Michael Koenen's 50-yard field goal.
In putting the Falcons up
23-13, Norwood took a screen pass from Bryan Randall late in the third quarter and blew 34 yards down the right sideline, making two deft moves at the end to get into the end zone.
Georgia fans bark for ex-Dog Shockley
Upon quarterback D.J. Shockley's insertion in the fourth quarter, the brunt of the half-filled Georgia Dome started barking, a trademark of Georgia Bulldogs fans.
Shockley, a native Atlantan, led Georgia to the SEC championship last season.
Mora said he had no idea what was going on.
"I've not heard that," Mora said.
"I did not know what that was. I haven't been to a Georgia game since I've been here. I haven't had a chance, but I figured it out quickly."
Brooking departs with ankle injury
Starting weak-side linebacker Keith Brooking suffered a sprained ankle early in the game and did not return. He is day to day. Falcons players are off today, but they will resume practice Sunday.


EOG Master
Abraham, Koenen deliver for Falcons
Big play saves defense; kicker goes 4-for-4

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 08/12/06 Though it was the first taste of almost-real football the Falcons had played since getting shellacked by Carolina in last season's finale, things looked pretty much the same in the exhibition-opening 26-23 victory against New England on Friday night at the Georgia Dome.
The first offense, using the fleet feet of Warrick Dunn and Michael Vick, moved the chains and got a field goal on the game's first possession. The No. 1 defense, though, leaked like a sieve trying to stop Patriots tailbacks Corey Dillon and rookie Laurence Maroney.
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David Tulis / AJC
</td></tr><tr><td class="caption"> Falcons quarterback Michael Vick outruns New England's Mike Vrabel for a first down in the first quarter.
David Tulis / AJC
</td></tr><tr><td class="caption"> Kicker Michael Koenen finished 4-for-4, all 40 yards or more, shaking up the Falcons' kicking game plan.
Curtis Compton / AJC
</td></tr><tr><td class="caption"> Wide receiver Roddy White (top) congratulates Michael Jenkins after his touchdown.
</td></tr></tbody></table><!--startclickprintinclude--><!--begintext--> However, unlike last season, when the Falcons could not find a way to remedy their defensive collapse over the final eight games, they now have defensive end John Abraham, the big-splash offseason acquisition, who showed why he could be the difference maker to get Atlanta back into postseason.
The Falcons also might have moved a step closer to solving questions about their kicking game by trying something that hasn't been done often in the NFL ? letting one player punt, kick off and kick field goals.
Michael Koenen, who punted and kicked off last season, booted four field goals against the Patriots, including the 40-yard game winner as time expired after a D.J. Shockley-led drive in the waning moments.
"We're trying to see if he can do all three," special teams coach Joe DeCamillis said of Koenen. "It's great that it worked out at the end. We wanted to make sure he had all the meaningful field goals, which he did, and we're looking to see if he could do all three.
"This is uncharted territory. It hasn't been done for a while. We have to step lightly and see where it goes. It's only the first preseason game and I don't want everybody to start patting each other on the back and say it's the greatest move in the world."
Koenen, who made the team last season as the punter and kickoff specialist as an undrafted free agent from Western Washington, said he handled all kicking chores in college but agreed with DeCamillis that this experiment is a work in progress.
"It was planned that I was going to kick some field goals and see how I did and how my body held up doing everything and it worked out," Koenen said. "One of the things coaches wanted to see was if I could make a game-winner. See if I could make the long field goals and short field goals. I was thinking, 'Well, this is an opportunity to make a game-winner,' and I made it."
Koenen attempted two long-range field goals last season, making a 58-yarder against the Patriots in a 31-28 loss. The Falcons planned to use him in the same role this season, but in their experiment to groom a young kicker, he might be emerging as their best option.
Koenen kicked field goals of 44, 50, 45 and 40 in the exhibition opener, punted four times and kicked off three times. Wear and tear of a 16-game season is the big concern. So is the mental grind of being able to bounce back from a failure. Tony Yelk, who kicked off in the second half and kicked an extra point, is the only remaining hopeful competing against Koenen.
Zac Derr and Carlos Martinez have been cut. The Falcons have not ruled out bringing in another kicker.
As for Abraham, he turned the game in the Falcons' favor on the Patriots second possession. He blew out of his stance from right defensive end, ran through starting left tackle Brandon Gorin, thrust his right arm around the throwing arm of quarterback Matt Cassel, sacked him and stripped the ball.
Defensive tackle Rod Coleman picked up the fumble and tried to run with it, but that didn't work. End Patrick Kerney was there to pick up a second fumble.
On the very next play, Falcons quarterback Matt Schaub drilled a pass into the end zone, where wide receiver Michael Jenkins reached over cornerback Asante Samuel and snatched a 21-yard touchdown pass.
The bang-bang sequence started by Abraham and finished by Jenkins changed the tenor of this exhibition game in a shorter time than Vick stayed on the field (3-of-4 passing, 26 yards, one run for 16 yards).
"I happened to make a big play but that is something I am going to do to help our defense out this year," Abraham said. "We gave up a lot on the first drive so I just wanted to make sure they didn't do anything on that second one."


EOG Master
Injuries sap O-Line depth

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 08/16/06 Flowery Branch ? A rash of injuries along the Falcons' offensive line has depleted depth and some starters will play extended snaps in Saturday's exhibition game at Green Bay. It will also give increased opportunities to others in the second exhibition game.
Guards Ben Claxton and Tyson Clabo and tackle Quinn Ojinnaka all suffered ankle or foot injuries in last week's exhibition-opening, 26-23 victory over New England and are not expected to play.
<!--endtext--><!--endclickprintinclude--><table align="left" border="0" cellpadding="2" cellspacing="0" width="175"></table><!--startclickprintinclude--><!--begintext--> "My thought right now is to play the starters a little bit more," said coach Jim Mora, adding that rotations and playing time hasn't been finalized. "We might leave the starting offensive line in with Matt Schaub for a series or two, then, whoever is healthy has to play, which is fine."
Brooking may not play at Green Bay
Starting weakside linebacker Keith Brooking, who sprained his ankle against the Patriots, has not practiced this week but he could be healthy enough to play by Saturday. Normally, Mora said he wouldn't give much thought to not playing him.
However, "it would be nice to see those linebackers work together," Mora said. "They really haven't gotten a lot of practice together. With Eddie [Hartwell] kind of working back in and Brook hurting his ankle a little bit, they haven't gotten time together.
"That being said, I'll still probably err on the side of caution."
Demorrio Williams would start in Brooking's place.
Mora said he is leaning toward giving safety Kevin Mathis his first snaps of the preseason against Green Bay. Mathis is recovering from major knee surgery suffered in the second week of the regular season in 2005 and did not play against New England.
"The thought right now is to get him 5, 6, 7 snaps, just to get him work back in and play a little bit," Mora said.
Backup defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux (groin) also is questionable.
Vick's temporary new look
Quarterback Michael Vick sported a different hairstyle at the morning practice Wednesday, pulling the braids out of the ends of his hair near the back and sporting a puffy tail on his neck. Between drills, though, the quarterback got his locks re-braided and returned with his normal cornrows.
Finn's presence felt at team outing
Falcons wide receiver Brian Finneran watched the movie "Invincible" with teammates Tuesday, marking his first time being with the entire team since tearing ligaments in his right knee and having his season come to an end.
"Every day is a little bit better," said Finneran, who led Falcons wide receivers with 50 receptions last season. "I'm getting by. I'm rehabbing every day at the Falcons' facility. I haven't been involved in any meetings but guys come by in the training room. I stay in touch with Roddy [White], [Michael] Jenkins and those guys."
Added Mora: "It's good for him to be around the team and good for the team to be around him. He is an influential guy in the locker room, upbeat, tough. When he disappears, you lose an element you need. Guys miss seeing him."
Quote of the Day
"Sometimes, when actors run, they don't look athletic. Markie Mark looked athletic. I saw World Trade and they showed Nicholas Cage running. He wouldn't have pulled off Vince Papale but Markie Mark did."
? Falcons coach Jim Mora, referring to Mark "Markie Mark" Wahlberg in the film Invincible, based on the life of Philadelphia bartender Vince Papale earning a roster spot with the Philadelphia Eagles at an open tryout.


EOG Master
'Invincible' day off inspires

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 08/16/06 Thumbs up all the way around.
That was the verdict by Falcons players and coaches Tuesday after they got the day off from practice to watch a private screening of the film "Invincible" at AMC Theaters at Discover Mills.
<!--endtext--><!--endclickprintinclude--><table align="left" border="0" cellpadding="2" cellspacing="0" width="175"><tbody><tr><td>
Courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures
</td></tr><tr><td class="caption"> Actor Mark Wahlberg portrays former Eagles special-teams player Vince Papale in this image from the upcoming movie 'Invincible.'
</td></tr></tbody></table><!--startclickprintinclude--><!--begintext--> The positive reviews weren't only about the movie.
"I was glad to get that day off," quarterback Michael Vick said. "It was good that Coach gave us an opportunity to spend some time with each other. The guys needed this time. We just had a great day together, and we look forward to getting back on the field [Wednesday]."
Coach Jim Mora said after 25 grueling practices it was time for a reprieve.
"They've been going hard, and we pushed them to the limit," Mora said. "[Monday] was about as hard as it gets, and it was just time for a break. It worked out perfectly."
Wide receiver Brian Finneran, who attended his first full team function since suffering a season-ending knee injury early in training camp, is friends with the movie's real-life main character Vince Papale, the Philadelphia bartender who earned a spot with the Eagles during an open tryout cast by then-coach Dick Vermeil.
Papale became a special-teams standout from 1976-78.
The movie seemed true to stories he had heard from Papale, Finneran said.
"I know Vince from when I was playing with the Eagles in '99," Finneran said. "His daughter and my son went to school together when they were 5 years old. When the Eagles cut me, Vince gave me some work. He had a house in Philly that I tore down for him, and after that he'd throw balls to me at the local high school.
"It's a great story, great movie. I'm going to give him a call today and tell him how much we enjoyed it."
Players arrived at the movie theater shortly after 1 p.m., about 90 minutes before they typically would have practiced. Once everyone was seated, the rookies put on a show. Undrafted nose tackle T.J. Jackson received overwhelming praise for his performance.
"He seems like he's built for TV," Vick said. "I think he's got a future other than football."


EOG Master
Lineman Gandy picks up Falcons' system

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 08/16/06 Flowery Branch ? Wayne Gandy has trudged, nudged and budged his way through 12 NFL seasons. Now, at age 35, the newest member of the Falcons' offensive line is being asked to bend those creaky knees a little further, run a little faster and be a little nastier to fit in with a unit that has keyed the NFL's top rushing game the past two seasons.
"I don't think they would have invested the time and money in me if they didn't think I couldn't do it," said Gandy, the team's oldest player. "At this point of my career, if I didn't feel like I could do it, I would go home. It's tougher when you get older, just like anything in life, but I've got a lot of football left."
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David Tulis / AJC
</td></tr><tr><td class="caption"> Wayne Gandy (72) protects Michael Vick during a victory over the Patriots on Friday.
</td></tr></tbody></table><!--startclickprintinclude--><!--begintext--> The Falcons traded safety Bryan Scott to New Orleans for Gandy after they lost starting left tackle Kevin Shaffer to free agency. Falcons brass toyed with the idea of starting second-year comer Frank Omiyale but decided that because he didn't take one snap last season, he wasn't quite ready to deal with the likes of Simeon Rice, Julius Peppers and Will Smith.
Gandy was ? and has.
Part of the rationale in acquiring him was his familiarity with the stud defensive ends and tackles that populate the NFC South. Handling guys such as Rice, Peppers, Smith and Mike Rucker hasn't been easy for the Falcons' front. So adding someone who has had success against the game-changing brutes was optimal.
However, Gandy, who has also played for the Rams and Steelers, never had to zone- or cut-block those players, the way the Falcons do, leading to some apprehension that he might be resistant or ineffective. Those concerns were erased in minicamp when the well-liked Gandy dove into learning the system headfirst.
The early returns have exceeded expectations.
"He's been much better than you would have thought for a guy of his experience who is being asked to try something new," coach Jim Mora said. "He has really worked hard to fit into the system, and it showed in [Friday's] Patriot game when he got some key cutoff blocks on the backside."
While admitting he still has a ways to go with the run-blocking scheme, Gandy, more than anything, was brought to Atlanta for pass protection ? his strength.
The Falcons are no longer running from the fact that keeping quarterback Michael Vick upright has been an issue. Gandy's presence should help, coaches said. Gandy might not be able to move as quickly as he once did, but he knows all the tricks to make up for a lost step or two.
In practice, he economically waits to see the path of the pass rusher. If the defender loops wide, Gandy, who often faces sack-man extraordinaire John Abraham in drills, might let the player basically take himself out of the play before offering up a route-changing punch to the shoulder pad. Or he might take an end trying to crash through the inside to the ground with a jab and push that accelerates that player's momentum away from the quarterback.
"I came here with a lot of hopes that I'm going to be able to secure the pocket for Mike," Gandy said. "I've never played with a left-handed quarterback, but with the types of ends that are in this division, both right and left tackles have their work cut out for them."
Besides what he brings on the field, Gandy has a history of being a top-notch locker room guy. He's not boisterous by any means. Gandy is friendly, even charming, and can blend into just about any conversation with ease.
"I have a calm presence," Gandy said. "I go about my business. I do tell the young guys to 'keep your eye on me and watch me in my ways.' I try to always stand for the right way to do things and how this game is supposed to be played."
Just two days ago, he showed why he is so respected, Mora said.
"The defining moment for me knowing he had become a Falcon was [Monday] night when I tried to give him the night off," said Mora, explaining that Gandy bruised his knee at the morning practice and had to limp off the field. "He came out and went through the entire practice, then broke the team down with some great words of wisdom."


EOG Master
Running down the defense
Falcons still looking to improve at stopping the run

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 08/15/06 Flowery Branch ? That old nemesis from last season ? stopping the run ? reared its head in the Falcons' exhibition opener when the revamped first-team defense was on the field.
After allowing 128.9 yards rushing per game (26th in the 32-team NFL) last season, stopping the run was a top priority.
<!--endtext--><!--endclickprintinclude--><table align="left" border="0" cellpadding="2" cellspacing="0" width="175"></table><!--startclickprintinclude--><!--begintext--> "Don't think we are not stressing stopping the run," defensive line coach Bill Johnson said. "That is a major emphasis for us. I didn't leave the stadium feeling real good about it. After watching the tape, I felt real confident that we're going to be a good run-stop defense."
The Falcons added safeties Chris Crocker and Lawyer Milloy, traded for defensive end John Abraham and drafted cornerback Jimmy Williams. Middle linebacker Ed Hartwell also is returning from injury.
The first-team defense allowed New England's Corey Dillon and rookie Laurence Maroney 66 yards on eight carries.
"You can't get too high or too low over that," defensive coordinator Ed Donatell said. "We want to play better. We want to tackle better. But our guys came back really strong right after that drive."
Here are five factors that the Falcons must address to improve on stopping the run:
The Falcons, like most teams in the salary-cap era, don't practice live tackling. The risk of injury is too great.
"You certainly don't want Ed Hartwell putting his chest on Warrick Dunn on every play," Falcons coach Jim Mora said. "It's going to wear both of them out, especially Warrick."
Hartwell doesn't buy it: "I've been tackling people since I was 7 years old. We know how to tackle. That's not an issue."
With all of the new additions, especially in the secondary, the Falcons contend that they need a transition period to get used to each other.
"We are jelling; it's preseason," Hartwell said. "In the preseason, you might get that. You've got a group of 11 guys; a lot of guys are coming from some different places, playing together for the first time. So you might get that. But I guarantee you that we'll fix that."
Against the Patriots, the Falcons did not appear to get off their blocks and flow to the ball quickly.
"Sometimes we got on the wrong side of a block," Mora said. "We didn't necessarily come off blocks and punish people like we will."
Johnson said, "To me, it was more execution than it was the performance, you know what I mean? I think it had a lot to do with some misalignments and things like that."
Stopping the run starts with your players up the middle. The Falcons have Pro Bowl player Rod Coleman and started Darrell Shropshire at defensive tackle against New England. They are backed by Hartwell at middle linebacker.
They must be stout against the run, or teams will plow through the heart of the defense. Coleman and Shropshire have to get a push and attract blockers to free Hartwell to get to the ball.
The top NFL defenses all have an enforcer. In Baltimore, it's Ray Lewis. In Carolina, it's Julius Peppers. In Tampa Bay, it's Derrick Brooks.
The Falcons have several candidates in Hartwell, Coleman, Abraham, Milloy and linebacker Keith Brooking.
Donatell is sure someone will step up.
"The main thing is to do the balancing act and have everybody ready when it's time to play against Carolina," Donatell said.


EOG Master
'Prime Time' returns to nest
Ex-Falcons star gives pointers to secondary

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 08/14/06 Flowery Branch ? For 13 years, Deion Sanders had nothing to do with the Falcons organization. Sunday, the player the team chose fifth overall in 1989, came "home."
The former Falcons great, who starred at cornerback and punt returner for five years ? and moonlighted with the Braves ? spent the afternoon tutoring defensive backs during practice at team headquarters, after being invited by the coaching staff on the suggestion of safety Kevin Mathis.
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Jimmy Cribb / Special
</td></tr><tr><td class="caption"> Deion Sanders is returning to television, but on Sunday he was tutoring defensive backs, especially rising star DeAngelo Hall.
</td></tr></tbody></table><!--startclickprintinclude--><!--begintext--> "I really truly wanted to come back to re-establish a presence," said Sanders, who also will attend Monday morning's practice. "Dorothy said it best in the Wizard of Oz, 'There's no place like home,' and this is one of the places I call home."
It's also one of the places he called, "My House," a year after leaving the Falcons ? not on the best of terms ? for the San Francisco 49ers as a free agent in 1994. That year he scored on a 93-yard interception return in the midst of a 42-3 rout at the recently constructed Georgia Dome.
"That was business. That was just business. Nothing personal," Sanders said.
After leaving Atlanta, Sanders went on to win Super Bowls with San Francisco and Dallas before winding down his career with Washington and Baltimore between television gigs.
The eight-time Pro Bowler and electrifying playmaker known as "Prime Time" said his playing days are done.
"I can still do it, but only for a couple downs," said Sanders, who has 58 career interceptions.
He said he would resume his television career this fall but declined to provide details.
As for a career in coaching, "I don't think I fit into the salary cap to be doing that full-time," Sanders said.
Sanders' appearance at Flowery Branch comes just a few days after NBA legend Ervin "Magic" Johnson was invited to speak to players and observe a practice. Former NFL standout defensive tackle Russell Maryland will be at practice Monday, coach Jim Mora said.
The impetus for Sanders to take part in practice was to give pointers to all the defensive backs, but mainly third-year Pro Bowl cornerback DeAngelo Hall, who has hailed Sanders as his idol for years. Hall wears No. 21 as a tribute to Sanders, the man he called the best cornerback ever.
Sanders said Hall could one day wear that crown.
"He's arguably the best in the game right now but he can go to another level, and that is a place I'd love to help him to arrive at," Sanders said. "I've watched him quite a bit. He has tremendous gifts. Hips, feet, instinct, mental toughness, toughness ? he has everything. But there's always another level where every athlete wants to go."
Mathis introduced Hall to Sanders shortly after the Falcons drafted Hall in the first round in 2004. Hall and Sanders frequently discussed football, business and even on-field attire, Hall said, but Sunday was the first time Sanders provided one-on-one instruction.
"It was good to get him down here, where he started," Hall said. "You can talk so much, but getting on that field is pretty priceless. Because it was Deion, it has a little different meaning than when you've got [co-secondary coach] Brett [Maxie] saying it, a guy a lot of us have never seen play before, versus a Deion Sanders, who was everybody's idol growing up.
"You've got all the young guys, even the old guys, standing there attentive. Every word he said, we're over there hanging on to it."
During individual drills, co-secondary coach Emmitt Thomas turned things over to Sanders, who showed all the cornerbacks how to maneuver their feet and hands to limit a receiver's ability to get off the line of scrimmage. He showed them how to establish marks to maintain proper distance with receivers, as well.
In team drills, he gave pointers to players after most plays. Sanders even watched Hall intercept a ball and high- step down the field, just like the once-flamboyant Sanders used to do.
"When you watch him on film, or when I see him live, I'm like, 'Man this guy has a gift,' " Sanders said of Hall.
Sanders, in a pre-practice meeting that included Mora, also gave Hall some pointers about playing wide receiver. Sanders played on both sides of the ball during points of his career, and the Falcons plan on using Hall some at wideout this season.
"Coach Mora asked him, 'What did you play? How many snaps?' " Hall said. "Coach Mora was up there with a pen and a pad writing stuff down that we're going to implement when it's time for me to go to the other side of the ball."


EOG Master
<table border="0" cellpadding="2" cellspacing="0" width="100%"><tbody><tr><td align="left" valign="top"> Updated Wednesday, August 16 at 10:47 PM

</td> </tr> <tr> <td>
Falcons kicker tries to pull off triple play
by The Associated Press

FLOWERY BRANCH - Michael Koenen never stops moving, even during all that idle time he spends away from the field.

While talking to someone in the hallway of the Atlanta Falcons training complex, he yanks his left knee toward his chest, then does the same with his right, as if he's about to take off running at any moment.

When standing in line for a meal, he puts his right foot on the wrong side of his left, then shifts his weight to the other side, unconcerned by what those around him might think of his pretzel-like contortions.

``I've got to stay loose<table align="left" border="0" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" width="130"><tbody><tr><td colspan="2">
</td><td rowspan="4" bgcolor="#999999">
</td><td rowspan="4">
</td></tr><tr><td>``If someone says you can't do something, then you want to do it,''</td><td>
</td></tr><tr><td align="right">Michael Koenen</td><td>
</td></tr><tr><td colspan="2">
</td></tr></tbody></table>,'' he said.

This season especially. Koenen is hoping to pull off a triple play that hasn't been done in the NFL since 1981: One guy handling the field goals, punts and kickoffs.

The Falcons still are trying to determine if they want to go down this path, but Koenen made a compelling argument last week when he kicked four field goals in the first preseason game. There wasn't a chip shot in the bunch they ranged from 40 to 50 yards and the last one sailed through the uprights on the final play of the game, giving Atlanta a 26-23 victory over the New England Patriots.

``If someone says you can't do something, then you want to do it,'' Koenen said. ``You want to have a challenge.''

Koenen's quest is hardly the norm in the increasingly specialized NFL. One must go back 25 seasons to find a player who handled all three jobs on a regular basis: Frank Corral of the Los Angeles Rams, who had 89 punts, kicked off 70 times and attempted 26 field goals.

Since then, no team has called on one kicker to do triple duty except on an emergency basis or other unusual circumstances. Most have one player who takes care of field goals and kickoffs (plus extra points), another who does the punting.

Last season, the Falcons split up the duties a little differently, using the strong-legged Koenen on kickoffs and punts. However, on a couple of long field goal attempts that were out of regular kicker Todd Peterson's range, Koenen got the call.

He gave a tantalizing glimpse of his potential by making one of them, a 58-yarder that was the longest field goal of the year in the NFL.

The Falcons cut ties with Peterson after the season and began the search for a young kicker who wouldn't count too much against the salary camp. They've been through four of them so far, cutting two over the summer and two more in the early days of training camp. For now, they're down to Koenen, who's going into his second pro season, and little-known Tony Yelk, who's never kicked in a regular-season game.

Atlanta coach Jim Mora hasn't decided if cutting down to one kicker would be the right thing to do. On the one hand, it would provide even more salary cap relief and allow the Falcons to suit up an extra position player on Sundays. Then again, the team would be in quite a bind if the 24-year-old Koenen got hurt during a game.

``I don't know if it's a good problem to have or a bad problem to have,'' Mora said. ``I don't even know if it's a problem. It's just an issue. I don't want to say he proved that he can do all three yet. I think you have to do it for more than one game, but he certainly looks like he has the potential to do it.''

Koenen will get to keep the two roles he held as a rookie. He averaged 42.3 yards per punt, dropping 23 of them inside the 20-yard line. Kicking off, he forced 14 touchbacks and was the major reason Atlanta led the league by forcing opponents to start out with an average field position just beyond the 24-yard line.

While most of the attention has been on Koenen's kicking, Mora is equally impressed with his development as a punter.

``He has really expanded his repertoire,'' the coach said. ``He can do that backward one and drop it in there. He can do a forward one and get some backspin. He's got those screamers out of bounds that we're doing that guys can't return.''

Koenen did all three jobs during his college days, but the Falcons never seriously considered him for the place-kicking duties in 2005 because of questions about his accuracy. He made only 58 percent of his field goal attempts and missed seven extra points at Western Washington.

Koenen pointed out, however, that his numbers were skewed by a large number of attempts from 50 yards and beyond, plus he had to cope with the often-stormy conditions of the Pacific Northwest.

``The weather could be very bad,'' he recalled. ``It was always raining. I would bet that 30 percent of my kicks were in the rain with the wind blowing hard.''

The Falcons play at the Georgia Dome, so that wouldn't be a problem at home. Koenen will get a chance in the next two preseason games to show what he can do outdoors on natural grass; Atlanta plays at Green Bay this Saturday, followed by a trip to Tennessee.

If Koenen proves he can handle all three positions, the Falcons will have to come up with a routine that ensures he gets enough practice during the week but doesn't tire out his valuable right leg.

``One of the things with young guys like him is they want to go out and pound 150 balls a day,'' special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillas said. ``He won't be able to do so much if he's doing all three. He's got to have a routine where he's doing enough to get the technical stuff right, but is also getting enough rest.''

If nothing else, Koenen is doing his best to dispel the notion that kickers are merely auxiliary members of the team.

``He's carrying his weight by doing all three jobs,'' receiver Roddy White said. ``He was just a kicker before. Now, he's a football player.''

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
</td> <!--END STORY//--> </tr> <tr> </tr><tr><td align="left">
?Copyright 2006 / WDUN News/Talk 550.</td></tr></tbody></table>


EOG Master
Brooking, Crumpler, Dunn will sit Saturday

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 08/18/06 Flowery Branch ? Falcons Pro Bowl players Warrick Dunn, Keith Brooking and Alge Crumpler will not play in Saturday's exhibition game at Green Bay, but just about every other starter ? including quarterback Michael Vick ? will play through the first quarter, coach Jim Mora said.
Dunn, the 31-year-old starting tailback, is not hurt but is being held out to prevent wear and tear. Brooking (sprained ankle) and Crumpler (recovering from offseason knee and shoulder surgery) won't play in precautionary moves. All three would be playing if it were the regular season, they said.
<!--endtext--><!--endclickprintinclude--><table align="left" border="0" cellpadding="2" cellspacing="0" width="175"><tbody><tr><td>
Curtis Compton / AJC
</td></tr><tr><td class="caption">Safety Kevin Mathis will be on the field Saturday for his first game action since his knee injury last September.
</td></tr></tbody></table><!--startclickprintinclude--><!--begintext--> "It's hard for me to sit out anything," said Brooking, the starting weakside linebacker. "It's the best thing for me to do. The only thing that we're missing is having the three linebackers working together, and that's very important this time of the year. [Ed] Hartwell is coming back from his Achilles [injury]. [Michael] Boley had a little biceps deal at the beginning of camp, and we haven't had a lot of work together as a group."
T.J. Duckett will start at tailback, Demorrio Williams will start in place of Brooking, and Eric Beverly will start for Crumpler at tight end.
Running back DeAndra Cobb, offensive linemen Quinn Ojinnaka, Ben Claxton and Tyson Clabo ? all with ankle sprains ? and defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux (groin) are out. Wide receiver Roddy White (hamstring) is questionable.
Mathis to see first action since injury
Safety Kevin Mathis, who is returning from a season-ending knee injury in 2005, will get his first on-field action since last exhibition season. The backup safety, who did not take a snap in 2005, will be limited to fewer than 10 plays, Mora said.
"It's time for me to get some snaps and get back into the feel of things," Mathis said. "I can't wait to get back out there."
Mathis will back up safety Chris Crocker, then give way to Nick Turnbull.
Yelk will handle kickoff duties
Roster hopeful Tony Yelk, who grew up outside of Green Bay, will kick off. Michael Koenen, who handled all three phases of the kicking game in the exhibition opener against New England, will punt and kick field goals, Mora said.
Rossum, Jennings to split returns
Veteran returner Allen Rossum, who did not play in the exhibition opener against New England, will return at least one punt and one kickoff against the Packers, Mora said. At some point, rookie Adam Jennings will take over return duties, Mora said. Running back Jerious Norwood might be used to return a kickoff.
Thompson signed, 'Sunshine' cut
The Falcons signed linebacker and former University of Georgia defensive end Will Thompson on Thursday. To make room on the roster, Cole "Sunshine" Magner, who earned local hero status last training camp before being cut, was released. Magner, a wide receiver, rarely practiced after suffering abdominal and groin injuries early in this camp.
Camp ends, but rookies still there
Training camp "officially" ended after Thursday afternoon's practice, with veterans allowed to go home. Tenured players had their cars packed before practice started so they could make a quick getaway.
Rookies must remain at the on-site living quarters at the team facility and adhere to an 11:15 p.m. curfew through the exhibition season.
"This has been the toughest camp I've been a part of," said Brooking, who has spent all nine of his NFL seasons with the Falcons. "It's been good for all of us, though. We're all much better for it. Coach Mora was very smart. He knows when to push and when to pull back. He pulled back right at the right time, right before we all started hating him."
As for the rookies, "They don't need to go anywhere," Mora said. "They need to be in bed at 11:15 and they need to be studying. They don't have that privilege yet."
Practices for the rest of the season are closed to the public.


EOG Master
Versatile Norwood gives Falcons options

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 08/18/06 Flowery Branch ? When Jerious Norwood caught a screen pass and went 37 yards in last week's exhibition game, the only things moving faster than his legs were the possibilities running through Falcons coach Jim Mora's mind.
In the 26-23 win over New England, Norwood ? the turf-scorching speedster ? broke loose after catching a pass from Matt Schaub near the end of the first half.
<!--endtext--><!--endclickprintinclude--><table align="left" border="0" cellpadding="2" cellspacing="0" width="175"><tbody><tr><td>
Curtis Compton / AJC
</td></tr><tr><td class="caption">The Falcons selected Mississippi State running back Jerious Norwood in the third round of this year's draft with the intent of grooming him to replace T.J. Duckett and, eventually, Warrick Dunn.
</td></tr><tr><td><table bgcolor="#cccccc" border="0" cellpadding="1" cellspacing="0" width="170"><tbody><tr><td><table bgcolor="#ffffff" border="0" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" width="168"><tbody><tr class="railscreen01"><td>Your Turn</td></tr></tbody></table><table bgcolor="#ffffff" border="0" cellpadding="9" cellspacing="0" width="168"><tbody><tr><td> <table border="0" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" width="100%"> <tbody><tr> <td colspan="2">
</td> </tr> </tbody></table> <script language="javascript"> function clickVote() { document.pollForm.buttonClicked.value = "yes"; document.pollForm.PageId.value = "poll_vote_submit"; document.pollForm.submit(); } function alert1(){ document.pollForm.buttonClicked.value = ""; } </script> <form method="post" action="/poll/poll/poll/take_poll/PollRefresh.jsp" name="pollForm"> <input name="PageId" value="poll_vote_submit" type="hidden"> <input name="pollID" value="10384" type="hidden"> <input name="page" value="take" type="hidden"> <table border="0" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" width="100%"> <tbody><tr> <td width="100%"> [FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif][SIZE=-1] What role will Jerious Norwood have as a rookie? [/SIZE][/FONT] </td> <td align="right" height="15" width="46">
</td> </tr> <tr> <td colspan="2" valign="top"> <input name="choice" value="36842" type="radio"> [FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif][SIZE=-1] He'll play, but he's still learning. Watch out, T.J. [/SIZE][/FONT] </td> </tr> <tr> <td colspan="2" valign="top"> <input name="choice" value="36843" type="radio"> [FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif][SIZE=-1] From what I've heard, he's too good not to be a major contributor. [/SIZE][/FONT] </td> </tr> <tr> <td colspan="2">
</td></tr> <tr> <td align="center" width="100%"> <input value="Vote" name="vote" type="submit">
[FONT=arial,helvetica][SIZE=-2]Voter Limit: Once per Hour
View Poll Results [/SIZE][/FONT] </td> </tr> </tbody></table> </form> </td></tr></tbody></table></td></tr></tbody></table></td></tr></tbody></table><!--startclickprintinclude--><!--begintext--> "When he makes plays like that, you're like, 'Ooooh, what can we do with him?' " Mora said.
The Falcons already boast the NFL's top rushing attack two years running ? and that's with elusive quarterback Michael Vick's 2005 run total nearly 300 yards less than in 2004.
Now the Falcons add Norwood, who had a combined 93 yards on nine touches and a 34-yard touchdown catch against the Patriots, to a backfield with Pro Bowl tailback Warrick Dunn, short-yardage specialist T.J. Duckett, versatile fullback Justin Griffith and Vick.
"I'm sure some defensive coaches probably don't know what we're going to do," Norwood said.
Neither do the Falcons yet.
Dunn is 31 but coming off a career-high 1,416-yard season. Vick said he is going to get back to being a dual pass-run threat again after injuries and apprehension kept him in the pocket last season.
Duckett, who remains a possible trade option, has his tough-yards role. Griffith might not get many touches, but he makes an impact when he gets his hands on the ball. Dunn will not play in Saturday's exhibition at Green Bay, and Duckett will start and play at least the first quarter.
Norwood's playing time ? at least the plan for now ? will be based on in-game circumstances, with the Falcons trying to get him in open space within their normal running scheme, but also as a receiver.
"That's one of my great assets, my hands," Norwood said. "I still got a lot of work to do as far as my inside runs and outside zone plays, but other than that, I feel pretty good about everything."
The Falcons don't attempt many screen passes, but Norwood's receiving ability might change their thinking. He also could line up in any of the receiver positions except tight end. At
5 feet 11, 204 pounds, he provides a good-sized target for a receiving corps that lacks an abundance of size with the season-ending knee injury to No. 3 wide receiver Brian Finneran.
"He does add some speed to our backfield and presents a threat to score when he gets to the open field," offensive coordinator Greg Knapp said of Norwood. "His role for now is more situational."
Although Norwood presents a multitude of options, Mora and Knapp said they have to remember that he is a rookie, and if they overwhelm him, it could be counterproductive. For now, Mora and Knapp want Norwood to focus on little things, such as blitz pickup and pass and run protections.
They aren't going to handcuff him, though. That could really be counterproductive.
"If you could create matchups where he is on a linebacker and you could create a mismatch, you might have something down the field with him," Mora said.
Mora's guarded optimism about Norwood comes as the team realizes it might have a player who is better than they thought. Knapp said the Falcons planned to draft a running back in April and were pleased when Norwood was still available in the third round.
The intent was to groom him to replace Duckett ? who is in the last year of his contract ? and back up Dunn next season. In time, Norwood would take over as the starter.
Once the coaches saw Norwood work in minicamp, more immediate possibilities arose. The issue is working him into a rotation that already is deep and productive.
"Myself, Mike and T.J., we've been there and done that," Dunn said. "It will be a lot of teaching the young guy, and he can see how we are, how we do things around here and how we operate on Sundays. We have guys who make plays and can make it happen at any given time of the game. It's just a matter of doing what we've been doing. Mike is going to go back to being Mike.
"For [Norwood], he's going to have to be mentally tough."


EOG Master
Re: Atlanta Falcons Info Thread

Hartwell closing in on full strength
Injured linebacker gets back his legs

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 08/23/06 Flowery Branch ? When the Falcons made linebacker Ed Hartwell their big free-agent acquisition a season ago, signing him to a six-year, $26.25 million deal, they figured questions about the middle of their defense would be answered.
Well, after a torn Achilles tendon cut Hartwell's 2005 season short after five games, and he's missed two preseason games thus far, uncertainty still reigns.
<!--endtext--><!--endclickprintinclude--><table align="left" border="0" cellpadding="2" cellspacing="0" width="175"><tbody><tr><td>
Curtis Compton / AJC
</td></tr><tr><td class="caption">Ed Hartwell (right, blocking defensive tackle Chris McGee during drills) is now practicing every day after being unable to do so at the start of camp.
</td></tr></tbody></table><!--startclickprintinclude--><!--begintext--> A known defensive presence with the Baltimore Ravens, Hartwell has yet to reacclimate himself to bowling over blockers and knocking the wind out of ball carriers. Fearful of aggravating the injury, he has yet to turn things loose and, as a result, has found himself struggling to get off blocks and make plays.
"I'm feeling better and better every day," Hartwell said. "The best thing to do is try to forget about it. Sometimes you feel some pain here and there, but the thing about it is that pain is mental. You have to block it out and keep going."
Hartwell, in limited action, was one of several players who struggled against the run in the exhibition opening victory against New England. He was in on three tackles. Coach Jim Mora said that game was a scratch because it was Hartwell's first taste of football in nearly a year.
Things were far better for Hartwell and the starting defense overall in Saturday's 38-10 loss at Green Bay. Hartwell was quicker and more violent at the point of attack. Still, he admits he's not quite there yet.
"I think I did pretty good, but you're always your worse critic," Hartwell said. "I think I could thump a little harder, read a little better. I'm always working hard. I know I can get better."
Said Mora: "Eddie will keep getting better as he keeps playing. He still gets his pad level up a little bit at times. I think that's still a function of him not having complete confidence in his Achilles. When you go through preseason games, you hope your defensive guys' pad levels lower, and it did a little bit, but it has to get better. Pad level equates to leverage, and leverage usually equates to successful plays. I thought Ed was much better, and I expect him to be even better this week."
The optimism stems from Hartwell not having any physical setbacks, and he seems to be gaining confidence, Mora said. Hartwell also is becoming familiar with fellow starting linebackers Keith Brooking and Michael Boley.
The three have never been on the field together in extended action, since Boley's stint as a starter began when Hartwell got hurt. Brooking missed Saturday's exhibition game at Green Bay with a sprained ankle. Saturday against Tennessee, Hartwell, Brooking and Boley will play at least half the game together.
Brooking said he's noticed Hartwell's progress.
"That's a tough injury," Brooking said. "He wasn't practicing every day at the beginning of camp, and now he's practicing every day. He's got to be smart with it, too. Our goal is to be ready for [the regular-season opener against] Carolina. Having Hart back, and Boley, us getting in there and working together, we are a very underrated group."
Although Hartwell has had his issues shedding blocks and making plays, it's no secret that the defensive line hasn't been successful occupying blockers to keep them off linebackers. Hartwell wasn't critical of the defensive tackles in front of him, but he said having a wide body in front him ? he specifically named free agent Grady Jackson ? would do him a world of good.
The Falcons remained in talks Tuesday with Jackson about joining the team.
"You always like those big tackles lining up in front of you," Hartwell said. "I don't think there's a linebacker in the league who would tell you that they like lineman coming straight up to the second level. I'd love to see [Jackson] in front of me taking some blocks off of me. It's a win-win situation. He keeps them off of me and I'd come and take them off of him."


EOG Master
Re: Atlanta Falcons Info Thread

Vick misses Falcons practice
Quarterback given OK to attend funeral

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 08/23/06 Flowery Branch ? Falcons quarterback Michael Vick was excused from practice Tuesday to attend the funeral of a former college teammate in Suffolk, Va.
"He is just at a funeral," Falcons coach Jim Mora said. "He will be back later today [Tuesday]."
<!--endtext--><!--endclickprintinclude--><table align="left" border="0" cellpadding="2" cellspacing="0" width="175"><tbody><tr><td>
Curtis Compton / AJC
</td></tr><tr><td class="caption">-------------------- The Falcons signed kicker Miro Kesic, who played at Northeastern, where he was the all-time leading scorer. Kesic was working as a mechanical engineer in New Jersey when he got the call after another camp kicker, Tony Yelk, pulled his quadriceps while kicking off in an exhibition game. Kesic figures he's in camp to spell triple-duty kicker Michael Koenen.
</td></tr></tbody></table><!--startclickprintinclude--><!--begintext--> Vick attended the funeral of Derek Sadar Carter, 29, of Dunwoody, a former teammate at Virginia Tech, according to Reggie Roberts, Falcons vice president of football communication.
Carter was murdered Aug. 14 in Lawrenceville during a drug deal that erupted into a shootout, police said.
A Lawrenceville resident and two other men were charged in connection with the murder.
Carter, Alex Mauricio Bercian, 30, and Daniel Jimenez Mauricio, 25, met at the home of Jose Antonio Bercian, 23, for a prearranged drug deal, Gwinnett police Cpl. Darren Moloney said.
"At some point during the transaction, all four individuals drew firearms and discharged their weapons," Moloney said. Carter was killed in the gun battle.
Run-stopping veteran tackle agrees to terms
The Falcons have agreed to three-year contract with free agent defensive tackle Grady Jackson on Tuesday, according to his agent, Angelo Wright.
"He'll be in there [Wednesday]," the San Francisco Bay Area-based agant said.
Jackson, 6 feet 2, 355 pounds, is considered a run stopper, and he played for Falcons defensive coordinator Ed Donatell in Green Bay.
The a nine-year veteran has to pass a physical, and if successful could possibly take part in practice Wednesday. The Falcons don't comment on free agent negotiations until a contract is signed.
Jackson would play in obvious running situations with the hopes that he'd take up two blockers and penetrate into the backfield.
"You always like those big tackles lining up in front of you," Falcons middle linebacker Ed Hartwell said before the Jackson deal was confirmed. "I don't think there's a linebacker in the league who would tell you that they like linemen coming straight up to the second level. It definitely helps."
Hartwell played behind massive tackles during his years in Baltimore and is aware of Jackson's girth.
"I'd love to see him in front of me taking some blocks off of me," Hartwell said. "It's a win-win situation. He can keep them off of me, and I'd come and take them off of him."
Jackson played at Knoxville College and with Oakland, New Orleans and Green Bay in the NFL.
Kicker Kesic added; ailing Yelk still out
Miro Kesic, who worked out for the Falcons in June, was added to the roster. Injured kicker Tony Yelk (groin) did not practice.
Kesic, a recent graduate of Northeastern, was working as a mechanical engineer in New Jersey.
"I talked to them [Monday]; hopefully I won't have to go back," Kesic said.
Kesic is Northeastern's all-time leading scorer. He punted in six games as a junior and is mainly a kicker.
"They want me to learn how to punt good enough so that I can give the scout guys a decent look for now," Kesic said. "Obviously to continue working on my kicking and field goals and give Michael Koenen a break."
Kesic's signing might be an indication that the Falcons are leaning toward Koenen handling the kickoffs, punts and field goals.
Brooking returns to practice ? gingerly
Linebacker Keith Brooking, who suffered a high ankle sprain in the exhibition opener against New England, returned to practice.
He's expected to play in Saturday's exhibition against Tennessee.
"I've never had a high ankle sprain," Brooking said. "From the looks of it, it's very deceiving because it doesn't look that bad. When you go to play, cut on it or get up on your toes, it's kind of tough to do."


EOG Master
Re: Atlanta Falcons Info Thread

Falcons' new arrivals big, receptive
Lelie acclimates to team, playing

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 08/25/06 Flowery Branch ? With a two-hour practice finished, newly acquired wide receiver Ashley Lelie and Falcons strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi walked down to the vacated practice fields Thursday.
There was rust to be worked off.
<!--endtext--><!--endclickprintinclude--><table align="left" border="0" cellpadding="2" cellspacing="0" width="175"><tbody><tr><td>
Curtis Compton / AJC
</td></tr><tr><td class="caption"> Reciever Ashley Lelie took part in drills and meetings on his first day.
</td></tr></tbody></table><!--startclickprintinclude--><!--begintext--> Lelie's mind was ready for some football, but after months of doing little more than worrying about if the Denver Broncos would trade him, it was time to get to work.
"A little pickup basketball here and there, nothing too strenuous," Lelie said of his means of staying in shape while holding out of Broncos training camp.
On the issue of shape, the Falcons also finalized the free-agent signing of 6-foot-2, 355-pound defensive tackle Grady Jackson, a mammoth space eater whom the team hopes can occupy blockers so linebackers Ed Hartwell and Keith Brooking can be more effective against the run.
The nine-year veteran passed a lengthy physical before arriving at team headquarters late in the afternoon. He won't play in Saturday's preseason game at Tennessee. Atlanta waived defensive tackle Antwan Lake to make room for Jackson.
"I know coming in my role is to bring the run [defense] up," said Jackson, who spent the past three seasons with Green Bay.
Lelie, acquired Tuesday night in a three-team deal in which the Falcons shipped tailback T.J. Duckett to Washington, spent his first day with the Falcons going to meetings, running routes in individual periods, taking a handful of snaps during team drills and chatting with guard and former University of Hawaii teammate Kynan Forney.
When he had any downtime, he sidled up to wide receivers coach George Stewart before being put through his paces by Alosi.
It was Lelie's first time on a football field since Jan. 22, when the Broncos lost 34-17 to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship game.
Between then and now, the 6-foot-3, 200-pound speedster had been mired in an ugly dispute with the Broncos after they acquired wide receiver Javon Walker, which signaled his possible demotion to third on the depth chart. He forfeited a $100,000 offseason workout bonus, and Broncos coach Mike Shanahan confirmed to The Associated Press on Thursday that in order to be freed from the final year of his contract, Lelie agreed to pay the Broncos a hefty sum, believed to be $982,000. Not counting players' days off, Lelie skipped 23 days of training camp, making him liable for $14,000 daily fines totaling $322,000.
The issue, his agent Peter Schaeffer told the Journal-Constitution, is "in the rear-view mirror."
"Some days I would get up thinking I'm going to be traded," Lelie said. "Some days I would get up thinking I'm going to be sitting out the whole season. I couldn't really think about it because it would put me in too much of a bad mood. I always occupied myself doing something else."
When asked if he was willing to sit out the entire season, Lelie said, "I don't know. We'll never know."
Lelie said, "That's all behind me now. I'm ready to play for the Falcons."
Coach Jim Mora said Lelie won't dress for Saturday's exhibition game at Tennessee but he could see some action in the finale Aug. 31 against Jacksonville at the Georgia Dome.
Lelie has to make up for lost time physically, and must acclimate himself to the Falcons' offense, which Stewart said won't be overly difficult because the Broncos use the same running game used by Denver. Falcons offensive line consultant Alex Gibbs introduced the zone-blocking scheme in Denver before coming to Atlanta in 2004.
Lelie will be used as the No. 3 wide receiver, a role he said he will embrace, behind Roddy White and Michael Jenkins and will be a key target in frequently used three-receiver sets. There won't be any big secret as to how Lelie will be used.
He's going deep.
"Four or five years ago Mike Vick had a commercial throwing the ball out of the Coliseum," Stewart said. "Mike can throw it deep. One thing about Ashley, you can't overthrow him."
With Jenkins (6-4, 217) and White (6-0, 208) also possessing size and breakaway speed, Forney said the Falcons' abundance of threats have just upped the ante in the NFC South.
"Ashley, that's a whole lot of speed," Forney said. "That's what I know of him. There aren't too many defensive backfields that are going to have three defensive backs out there running 4.2s (40-yard dash times) like we got with those three out there."


EOG Master
Re: Atlanta Falcons Info Thread

Griffith benefits from Duckett trade

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 08/25/06 Flowery Branch ? After three seasons of mostly slam-dancing with linebackers, Justin Griffith is going to touch the football more.
Griffith has done much of the thankless lead blocking to help running back Warrick Dunn post back-to-back 1,000 yard-plus seasons. With the trade of T.J. Duckett, Griffith's role in the offense will expand.
<!--endtext--><!--endclickprintinclude--><table align="left" border="0" cellpadding="2" cellspacing="0" width="175"><tbody><tr><td>
Curtis Compton / AJC
</td></tr><tr><td class="caption">Falcons fullback Justin Griffith may get to carry the ball more while rookie Jerious Norwood is brought along slowly.
</td></tr></tbody></table><!--startclickprintinclude--><!--begintext--> "We have been using Justin as our single back when we go to three wide receivers," Falcons coach Jim Mora said. "That will be his role."
Griffith, a fourth-year veteran from Mississippi State, will get some relief from blocking linebackers.
"You won't see a whole lot of lead blocking from the single-back set," Griffith said.
Griffith played a similar halfback/fullback role at Mississippi State.
"In the one-back thing, we have a pretty much balanced offense," Griffith said. "We may run or we may throw."
Dunn will continue to do most of the heavy lifting at running back. Rookie Jerious Norwood, who has had some bright moments during training camp and the exhibition season, will also be utilized.
However, Griffith's ability to play both running back positions allows the Falcons to bring Norwood along slowly and not expose him to complex defenses.
"[Norwood's] ahead of the curve as far as a rookie in the NFL," running backs coach Ollie Wilson said. "Bottom line is that he's not there yet to be able to do everything. Right now he sees 25 people on the other side of the field and he feels that he's got to block them all."
The three receivers will be Roddy White, Michael Jenkins and newly acquired Ashley Lelie. With speedsters White and Lelie outside, there should be room for Griffith to work.
"You have to respect that we might throw," Griffith said. "Also, we have a running back back there. We can run or use our screen game. We can run our zone game. We can do all of our stuff from that one-back set."
Griffith has been a factor in the pass game, averaging 21 receptions over three seasons, with six touchdowns.
Under Mora, he hasn't been used much in the rushing attack.
Griffith had a career-high 38 carries as a rookie in 2003 under Dan Reeves and had only had nine and 15 carries in 2004 and 2005, respectively.
The timing is perfect for Griffith, who in the final year of his four-year contract with a base salary of $712,600.
"It's a great opportunity to go out there an showcase my talent," Griffith said.


EOG Master
Re: Atlanta Falcons Info Thread

Crumpler cleared for first exhibition action

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 08/25/06 Flowery Branch ? Falcons All-Pro tight end Alge Crumpler will get his first action of the exhibition season Saturday at Tennessee after the team had proceeded cautiously with him through training camp.
Crumpler, who had knee and shoulder surgery during the offseason, was limited to one practice per day while the team held two-a-day sessions.
<!--endtext--><!--endclickprintinclude--><table align="left" border="0" cellpadding="2" cellspacing="0" width="175"><tbody><tr><td>
Curtis Compton / AJC
</td></tr><tr><td class="caption"> Michael Vick is scheduled to play more Saturday than in his first two exhibition games.
</td></tr></tbody></table><!--startclickprintinclude--><!--begintext--> Last week Crumpler, who led the team last season in receptions (65), yards (877) and touchdowns (5), said he was feeling better and that he was excited to compete in his first exhibition game.
"He's going to play the entire half unless something happens during the game," coach Jim Mora said.
Defensive tackles show promise
Mora said two young defensive tackles, rookie T.J. Jackson out of Auburn and second-year pro Darrell Shropshire, would get significant playing time.
That could mean that they have the edge as the primary back-ups to Grady Jackson, who signed Thursday after passing his physical, and Rod Coleman.
"We'll kind of play them and rotate for the first three quarters," Mora said. "I want them all to play at least a half."
2 ailing offensive linemen on mend
After three members of the second-string offensive line were injured in the Falcons' first exhibition game, it appears two are on the mend.
Mora said tackle Quinn Ojinnaka and guard Tyson Clabo "have a good chance" to return Saturday, while guard Ben Claxton is not ready. All three suffered ankle or foot injuries.
A stronger offensive line in the second half could give D.J. Shockley and Bryan Randall a better chance to show what they can do in their competition for the No. 3 quarterback job after having a rough time last week against Green Bay's defense.
Vick scheduled to play entire first half
Starting quarterback Michael Vick also is expected to play the entire first half ? the most of the exhibition season ? Mora said.
"Unless he gets 40 reps or something," Mora said. "Right now, it looks like he will [play all of the first half]. It can change. Don't hold me to it."
Mathis will see plenty of time
Backup safety Kevin Mathis will get extensive playing time in Saturday's exhibition at Tennessee, Mora said. Mathis, who is recovering from a knee injury that cost him the 2005 season, took less than 10 snaps in last week's game at Green Bay in his first action since tearing ligaments in his knee.


EOG Master
Re: Atlanta Falcons Info Thread

Tackle Jackson has mass appeal

By Jeff Schultz | Thursday, August 24, 2006, 09:00 PM
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Jeff Schultz

Flowery Branch ? There?s a large man in black warm-up pants and a white T-shirt sitting across from me. Either that, or it was a mattress with legs.
?I?m somewhere in the ?50s,? Grady Jackson said after hearing the question that tends to open any interview or NFL camp visit. ?I can probably take off about 10 more pounds.?
Grady Jackson is a large man. He was 270 pounds as a center and power forward for his high school basketball team. That would be dangerously close to 100 pounds ago.
Grady Jackson is a large man. He?s large on the scale of, ?Dude, you really don?t need to get on the scale. We know you?re big. Just promise us you won?t collapse because, like, kids come to the games.?
The ?50s ? that would be the 350s. There are only eight players on current NFL rosters north of 350, and only two play defense: Cleveland nose tackle Ted Washington, and the newest member of the Falcons.
Jackson?s arrival became official when he did not pass go, or probably Golden Corral, but he did pass his physical, then checked into Flowery Branch in the late afternoon.
We don?t know yet what the Falcons will list as the official weight of their new 6-2 nose tackle. But it doesn?t really matter. He is the final piece of the Falcons? offseason defensive makeover. He is a significant enhancement, on the level of the first time a cosmetic surgeon told Pamela Anderson, ?Yes, I think we can accommodate you.?
The pre-draft acquisition of John Abraham gave the Falcons another top sacker to join Patrick Kerney. Jackson and his former Oakland teammate, Rod Coleman, are now sandwiched in between. The four now comprise quite possibly the best defensive line in the NFL.
Jackson, though he is now mostly a run defender at the age of 33, has 32.5 career sacks. The Falcon Foursome: 190 career regular-season sacks. No other NFL projected defensive line will approach that.
And about that 10 pounds Jackson said he could lose ? take your time, bud.
The Falcons? defense has had this problem. They turn trivia questions into 100-yard rushers. They needed a wide load. Wide loads plug up Death Valley. Wide loads occupy two blockers. Wide loads free up space for ends and linebackers. Did I say linebackers?
?All of his meals are on me,? Keith Brooking said Thursday.
?Yeah, we?ll take him out to lunch,? Ed Hartwell said. ?We?ll make sure he keeps his weight right. As long as he?s filling those gaps, we?ll be fine.?
Hook that sucker up to a gravy-IV. Everybody, climb aboard the Grady train.
Rumors had his weight this offseason at 370 to 400, give or take a Brusters. Jackson denies that. But he is used to his weight being an issue.
?It?s always followed me, but look at the stats,? he said. ?They always told what I could do on the field. As long as I make plays and get to the ball and help my team win, that?s the key.?
He has played nine seasons for three teams (Oakland, New Orleans, Green Bay). Several teams worked him out this off-season, and others called. So we can assume there?s a crying need for non-chiseled bodies.
?It?s not the weight,? he said. ?You?ve got people with big mass. It?s not fat. It?s body mass.?
Body mass. How come I never thought of that excuse?
But there is no doubting Jackson?s athleticism. He was a two-time MVP of his high school basketball teams. Hoops have always been his first passion. Of course, he claims he can still dunk.
?Do you want to see?? he said.
I thought about saying yes. Then I had a vision of Rich McKay picking me off with a sniper from his office.
He also played baseball in high school. He only started playing football his junior year, ?because people made me. My father said I had quick feet.?
From that point on, football coaches wouldn?t let him go. He played at a Mississippi junior college for two years, then Knoxville (Tenn.) College for two more. Along the way, everybody asked how much he weighed.
But Jackson says he?s just like everybody else.
?I eat three meals a day,? he said. ?Breakfast, lunch and dinner.?
Welcome to the NFL?s body beautiful.
Permalink | Comments (27) | Post your comment | Categories: Falcons / NFL, Jeff Schultz


EOG Master
Re: Atlanta Falcons Info Thread

Falcons turn focus to regular season
Run game has improved, but other areas still need work

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 09/02/06 The Falcons, with starters serving as spectators, completed the exhibition season 2-2 after losing 20-17 to Jacksonville's backups on Thursday.
Now, it's time to focus on the regular-season opener at Carolina on Sept. 10.
<!--endtext--><!--endclickprintinclude--><table align="left" border="0" cellpadding="2" cellspacing="0" width="175"></table><!--startclickprintinclude--><!--begintext--> "The pieces to the puzzle that we have are out there; it's time to start putting that masterpiece together, having some fun and winning some games," tight end Alge Crumpler said.
The Panthers, who reached the NFC championship game last season, are a fashionable early Super Bowl pick. The Panthers ramshackled the Falcons twice last season by a combined score of 68-17 and rushed for 371 yards.
"Guys are tired of hitting each other and playing these exhibition games," running back Warrick Dunn said. "You really want to get down to business. It's going to be a tough and intense game against Carolina."
First, we take a look at the five things we learned about the Falcons this exhibition season:
Running game is on
The Falcons have led the league in rushing the past two seasons. Dunn ran well against New England and Jerious Norwood flashed his big-play potential. The only concern is about the short-yardage package, where the traded T.J. Duckett got a majority of his 31 career touchdowns. "Only time will tell, but I think the guys up front are doing a great job of blocking," Dunn said. "We are light years ahead of where we were two years ago rushing the ball."
The big-bang theory
The Falcons are going to hit. None of that arm tackling or shoving that was prevalent in the secondary last season. The safety positions are in good hands with Chris Crocker and Lawyer Milloy. Crocker delivered the hit of the exhibition season when he leveled Green Bay receiver Greg Jennings, separating him from the ball. Milloy wreaked havoc on Tennessee's running game. Rookie cornerback Jimmy Williams put some nice licks on Jacksonville receivers.
Vick in the pocket
Despite an all-out blitz by Tennessee, Vick delivered a nice 4-yard touchdown pass to Michael Jenkins under duress from a blitzing Chris Hope. He got smashed a split second after releasing the ball. "That is what this offense can do," Vick said. "You know exactly where people are going to be. That's where I've grown a lot in this offense. I went for the home run ball."
Receivers a worry
The pressure is on Michael Jenkins, Roddy White and Ashlie Lelie ? all former first-round draft picks. Jenkins showed signs he has improved. White didn't distinguish himself and Lelie, who was acquired in the Duckett trade, looked rusty in the exhibition final.
Unproven vs. run
Six running backs rushed for more than 100 yards eight times against the Falcons last season. The rebuilt first-team defense had trouble against New England, but did stop the run against Tennessee. After surgery on both of Ed Hartwell's knees, they'll likely open the season with Jordan Beck, a promising middle linebacker, who has never played a game in the NFL.


EOG Master
Re: Atlanta Falcons Info Thread

Talented roster puts heat on Mora

By Mark Bradley | Monday, September 4, 2006, 07:21 PM
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Mark Bradley

Jim Mora took the Falcons to the NFC championship game in his first season and hasn?t yet finished with a losing record. That right there would seem to stamp him as one of the three best coaches in the history of this mostly forlorn franchise. But the belief here is that Mora needs to win big this fall or he might not be working for this franchise next year.
The Falcons are among the league?s 10 most talented teams. To the six Pro Bowl veterans already under contract, Rich McKay added John Abraham, Lawyer Milloy, Ashley Lelie, Chris Crocker, Jimmy Williams, Jerious Norwood and Grady Jackson. That?s the sort of bountiful offseason that comes along once in a generation. We can quibble about the youth of the starting wideouts and an offensive line that still doesn?t seem first-rate, but the cold truth is that this roster has as few personnel holes as any in the salary-capped NFL.
If you?re the coach, that?s a good thing. It becomes a bad thing only if you don?t win 10 games. ?We have a sense of urgency to do better now,? Arthur Blank said before training camp convened. ?We?re ready to make that move.?
The chief reason Blank hired Mora ? over, say, Lovie Smith, who was the NFL?s coach of the year in 2005 ? was that Mora knew exactly what he wanted to do and whom he wanted to hire as coordinators. Two years on, it?s possible to wonder if Greg Knapp and Ed Donatell are the right fits for a franchise that (a.) employs Michael Vick and (b.) is based in the hard-running NFC South. Is Knapp?s West Coast offense a proper allocation of Vick?s singular skills? Is a light-but-mobile defense apt to stop DeShaun Foster and Cadillac Williams and Mike Alstott and Deuce McAllister and Reggie Bush?
The Falcons have moved to get bigger on defense ? nobody comes much bigger than the two-ton Jackson ? but the matter of Vick and the WCO remains no more settled than the day Knapp was hired. (A purely geometric concern voiced by a former NFL defensive coach: The short drops required by this system don?t work as well with a smallish quarterback, Joe Montana apparently notwithstanding.) Given that Vick is without precedent, there might not be an ideal coach for him. But is Knapp even close to the optimum?
Blank was clearly frustrated with the disintegration of his beloved team last fall, and he has moved heaven and Earth to prevent a similar collapse this time. Speaking of McKay and Mora in the AJC?s preview section, Blank said: ?I?ve given them the resources.? Translation: ?Better win now.?
Of the two, Blank seems more comfortable with McKay than Mora, and for good reason. McKay keeps finding talent at a dizzying rate; it?s time now for Mora to make this assemblage win. He did it two seasons ago, but his inability to arrest last season?s slide made you wonder if 2004 was beginner?s luck. And certainly his tantrums and his word games ? we witnessed another in the starter-less final exhibition last week ? don?t fit the image Blank wants his franchise to project.
But here?s the thing: Win 10 games and the tantrums and the semantics, if not fully forgotten, will be forgiven. Bill Belichick is the antithesis of a charmer, but he?s the NFL?s best coach because he gets the maximum from his players. Mora has enough talent to be in the playoffs come January; anything less would be taken as an indication he isn?t up to the job.
Yes, Blank just extended Mora?s contract through 2009, but this owner has the means to buy out a contract extended through 2099 if he chooses. It didn?t take long for Blank to sour on Dan Reeves ? one broken leg and one lost season ? and Mora, for all his cleverness, hasn?t done half the things his predecessor did in the NFL. If he wants his tenure here to last into 2007 and beyond, he?d better win 10 games in 2006. Otherwise the boss could throw a tantrum of his own.
Permalink | Comments (50) | Post your comment | Categories: Falcons / NFL, Mark Bradley


EOG Master
Re: Atlanta Falcons Info Thread

Koenen takes on three kicking roles

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 09/03/06 Michael Koenen probably didn't know he was poised to make history when he entered Falcons training camp. Today, he appears poised to become the first NFL player in 25 years to handle the punting, kickoff and field-goal duties all by himself.
The Falcons cut training camp hopefuls Tony Yelk and Miro Kesic on Saturday as they trimmed their roster to the NFL-limit of 53, leaving Koenen, already nicknamed "Triple Threat," as the only kicking specialist on the roster.
<!--endtext--><!--endclickprintinclude--><table align="left" border="0" cellpadding="2" cellspacing="0" width="175"><tbody><tr><td>
Curtis Compton / AJC
</td></tr><tr><td class="caption">Michael Koenen's four field goals in the exhibition opener against New England started the team's discussions of making him the lone kicker.
</td></tr></tbody></table><!--startclickprintinclude--><!--begintext--> That's not to say the Falcons couldn't bring in another kicker or punter to relieve Koenen of one of the jobs or be on standby in case of injury, but for now, the second-year player from Western Washington, who punted and kicked off as a rookie, will handle all duties.
"Right now, the plan is to go with Michael," coach Jim Mora said. "There wasn't as much [hand-wringing] about making the decision as you might think, and that's a credit to Michael."
Frank Corral of the 1981 Los Angeles Rams was the last player known to have kicked off, punted and kicked field goals in one season.
Koenen's four field goals, including the game winner in a 26-23 exhibition victory over New England, opened the possibility of him adding to the punting and kickoff duties he secured last season. Koenen grossed 42.3 yards per punt, and his depth and placement on kickoffs helped the Falcons' coverage team rank among the best in the league.
The coaching staff still seemed apprehensive early in training camp about having him punt, kick and kick off and warned that he needed to get through the entire preseason before any serious thought would be given to him being a one-man kicking machine.
Koenen got stronger, more confident and poised, converting all seven of his field goals from a variety of lengths, while placing his kickoffs where directed and booming his punts that limited returns or pinned opponents deep in their own territory.
Koenen, who was unavailable for comment, has said he felt that he was physically able to manage all three duties after doing as much in college under some pretty trying weather conditions. However, the NFL season is much longer and the kicking game is far more technical, in terms of ball placement on punts and kickoffs.
The immediate upside of having Koenen hold down all three positions is that it frees up a roster spot, which Atlanta used to keep eight linebackers, most of which are special teams standouts.
The downside is two-pronged.
An injury or fatigue could put the Falcons in the position of trying to find two players to handle all three jobs in the middle of the season. The quality and availability of players could prompt concern, especially if Atlanta is in a heated playoff push where field position and points could determine a postseason berth.
"We did some studies on kickers and if guys did get hurt and the guys came into replace them and what the success rate was, and we were comfortable," Mora said.
There is a likelihood the Falcons will keep a kicker on the practice squad to do much of the kicking during practice to prevent wear on Koenen's leg, Mora said. That person also would have to be versatile enough to step in should Koenen get hurt, Mora said.
Yelk showed promise as a kickoff specialist and was an adequate punter and field-goal kicker before suffering a quadriceps strain in his kicking leg during a 38-10 exhibition loss at Green Bay. Other kickers and punters were expected to be waived, giving the Falcons options.


EOG Master
Re: Atlanta Falcons Info Thread

Linebackers set to plug injury gap
Hartwell's injury means others must get job done

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 09/05/06 Flowery Branch ? Faced with the possibility of replacing middle linebacker Ed Hartwell for the season opener against Carolina, the Falcons might slip back into their linebacker shuffle mode.
One scenario has Keith Brooking moving from weakside linebacker to middle linebacker and Demorrio Williams playing weak side with Michael Boley remaining at the strong-side position. The Boley-Brooking-Williams trio started 11 games together last season after Hartwell suffered an Achilles tendon injury and was placed on injured reserve.
<!--endtext--><!--endclickprintinclude--><table align="left" border="0" cellpadding="2" cellspacing="0" width="175"></table><!--startclickprintinclude--><!--begintext--> Hartwell had arthroscopic surgery on both knees on Aug. 28. Falcons coach Jim Mora was noncommittal when asked about his starting linebacker situation.
"You know how I am during the season," Mora said. "I prefer not to talk about who's going to play what, why and where. Not to be coy or to avoid the question; I think it's in the best interest of us trying to hold whatever competitive advantage that we might have and to let the other team figure it out."
Jordan Beck, a second-year player who spent all of last season on injured reserve, was backing up Hartwell and started at middle linebacker in the exhibition finale.
"We're not sure how it's going to go, but I think they are going to rotate Brooking in at middle linebacker and put me back on special teams and then we'll have Demorrio play Will [weak side]," Beck said. "So that's what I've been told. I'll do whatever they ask me. So I'm excited to play special teams."
Beck played well on special teams in exhibitions this season and was the hit of the exhibition season in 2005 before breaking his left foot in the final exhibition game. He started last week's exhibition finale against Jacksonville and would like to be the starter against Carolina.
"I don't know if disappointed is the right word," Beck said. "I want to do what's best for the team. They are going with the more experienced guys and I've got to back their decisions on that and go help the team how I can."
Beck is still learning the position.
"He works at it," Brooking said. "He works extremely hard at it. There is a learning curve there and every player goes through it. He's going through it right now. He'll be ready when his name is called."
Williams was already set to play in some of the Falcons' defensive packages.
"It's just one of those situations where you always have to be ready," Williams said. "You just never know, so if my name is called, I'm going to step up and do what I've got to do."
Last season, the Falcons were 27th in stopping the run. They were hoping Hartwell's return, coupled with the addition of defensive end John Abraham and defensive tackle Grady Jackson and safeties Chris Crocker and Lawyer Milloy, would help the run defense.
Last season, Carolina rushed for 142 yards in a 24-6 victory on Dec. 4 and for 229 yards in a season-ending 44-11 shellacking on Jan. 1.
Brooking prefers to play the weak side, but, like last season, is ready to take one for the team.
"I'm prepared to do whatever," Brooking said. "I mean that from the bottom of my heart. That's not going to change for me. If that has to happen or it takes place, if they tell me that, I'll be fully prepared and ready to roll."
Brooking doesn't figure the switch should have a major impact on the defense.
"I played 10 games in it last year," Brooking said. "I've played half of my career in the middle. I feel very confident playing that position. I know the defense well. I have confidence in the guys around me, Michael Boley, Demorrio Williams or whoever's in there with me."
The Falcons believe the Boley-Brooking-Williams trio gives them the best chance to slow down Carolina's rushing attack. Carolina running back DeShaun Foster rushed for 131 and 165 yards against the Falcons last season.


EOG Master
Re: Atlanta Falcons Info Thread

Motivation no problem vs. Panthers

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 09/05/06 Flowery Branch ? With the roster trimmed, the preseason out of the way and the Carolina Panthers on tap Sunday, players and coaches said their approach and attitude has hardened. It's time to get started.
"I was sitting in church [Sunday] and all I could think about was this game," defensive end Patrick Kerney said. "I had to kind of slap myself on the wrist and say, 'Pay attention to what the preacher is saying.' It's all-consuming now. For the next 21 weeks [that's including the playoffs], this is what I live for."
<!--endtext--><!--endclickprintinclude--><table align="left" border="0" cellpadding="2" cellspacing="0" width="175"></table><!--startclickprintinclude--><!--begintext--> That the opponent is Carolina is added fuel, though not for obvious reasons ? such as the 44-11 whipping the Panthers put on the Falcons in the season finale or that they swept Atlanta.
"We got our butts kicked. They brought it to us," Falcons running back Warrick Dunn said. "This is a new season."
Added tight end Alge Crumpler: "We didn't play very well, and it left a sour taste in our mouths. I feel like this is a different makeup of guys that we have now."
Pro Bowl linebacker Keith Brooking said the rivalry with the Panthers is one thing. Getting to the playoffs is a bigger goal, although that goal takes the Falcons through Carolina.
"It's pretty obvious what this game means to us," Brooking said. "The first regular-season game and the implications of being a division game against a very good opponent. It's away, in a hostile environment. It has the makings to be a great one. I'm very excited about our defense."
Koenen will pace himself
Michael Koenen, who will be the Falcons' one-man kicking crew, said he'll have to manage his workload to make it through a 16-game season kicking off, punting and kicking field goals and extra points.
"I've got to take it easy during the week, not kick as much and prepare myself for the game specifically and not overdo it," Koenen said.
Koenen, who punted and kicked off for the Falcons as a rookie last season, said he wanted to earn the full-time field-goal kicking job after serving as the long-range kicker to Todd Peterson last season. But even if he hadn't earned that job during training camp, Koenen said he wanted to improve as a field-goal kicker.
"Last year I missed a 55-yarder [against Tampa Bay] that would have helped us out," Koenen said. "If I was going to have a backup role field-goal kicking, I wanted to be able to make everything."
Shockley regains familiar No. 3
Backup quarterback D.J. Shockley might be No. 1 in some people's hearts, but he's no longer No. 1 with the Falcons. The Atlanta native and University of Georgia product changed to No. 3, his collegiate jersey number. Bryan Randall wore No. 3 during the preseason, forcing Shockley to take No. 1, but Randall was cut, allowing Shockley to reclaim his familiar number.
Several other players changed jersey numbers following this weekend's trimming of the roster to 53. Linebacker Brandon Jamison now wears No. 56, tight end Daniel Fells No. 88 and running back Marlion Jackson No. 34.
Jackson doesn't celebrate long
Undrafted rookie defensive tackle Tommy Jackson said he celebrated for about "a half a second," when he realized he'd survived the final cut.
"Then I was ready to go, ready to work," he said.


EOG Master
Re: Atlanta Falcons Info Thread

<table border="0" cellpadding="2" cellspacing="0" width="100%"><tbody><tr><td align="left" valign="top"> Updated Tuesday, September 5 at 0:23 AM

</td> </tr> <tr> <td>
Falcons' Coach Mora mum on linebackers
bny The Associated Press

FLOWERY BRANCH - Coach Jim Mora isn't ready to reveal how the Atlanta Falcons will use their linebackers with Ed Hartwell likely unable to play in the season opener this week at Carolina.

``You know how I am during the season,'' Mora said Monday. ``I really don't want to talk about who's going to play what and why and where. Not to be coy or avoid the question. I just think it's in our best interest for us to try and hold whatever competitive advantage we have to let the other team try to figure it out on the field, which they will, quick.''

<table align="left" border="0" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" width="130"><tbody><tr><td colspan="2">
</td><td rowspan="4" bgcolor="#999999">
</td><td rowspan="4">
</td></tr><tr><td>"I really don't want to talk about who's going to play what and why and where. "</td><td>
</td></tr><tr><td align="right">Jim Mora</td><td>
</td></tr><tr><td colspan="2">
</td></tr></tbody></table> Hartwell, who starts in the middle, underwent arthroscopic surgery on both knees last week and could miss the first two or three games.

In Atlanta's preseason loss to Jacksonville last Thursday, Mora wasn't unhappy with the performance of Jordan Beck, who took Hartwell's place, but the Falcons might decide that Keith Brooking is a better fit.

Brooking played middle linebacker after Hartwell tore an Achilles tendon in Week 5 last year. Though the Falcons lost six of their last eight games and missed the playoffs, Brooking played well enough to earn a fifth straight Pro Bowl invitation.

Demorrio Williams would start at weakside if Brooking moves inside.

The longest-tenured Atlanta player and a first-round draft choice in 1998, Brooking knew Mora wanted to keep the team's intention under wraps as long as possible.

``It's pretty obvious what this game means,'' Brooking said. ``It's not just it being the first regular season game. There are the implications of it being a division game against a very good opponent, and away in a hostile environment. It's got the makings of being a great one. I'm very excited about it. I'm excited about our defense, I'm excited about our football team. I'm just ready to get it going.''

Hoping to reinforce their personnel in defending the run, the Falcons signed Hartwell to a six-year contract that included $8 million in guaranteed bonuses in March 2005, but the team has yet to see much of a return on the investment.

Hartwell's absence wasn't the only reason Atlanta dropped to 22nd in rushing defense last year. Safeties Bryan Scott and Keion Carpenter were too soft, and right end Brady Smith sustained a career-ending foot injury.

Since March, the Falcons have brought in more reinforcements, trading for right end John Abraham and free safety Chris Crocker and signing strong safety Lawyer Milloy and nose tackle Grady Jackson.

Carolina swept Atlanta last year, rushing 72 times for 371 yards and three touchdowns. DeShaun Foster, who had 296 yards against the Falcons, will share snaps this season with first-round draft choice DeAngelo Williams.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
</td> <!--END STORY//--> </tr> <tr> </tr><tr><td align="left">
?Copyright 2006 / WDUN News/Talk 550.</td></tr></tbody></table>


EOG Master
Re: Atlanta Falcons Info Thread

Receiver Jenkins poised to break out
Third-year player could become Falcons' go-to end

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 09/08/06 Flowery Branch ? Michael Jenkins has waited for his career to blossom.
The first-round pick in 2004, is set to enter his third season. That's a key year for wide receivers.
<!--endtext--><!--endclickprintinclude--><table align="left" border="0" cellpadding="2" cellspacing="0" width="175"><tbody><tr><td>
Rich Addicks / AJC
</td></tr><tr><td class="caption">'There is no pressure. I just know that I need to step it up.' MICHAEL JENKINS Falcons receiver
</td></tr></tbody></table><!--startclickprintinclude--><!--begintext--> Jenkins showed flashes during the exhibition season. He rose up to make a nice touchdown catch against New England and had another touchdown catch against Tennessee before sitting out the finale with the rest of the starters.
"I think when you look at receivers, especially ones going into their third year, the first year they probably played a little bit of offense and probably played on special teams," Falcons receivers coach George Stewart said. "Most guys, in the second year, they probably played more offense so they had a chance to see defenses, understand the quarterback and understand the system. And in that third year, they know the system."
Some of the league's top receivers ? Terrell Owens, Steve Smith, Keyshawn Johnson, Eric Moulds and Javon Walker ? did not have their first 1,000-yard receiving year until their third seasons.
Some of the other top receivers ? Marvin Harrison, Muhsin Muhammad, Hines Ward and Reggie Wayne ? didn't break out until their fourth seasons.
"There is no pressure," Jenkins said. "I just know that I need to step it up. I'm just putting pressure on myself. No outside pressure, but I want to step up and be an integral part of our offense."
The process of developing wide receivers has become more complicated over the last 10 years with the defensive advent of combination zones, reading routes on the run and zone blitzes.
"There are organizations that say we will not draft a wide receiver in the first round just because the learning curve has become so long now," said Bily Devaney, the Falcons' senior personnel executive. "The physical part is fine. That's the easy part of the game. ... The mental part of it has become so challenging. Picking up the mental part just takes more time."
Jenkins made a big leap from year one to year two when he went from seven catches to 36 and from 119 yards to 508. Another such leap would give him a shot to become the first Falcons receiver to surpass the 1,000-yard mark since Terance Mathis did it in 1999 with 1,016 yards.
"I honestly think this year is going to be Michael Jenkins' year, to go out and show everybody what he can do," Falcons quarterback Michael Vick said.
Vick, who has relied heavily on tight end Alge Crumpler as his top target, has watched Jenkins' development with anticipation.
"You got to give them confidence," Vick said. "You've got to get them the ball and give him a chance to make some plays so that he'll feel good about himself. By doing that, throughout the spring and training camp, he's been able to make a tremendous amount of progress."
Jenkins was named a starter during the 2005 exhibition season, pushing Peerless Price out the door. He caught 20 passes in the first eight games last season. He missed two games with an ankle injury before catching 16 more passes over the last six games.
With the Falcons' run-heavy version of the West Coast offense, it's unlikely that Jenkins will get enough passes to eclipse the 1,000-yard receiving mark. Don't expect the Falcons to scrap the run game and become "Air Mora."
Mora said the offensive scheme is suited for a 1,000-yard receiver, but doesn't think the team necessarily needs one.
"I don't know the statistics on who wins how many games with 1,000-yard receivers, but I do know that statistically over the last five or six years that the teams that have been able to run the ball consistently have a higher winning percentage," Mora said. "The thing I think you strive for is balance more than anything else."
So in this offense, Jenkins' may have to measure his production in other ways.
"When you look at Brian Finneran a year ago, he had 50 catches," Stewart said. "Again, you give Michael Jenkins 50 catches and that would be excellent for Michael Jenkins."

You can't argue with Rich McKay's overall draft record. He selected most of the Tampa Bay team that won Super Bowl XXXVII and Falcons star running back Warrick Dunn. But when it comes to wide receivers the Falcons president and general manager's record is spotty. Here's a look at the wide receivers drafted on McKay's watch:
Tampa Bay
? 1995: None
? 1996: Nilo Silvan, Tennessee, sixth round, (180th overall)
? 1997: Reidel Anthony, Florida, first round (16th); Nigea Carter, Michigan State, sixth round (197th)
? 1998: Jacquez Green, Florida, second round (34th)
? 1999: Darnell McDonald, Kansas State, seventh round (240th overall)
? 2000: None
? 2001: None
? 2002: Marquise Walker, Michigan, third round (86th); Aaron Lockett, Kansas State, seventh round (254th)
? 2003: None
? 2004: Michael Jenkins (below), Ohio State, first round (28th)
? 2005: Roddy White, Alabama-Birmingham, first round (27th)
? 2006: Adam Jennings, Fresno State, sixth round (184th)


EOG Master
Re: Atlanta Falcons Info Thread

Panthers in no rush to swagger
NFC runners-up know expectations are high

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 09/08/06 Charlotte ? Forget stealth for these Panthers.
They're on everyone's radar to go to the Super Bowl, maybe even win it. For Carolina safety Mike Minter, whose current streak of 78 regular-season starts began with 14 straight losses in 2001, the high profile is just fine.
<!--endtext--><!--endclickprintinclude--><table align="left" border="0" cellpadding="2" cellspacing="0" width="175"></table><!--startclickprintinclude--><!--begintext--> "I'm sick of coming in an underdog," Minter said. "I love for people to be talking about us in a good light.
"Our expectations are here," he said, putting his hand above his head, "and we're going to live up to it."
Besides, being picked to do well "beats the alternative," defensive end Al Wallace said.
The Panthers' preseason stock may be high, but head coach John Fox doesn't put much stock in it.
"Those are just words," Fox said. "It's not reality. The last time I looked, the Lombardi Trophy was in Pittsburgh. It's not here. You've got to earn that. You've got to win the game to do it, so it means nothing, actually."
The first four weeks could mean everything as the Panthers face three division rivals. After opening with Atlanta, they go to Minnesota and then return to division play against Tampa Bay and New Orleans.
"Hopefully, a month from now we can say, 'OK, maybe we are the frontrunner right now,'?" offensive tackle Jordan Gross said. "Until then, we're the same as everybody else."
Gross said the exalted expectations don't even cross his mind "unless you ask questions about it. [Then it's] like, 'Oh yeah, people think we might be good.' "
Quarterback Jake Delhomme simply sticks to the standard "one week at a time."
"I know that's boring," he said, "but that's the truth in this league. You look too far ahead and you're going to get your behind beat on Sunday."
Delhomme said the schedule can be deceptive. When he looked at last year's, he picked out a couple of tough games that turned out to be easy.
"You want to start fast and finish strong," he said.
The Panthers petered out last year in a 34-14 loss to Seattle in the NFC championship game.
"I'm sure [the Falcons] are just like us," Wallace said. "When you kind of end the season in a way that you don't care for, it leaves a taste in your mouth throughout the offseason."
Then talk of a return trip to the Super Bowl ? Carolina lost 32-29 to New England three seasons ago ? started ringing in their ears.
"It's hanging out there," said linebacker Chris Draft, a former Falcon. "You can't really go anywhere without people talking about it."
Despite hearing they should be fitted for Super Bowl rings, the Panthers have no swagger.
"Absolutely not," Wallace said. "Anyone who knows this team, knows our personality and knows our owner and our head coach, there is no swagger, and that's the reason why we've been successful. Nobody is going to put themselves above the team, or in the case of having this team being predicted to win the Super Bowl, above any other team in the league. That would be disrespectful to the other 31 teams. Everybody's undefeated right now."
But he added, "That'll all change on Sunday."


EOG Master
Re: Atlanta Falcons Info Thread

Smith stung by Hall's pregame trash talk

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 09/07/06 Charlotte ? Even if Carolina wide receiver Steve Smith doesn't play Sunday because of a bad hamstring, DeAngelo Hall has already hit him hard.
Smith, who did not practice Wednesday and is listed as "questionable," listened stonefaced in the locker room as someone read aloud the trash-talking comments made by Hall, the Falcons cornerback. The two had been known as close friends and had dinner last year before a game.
<!--endtext--><!--endclickprintinclude--><table align="left" border="0" cellpadding="2" cellspacing="0" width="175"><tbody><tr><td>
</td></tr><tr><td class="caption">Panthers receiver Steve Smith is nursing a hamstring injury and may miss Sunday's game.
</td></tr></tbody></table><!--startclickprintinclude--><!--begintext--> Smith appeared genuinely hurt by Hall's quotes, then struck back as his competitive side kicked in.
"When you're the court jester and you're talking to the king, you've got to do stuff like that," Smith said. "Other than that, I'm not going to play games with little kids."
Smith said he wasn't surprised by what Hall said, but later pulled aside a reporter and asked, "Why would he do that?"
In Wednesday's Journal-Constitution, Hall said he didn't think Smith, who scored on an 18-yard touchdown pass on his watch last year, had that much success when he was defending him.
"If I got to put friendships on hold, or whatever, end them, that's cool," Hall said. "This is a business. You best believe, when he's hanging in the air, I will be taking a shot at him."
What did Smith think about those fighting words? "Don't answer it!" yelled out teammate Keyshawn Johnson.
"No, that's all right," Smith said. "This is a business. That's the way football is. I'm happy he's grown up and realized that."
Smith said he's having fun playing a kid's game then suddenly took his own shots at Hall.
"I find it real comedy that I guess when you're on the top you have a lot of people trying to knock you down," Smith said. "Some people are lower than others on the totem pole by age, performance and talk. ...
"When you talk, you obviously are insecure about something, and if you talk long enough, you'll hang yourself. And obviously he pointed out things that are in his craw, they're in his collar. ... I guess that last play [the touchdown] has been real significant to him."
How will Hall's bulletin-board material affect their friendship?
"Like he said, it ends, doesn't it?" Smith said. "This ain't no relationship."
He said his only relationships are with God and his wife.
"This is immature," Smith said. "I don't play immature games."
Smith said Hall wouldn't be a factor in whether he plays. Smith had been bothered by his left hamstring and tweaked his right hamstring on a deep route during Tuesday's closed practice.
"If you think one guy can make me decide if I'm going to play or not, you're checking the wrong oil," Smith said. "No man is more valuable than injury or any of that stuff. If that's the kind of game he's trying to play, he's barking up the wrong tree, because this is a big tree."
Carolina coach John Fox said he'll see how Smith looks today and that the wide receiver is in "great physical condition" despite not playing in the four exhibition victories.
"One thing's for sure," Fox said, "we've handled it pretty well up to now."
The Panthers' depth at wide receiver now includes Johnson, who calls himself "one of the all-time greats at the position."
Johnson, who was acquired as a free agent in March after being released by Dallas, joked that the headlines today would shout, "Steve Smith Not Here! Panthers Doomed!"
The two wide receivers have not been on the field at the same time in a game, or even in a scrimmage.
"I think when it happens, it'll be fun," Johnson said. "Hopefully he's playing possum."
Added quarterback Jake Delhomme, "I kind of know what kind of guy [Smith] is. I expect to see him out there on Sunday."


EOG Master
Re: Atlanta Falcons Info Thread

Hall drops debate with Smith

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 09/08/06 Flowery Branch ? The verbal jousting between Falcons cornerback DeAngelo Hall and Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith came to an end Thursday when Hall, through a team spokesman, declined interview requests.
Hall's decision not to speak to media was his own, football communications manager Ted Crews said.
<!--endtext--><!--endclickprintinclude--><table align="left" border="0" cellpadding="2" cellspacing="0" width="175"><tbody><tr><td>
Curtis Compton / AJC
</td></tr><tr><td class="caption"> Kevin Mathis, coming back from knee surgery, could be used in both nickel and dime coverage this week.
</td></tr></tbody></table><!--startclickprintinclude--><!--begintext--> Hall and Smith, who were good enough friends to have dinner the night before last season's game at Carolina, exchanged words through the press Tuesday and Wednesday that could have put a strain ? at best ? on their relationship.
"This ain't no relationship," Smith said Wednesday, in response to remarks by Hall that he might have to suspend or end friendships for the Falcons to get to the Super Bowl.
Mathis available for nickel coverage
Safety Kevin Mathis could be used in nickel and dime pass coverages in addition to playing on some special teams.
The Falcons initially planned to use rookie cornerback Jimmy Williams as the nickel corner and starting cornerback Jason Webster as the slot defender in the nickel coverage. With Mathis making a healthy return from season-ending knee surgery, he said he has practiced as the slot defender in nickel coverage.
"That's the plan now," Mathis said. "We'll see as the week progresses. I feel comfortable there. I've played there since I've been here."
Falcons coach Jim Mora said they haven't finalized the nickel, but said Mathis will have a role on the defense.
"We'll try to find ways to utilize every player," Mora said.
Webster rests but will start
Webster did not practice because of a chronically sore left foot, but he will start against the Panthers, Mora said. Webster has been bothered by a sore foot since the start of training camp, but with rest he has been able to play in games and practice most of the time.
"It's only precautionary," Mora said of resting Webster. "It's nothing other than he needs a little rest. He's fine to play. He's going to play."
Jackson likely out of Game 1 rotation
Although rookie nose tackle Tommy Jackson earned a roster spot, he likely won't be in the rotation Sunday because the team can have only 45 active players. Mora said he plans to alternate Grady Jackson and Darrell Shropshire at nose tackle, with Jackson playing in run situations and Shropshire playing against the pass.
"If we could suit up all 53, then we would probably try to rotate three, through," Mora said. "Two's fine. We're good with two."


EOG Master
Re: Atlanta Falcons Info Thread

Fast Falcons got even faster
Team's starters speedy as any group in NFL

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 09/07/06 Flowery Branch ? Speed: It can't be coached and, in the world of athletics, it can be lethal.
The Falcons have stockpiled so much of it that they can go two-players into nearly every offensive skill position and not miss a step. In fact, they could actually get faster the deeper they go into the depth chart.
<!--endtext--><!--endclickprintinclude--><table align="left" border="0" cellpadding="2" cellspacing="0" width="175"></table><!--startclickprintinclude--><!--begintext--> Tailback Warrick Dunn, quarterback Michael Vick and wide receivers Michael Jenkins and Roddy White already give the Falcons as much speed as any starting group in the NFL. Dunn (5.1) and Vick (5.9) were among the league leaders in yards per carry average.
The boost in acceleration comes from backup tailback Jerious Norwood and No. 3 wide receiver Ashley Lelie, who replaced T.J. Duckett (trade to Washington) and Brian Finneran (season-ending knee injury), respectively. Duckett and Finneran were reliable, but neither were considered big-play threats like Norwood and Lelie. Factor in the expected use of fleet-footed cornerback DeAngelo Hall at wide receiver and defenses might have to add some premium unleaded to keep up.
"We've got a lot of home-run hitters on our offense now," White (15.4 yards per catch in 2005) said. "One play and it could be six on the board. I don't know how you defend it. I'm hoping we're about to go out and score 35, 40 points a game because of the speed we have on offense.
"I'm just hoping we mesh together and hit a lot of home runs this year. It's a lot of pressure on the defense. We just have to go out and perform. If we don't go out and perform, it doesn't matter how much speed you have."
Lelie's 17.9 yards per catch average since coming into the NFL in 2002, is tops in the league in that time frame. He led the NFL in yards per catch (18.3) last season. Norwood, the fastest running back at the NFL draft combine, averaged 7.2 yards per carry (30) in the preseason and raced 62 yards for a touchdown against Tennessee, leaving the Titans' fastest defenders in his wake.
"You can game plan it and go out and try to defend it but we have a lot of guys with a lot of speed and it puts a lot of pressure on teams to go out and try to defend us," Dunn said. "Teams have to always be on point and be exact. We do have a lot of potential for big plays. As athletes, you want to make big plays but we really just want to secure the ball and then try to make something happen, but not try to overdo it. Hopefully, we make a catch and a guy can make a play by using his speed to score a touchdown."
Carolina coach John Fox, whose team plays host to the Falcons on Sunday in both teams' regular-season opener, said the depth and speed Atlanta has accumulated has got his attention, but he thinks the Panthers can handle it.
"They've definitely added some weapons on offense," Fox said. "We've got some pretty good speed here too."
Every team has fast players on both sides of the ball. Where the Falcons feel they hold an advantage is in sheer numbers. On any given play, Vick, Dunn, Jenkins, White, Lelie and/or Hall and Norwood, could be on the field.
Does any defense have up to six players that can keep up?
"You can do different plays that will get guys involved," Vick said. "You can decoy one guy and try to get the ball to another playmaker. You can have them in the game at the same time. Those are things we're going to be able to do with Warrick and Jerious.
"With the receiving corps and the things they're able to do, I think our vertical package is going to be 10 times better than it was a couple years ago. We just have options. It gives coaches the opportunity to put us in position to be successful and make plays. I can't say you can't coach against it but it's going to be very hard to stop."


EOG Master
Re: Atlanta Falcons Info Thread

Brooking likely back at middle linebacker

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 09/07/06 Flowery Branch ? Falcons middle linebacker Ed Hartwell was listed as doubtful for Sunday's regular-season opener at Carolina, and the probability remains that the team will open the season with the same linebacker unit it finished with last season.
Coach Jim Mora and players were non-committal. However, there were no denials that Keith Brooking could start at middle linebacker, where he spent 11 games last season after Hartwell tore his Achilles tendon.
<!--endtext--><!--endclickprintinclude--><table align="left" border="0" cellpadding="2" cellspacing="0" width="175"></table><!--startclickprintinclude--><!--begintext--> Brooking hoped to remain at his regular weakside linebacker spot entering the season, but when Hartwell had arthroscopic surgery on both knees to remove loose debris last week, the Falcons began shuffling their linebackers in the likelihood Hartwell couldn't play.
Demorrio Williams, who was to back up Brooking, is expected to start at weakside linebacker. Michael Boley will remain at strongside linebacker in any scenario.
"I don't think it's a concern," Williams said. "This year we're going to be a better unit. Guys know how guys play and how we fit off each other."
Linebacker Jordan Beck, who backed up Hartwell in the preseason, said Monday he was told he would not start and would play special teams.
Backup fullback Fred McCrary, questionable with a sprained left foot, was the only other player listed on the injury report.
Lineman defends blocking scheme
Falcons offensive linemen, who have gone back into their shells after talking freely during the offseason and training camp, don't have many fans in Carolina.
The group, which fines players who speak to the media other than the league-mandated designated spokesman, have irked Carolina defensive ends Julius Peppers and Mike Rucker. Both suffered ankle injuries as a result of cut blocks by the Falcons in their first meeting last season Dec. 4.
"It's not my favorite [way to block] in the world, but you know it's within the rules," Carolina coach John Fox said in a teleconference Wednesday. "You just have to deal with it."
After Carolina's 24-6 victory, Peppers played the following week, but Rucker missed one game.
"It's just a part of the scheme," said Falcons tackle Wayne Gandy, who was in New Orleans last season and is in his first season in the Falcons' blocking scheme. "It was definitely nothing intentional. That's what this scheme is about, trying to get people on the ground. "
Koenen will tackle if it's necessary
Mora said the Falcons wouldn't order kicker-punter-field goal kicker Michael Koenen to run off the field after he kicks off in order to minimize his exposure to injury.
"Will I tell him not to tackle anybody? No," Mora said. "Michael is a good little athlete. Tough physically and tough mentally."


EOG Master
Re: Atlanta Falcons Info Thread

Hall eagerly awaits rematch with Panthers star

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 09/06/06 Flowery Branch ? No need to worry about whom DeAngelo Hall will be eating dinner with in Carolina this year.
It won't be with Steve Smith.
<!--endtext--><!--endclickprintinclude--><table align="left" border="0" cellpadding="2" cellspacing="0" width="175"><tbody><tr><td>
Streeter Lecka / AJC
</td></tr><tr><td class="caption">Steve Smith burned DeAngelo Hall (above) for a touchdown catch at Carolina last year.
</td></tr></tbody></table><!--startclickprintinclude--><!--begintext--> "I don't think it will happen," Hall said of spending pregame time with Smith, as he did before last season's game in Carolina. "It's a little bit of a different mind frame. Last year, it was a Pro Bowl push. This year, I feel like we need a Super Bowl. Period. If I got to put friendships on hold, or whatever, end them, that's cool. This is a business. You best believe, when he's hanging in the air, I will be taking a shot at him. Period. I'm trying to kill people this year. Period."
On the eve of Carolina's 24-6 home victory last season, the Falcons cornerback ate dinner with the Panthers wide receiver, a close friend.
Smith had dessert the next day at Hall's expense when he caught a quick pass near the sideline and close to the line of scrimmage, just beyond the outstretched hands of Hall, and raced 18 yards for a touchdown to break open what had been a tightly fought, one-point game.
Hall's fraternization with the enemy before an NFC South contest raised eyebrows.
The Falcons open their season at Carolina on Sunday. The third-year Falcons cornerback, who is coming off a six-interception season, said he's going to try to inflict his lethal wounds to the Panthers in three different ways.
"I'll be following [Smith] around in certain situations," Hall, 22, said. "I'll be playing receiver. I'll be back on ... special teams. It's time to let all your weapons show. I'm down."
What won't Hall, owner of the NFL's fastest man title, be doing?
"Probably sitting on the bench," he said.
Hall said he has already grown tired of hearing about how great Smith was last season and how Smith is one of the top receivers in the NFL. The evidence (103 catches, 1,563 yards, 12 touchdowns) bears as much, but Hall is still sick of hearing about it.
"I know he's a good receiver, a great receiver," Hall said. "I didn't think he had much success against me. Period. They weren't trying to go downfield with him at all. They threw a couple little narrow routes. Obviously, he broke that one. Bad tackling. Fluke play. You do it 10 times, I make that play nine times. So besides that one fluke play, the guy didn't have that much success against me."
Smith had seven catches for 65 yards and a touchdown in the 24-6 victory Dec. 4. The two Pro Bowl players didn't face each other in the season finale in Atlanta after Hall separated his shoulder the week before at Tampa Bay.
"I've watched every game he had from last season, from our game to playoff games to games where he had 200 yards receiving," Hall said. "I've watched every little thing he does, picked up some tendencies. We're much more prepared for these guys."
Smith isn't the only player Hall watched on film in the offseason. He has become the consummate NFL gym rat, leaving the Pro Bowl in Honolulu to land at the league's draft combine in Indianapolis for no other reason but to be around coaches and players.
"It wasn't unusual for me to come into my office at 7 in the morning in the offseason and walk past the meeting rooms and find D-Hall with his iPod and his headphones on watching film," coach Jim Mora said. "He really loves football. He knows the college game. He knows the pro game. He loves to talk about it. He loves to play it. He's usually in the middle of every animated argument that players have about anything football-related."
During training camp, he was usually in the middle of any argument.
Whenever fights broke out, Hall was either in the center of them or trying to get into the center of them. Most of his outbursts are chalked up to his unyielding desire to beat everybody at everything.
"There's this ongoing contest between him and Lawyer [Milloy] where they flip Gatorade bottles and see if they can make them land standing up," rookie cornerback Jimmy Williams said. "They'll spend 15 minutes at practice, or however much time there is where we're maybe not doing anything, seeing how many times they can get it to flip in the air and land.
"Any little thing he's a part of, he's either trying to win or be the big head honcho."
Hall derives his drive from anything that could be perceived as a slight.
"Yeah, I'm pretty good, and I can have a mediocre rest of my career and be financially set for life," Hall said. "There is something about being great that has nothing to do with money. It has something to do with that respect factor. With me it ain't about the money. It ain't about the fame. It's more about the respect. Until I get that from everybody, and it probably won't ever happen ? or until it does happen ? it's going to keep me driven or motivated."


EOG Master
Re: Atlanta Falcons Info Thread

Panthers pair double trouble for Falcons
Peppers, Rucker keep Vick in check

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 09/06/06 Charlotte ? As half of one of the NFL's most fearsome duos, Carolina Panthers right defensive end Mike Rucker has a fringe benefit.
"Just to be able to have a front-row seat and see [Julius Peppers]," Rucker said. "He's fighting through double teams, chip blocks. One time I saw him flip right in front of me on a cut block, and he landed on his feet. You're not going to see that too often."
<!--endtext--><!--endclickprintinclude--><table align="left" border="0" cellpadding="2" cellspacing="0" width="175"></table><!--startclickprintinclude--><!--begintext--> "He was in on the tackle, too," recalled Panthers backup defensive end Al Wallace. "Let alone the impressiveness of the flip on the feet, but to have the whereabouts to know where he was and where the running back was ... I will never in my life understand how he's capable of that."
Peppers, for his part, doesn't even remember it. It's just what he does.
Besides, that was 2002, his rookie year, and since then the 6-foot-7, 285-pound left defensive end has expanded his repertoire.
"I just want to be the total package, not a one-trick pony," Peppers said.
The only thing he can't do is cover the whole field, and that's where the 6-5, 275-pound Rucker comes in.
In their four years together, the ends have a combined 73.5 sacks, which rank third in the NFL for sacks by two teammates during that time period.
Peppers was a Pro Bowl starter in 2004 and 2005. He has 274 career tackles while forcing 13 fumbles and has 164 interception return yards. Rucker, who plays on the right, was a Pro Bowl selection in 2003 and is still the team leader in sacks with 47.5, seven more than Peppers.
The Panthers put constant pressure on Falcons quarterback Michael Vick last year in both Carolina victories. Peppers and Rucker kept Vick hemmed in, and Peppers sacked him once in the first game.
Can they handle Vick again? "I think if we play how I think we can, we should be able to," said Peppers, who in 2004 snagged a Vick fumble in midair and returned it 60 yards for a touchdown.
Although Peppers will line up against offensive guard Todd Weiner, the ultimate matchup is Peppers vs. Vick.
"The two most unusual athletes in the league, in terms of what they can do, are Mike Vick and Julius Peppers," Falcons coach Jim Mora said. "I think there are a ton of great athletes in the NFL, but those two, you just look at them and say, 'How is that guy doing that?' Mike Rucker is an outstanding player as well."
Wayne Gandy, who played the past three years for the New Orleans Saints, will face Rucker.
"He's a versatile end," said Gandy, "which means he plays the run and the pass equally."
The two ends will have a bolstered line thanks to the return of Kris Jenkins, who was injured the first week of last season, and the addition of Maake Kemoeatu.
"Literally, you choose your poison," Wallace said, "and what we have in the middle with size is going to make what [Peppers and Rucker are] able to do just deadly this year."
Wallace, who is "proud to be their third wheel here on the DL," says of Rucker, "There's probably not a better technician in the league at doing what he's supposed to do."
Rucker has tried to share his knowledge with Peppers, just as Reggie White, Chuck Smith, Sean Gilbert and Eric Swann did with him.
"It's like a fraternity," Rucker said. "You try to pass it along.
"The funny thing about it is the sky's the limit for him. He's got so much more room to blow stuff out of the water."
Jordan Gross, the Panthers' right tackle, has the unenviable task of facing Peppers each week in practice.
"I know that it can't get worse," he said, "than when I'm going against Pep."


EOG Master
Re: Atlanta Falcons Info Thread

<table border="0" cellpadding="2" cellspacing="0" width="100%"><tbody><tr><td align="left" valign="top"> Updated Thursday, September 7 at 11:20 PM

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Falcons have deep dislike for Panthers

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Late in a meaningless preseason game last month, Carolina's public address announcer identified Marcus Vick as Miami's punt returner.

The crowd erupted in boos. No, they had nothing against this Vick, but because his older brother Michael is Charlotte's top sports villain, he felt the wrath too.

On Sunday, Michael Vick returns with the Atlanta Falcons in what has become the Carolina Panthers' biggest rivalry game.

``They schedule for entertainment and what a better way to start the season off than with a divisional rival, a nea<table align="left" border="0" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" width="130"><tbody><tr><td colspan="2">
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</td><td rowspan="4">
</td></tr><tr><td>``I think first and foremost you have to be competitive with the teams in your division,''</td><td>
</td></tr><tr><td align="right">Jim Mora</td><td>
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</td></tr></tbody></table>rby rival, and Michael Vick and the gang coming to town?'' Panthers defensive end Al Wallace said. ``If we're going to be good, let's start off with a great team. Let's both test ourselves and see where we're at.''

Vick and the Falcons used to be the Panthers' biggest obstacle as Atlanta won 12 of 14 meetings between 1998 and 2004.

But last year the Panthers finally found a way to contain Vick. Carolina won both games, including a 44-11 rout in the finale that ended a seven-game losing streak in Atlanta and a five-game skid when Vick played against the Panthers.

The Falcons, who had been eliminated from the playoff race a week earlier, put up little resistance. Vick threw for only 115 yards, had one carry for no gain and was sacked three times.

It meant no more questions why the Panthers can't beat the Falcons.

``Yeah, I'd say that's probably a change. We can spend a little more time getting into some other things,'' Carolina coach John Fox said.

The animosity between the teams heated up in the first week of training camp, when Carolina linebacker Chris Draft took a shot at Vick. Throw in some trash talking between Smith and Atlanta cornerback DeAngelo Hall, and it's not your normal season opener.

``You've got a team that's just a few hours away, a rival, a team that you play twice a year, it's fun,'' Panthers defensive end Mike Rucker said. ``It's fun when the fans get hyped and the players get hyped.''

Hall took some grief from his teammates for having dinner with Smith the night before the first meeting between the teams in December, which included Smith beating him for the decisive touchdown in Carolina's 24-6 win.

Hall said his friendship with Smith is on hold, telling the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: ``Besides that one fluke play, the guy didn't have that much success against me.''

Smith indicated the relationship isn't on hold it's over.

``When you talk you're obviously insecure about something and if you talk long enough, you will hang yourself,'' said Smith, who is questionable with a sore right hamstring. ``If that's the kind of game he's trying to play, he's barking up the wrong tree because this is a big tree.''

Draft brought up facing his former team in the season opener two days into training camp. Later he was asked to respond to Vick's comments in USA Today that he didn't give a full effort against the Panthers in last season's finale.

``One of his big problems is people want to tell him how great he is,'' said Draft, who spent five seasons with Atlanta before signing with Carolina last year. ``Mike is just being Mike. Well, Mike being Mike is just running, being an all-right passer, and Mike gets hit a lot. If they want to let Mike be Mike, we'll take that.''

Vick was curt when asked to respond this week.

``Maybe he is right. I'll listen to Chris Draft,'' he said.

The Panthers scored on their first six possessions in the season finale last year and held the Falcons, the league's top rushing team, to 26 yards on the ground. Carolina rushed for a team-record 229 yards, with DeShaun Foster going for 165 as the Panthers tuned up for a playoff run that ended with a loss in the NFC championship game.

It led the Falcons to overhaul their defensive line, trading with the Jets for end John Abraham and signing tackle Grady Jackson from Green Bay.

``I think first and foremost you have to be competitive with the teams in your division,'' Falcons coach Jim Mora said. ``You have to keep an eye on what they're doing and make sure that your talent base matches up with the teams you need to beat in your division. I would hope that we would be stronger versus the run.''

After last season's embarrassing conclusion, several Falcons are welcoming a chance to open the season against the Panthers.

``My record is pretty good against Carolina since I came in the league in '98. Last year, they got us. In the league, it's what have you done for me lately,'' linebacker Keith Booking said. ``They deserve the right to talk trash. They can have some arrogance and confidence. They've proven it. They deserve it. They have that right.

``I don't mind being the underdog.''

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
</td> <!--END STORY//--> </tr> <tr> </tr><tr><td align="left">
?Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved.</td></tr></tbody></table>


EOG Master
Re: Atlanta Falcons Info Thread

Falcons sign DE help
Ex-UGA player Josh Mallard brought back

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 09/12/06 The Falcons signed defensive end Josh Mallard, one of the team's final preseason cuts, in a series of moves Monday. The transaction could signal that there is concern about the availability of defensive end John Abraham for Sunday's home opener against Tampa Bay.
Abraham suffered a groin injury late in Sunday's 20-6 victory at Carolina.
<!--endtext--><!--endclickprintinclude--><table align="left" border="0" cellpadding="2" cellspacing="0" width="175"></table><!--startclickprintinclude--><!--begintext--> Mallard, who played collegiately at Georgia, had a solid exhibition season but was released in favor of undrafted rookie Paul Carrington. With Abraham's playing status unclear and left starting defensive end Patrick Kerney sustaining a strained right triceps against Carolina, Mallard would provide depth as Carrington would be the only remaining defensive end on the roster.
The Falcons also re-signed nose tackle Tommy Jackson, but placed him on the practice squad. Jackson was released Saturday to create a roster spot for the activation of backup fullback Kevin Dudley, who was waived from the active roster Monday to make room for Mallard and signed to the practice squad. Kicker Tony Yelk was released from the practice squad.


EOG Master
Re: Atlanta Falcons Info Thread

Abraham's status uncertain

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 09/12/06 Flowery Branch ? Falcons defensive end John Abraham attended a team meeting Monday morning then, as fast and as cautiously as he could, made his way to the training room, where he spent much of the day ? where he'll spend much of this week ? treating a groin injury.
No information was provided about the injury, which occurred late in Atlanta's 20-6 victory at Carolina on Sunday, or Abraham's playing status for this week's home opener against Tampa Bay, by coach Jim Mora at his Monday news conference. Also, no update was provided later in the day, although medical tests, including an MRI exam, had been administered and discussions had taken place among team officials and coaches.
<!--endtext--><!--endclickprintinclude--><table align="left" border="0" cellpadding="2" cellspacing="0" width="175"></table><!--startclickprintinclude--><!--begintext--> Abraham was unavailable for comment.
"I don't have anything to update you on, unfortunately," Mora said. "It's all speculation because I don't know the extent of the injury right now."
Defensive end Patrick Kerney, who strained his right triceps, said Monday that he would not miss any playing time. Kerney said he spoke to Abraham and was given every indication that he would play against Tampa Bay.
"I expect Abe to go," Kerney said. "This morning he was the same situation that I'm in, feeling light years better than he thought he would. Both of us were not feeling good [Sunday]. Both of us, [Monday] morning, came in and said, 'Wow, we feel a heck of a lot better than we thought we would.' "
The Falcons do not have to file an injury report with the NFL until after practice Wednesday. Injury reports don't always reflect a player's status, as they could be listed as questionable or doubtful for much of the week then upgraded or downgraded just before kickoff.
Abraham, who put forth one of the more complete individual performances by a defensive player in recent Falcons history against the Panthers (five tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles), most likely would be withheld if his injury is not fully healed. Also, he won't play if there is a chance the injury could be aggravated and keep him from playing for an extended period.
Abraham, the Falcons' big offseason acquisition (three-team trade with the Jets and Denver), missed nine games with New York in 2003 after injuring his groin and aggravating it when he tried to return too soon. It was not disclosed if this injury is similar in location and severity.
If Abraham can't play, second-year end Chauncey Davis, who started five games last season and now plays on run downs in Atlanta's three-man rotation at defensive end, would start. Davis was forced into extensive action as a rookie last season when pass-rushing right end Brady Smith injured his thigh and foot.
"Last year I played against Tampa, and I know what they're going to do, so now it's just going in and concentrating and getting ready, not knowing if [Abraham] is going to play or not," Davis said. "I'm more experienced than I was last year. I see things more. I understand it more. Going into this game, I'm going to be ready."
The Falcons' decision to keep only three defensive ends active at Carolina was the reason Abraham was on the field with 1:52 left in the game when he got hurt. Kerney already was sidelined with his arm injury.
Kerney said tests showed that he did not tear any tissue in his right triceps. He said he was injured on the Falcons' first defensive play.
"I stepped and punched to get off the block, chucked the guy, and based upon that heave, a bomb goes off inside that muscle," Kerney said. "I tried to play the second play and realized that the arm wasn't going to be a whole lot of use to me. I came back, but it's not going to be on my highlight film."


EOG Master
Re: Atlanta Falcons Info Thread

As coaches will, Mora sees errors

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 09/12/06 While pleased with the season-opening 20-6 victory over Carolina, Falcons coach Jim Mora found several imperfections in the gem of a performance.
Mora planned to point out those shortcomings to the Falcons, who had a conditioning day on Monday.
<!--endtext--><!--endclickprintinclude--><table align="left" border="0" cellpadding="2" cellspacing="0" width="175"></table><!--startclickprintinclude--><!--begintext--> He was particularly perturbed by the lack of points and the need to settle for four field goal attempts, a missed field goal, a tipped field goal and not holding Carolina's kickoff returner DeAngelo Williams inside the 20.
"You don't want to ignore those things when you have what you think is a nice win on the road because they can come back to haunt you if you just gloss over them," Mora said. "We are going to pay a lot of attention to those things."
Michael Koenen's 50-yard field goal attempt on the Falcons' first possession was wide right. The snap from new long-snapper Boone Stutz appeared a little low.
"It was a good snap," Mora said. "It wasn't just right in the hands, but it was good. The operation is fine. He just pushed it a little bit. I'm sure he was nervous like everybody. He'll be fine."
Before the attempt, the Falcons were set to punt from Carolina's 37-yard line, but Maake Kemoeatu was called for running into the punter, a 5-yard penalty. Koenen then slid into field goal kicker mode.
"We laughed about it on the sideline because it was kind of comical," Mora said. "I don't know that it can get any worse than that."
Later in the first quarter, Koenen made a 25-yard field goal after the drive stalled at Carolina's 7-yard line. He made a 32-yarder in the second quarter after the drive stalled at Carolina's 14.
With 3:55 left in the second quarter, his 50-yard field goal attempted was tipped by Julius Peppers.
Williams returned kickoffs 22, 24 and 18 yards. Koenen also had one touchback.
Hartwell says he'll
play home opener
Middle linebacker Ed Hartwell, who had surgeries on both knees on Aug. 28, told Mora that he expected to be ready for the home opener against Tampa Bay.
Mora and Hartwell also decided that he should not travel with the team to Carolina and risk his knees swelling while sitting on the airplane.
"At that point he indicated to me that he'll be ready to go," Mora said. "Of course that's a player who's got his juices flowing and is ready to go. I think what we have to do ... is wait until Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and see where he is before we decide."
Linemen rotated
to remain fresh
Les Snead, the Falcons director of pro personnel, kept a play count on the defensive linemen. The Falcons were rotating Jonathan Babineaux and Darrell Shropshire in for Grady Jackson and Rod Coleman. Chauncey Davis took over for Patrick Kerney after he injured his triceps.
"We paid close attention to them because we wanted to make sure that when we got down the stretch that we had enough guys that were fresh and ready to play," Mora said. "Just the fact that we were able to do that indicates that we have confidence in [Shropshire, Babineaux and Davis] to play."
Williams hits mark on special teams
Jimmy Williams, the Falcons second-round draft pick, played sparingly with Jason Webster starting at right cornerback and Kevin Mathis playing nickel back.
Williams made a specials teams tackle.
"Jimmy had a prominent role on special teams," Mora said. "It's just that we were fortunate that [Mathis] came back strong, and we were able to leave [Webster] at corner.
"It could all change this week. It really could. You take it on a game-by-game basis. We have ton of confidence in Jimmy.
"You're going to see a lot of No. 24 out there."


EOG Master
Re: Atlanta Falcons Info Thread

Mathis masters comebacks

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 09/13/06 Flowery Branch ? Kevin Mathis has pulled himself off the football scrap heap before.
When he suffered a devastating knee injury last September, most thought his career was over. His comeback was written off before the surgeon's scalpel was sterilized.
<!--endtext--><!--endclickprintinclude--><table align="left" border="0" cellpadding="2" cellspacing="0" width="175"><tbody><tr><td><table bgcolor="#cccccc" border="0" cellpadding="1" cellspacing="0" width="170"><tbody><tr><td><table bgcolor="#ffffff" border="0" cellpadding="9" cellspacing="0" width="168"><tbody><tr><td class="body">MORE COVERAGE
? Falcons sign DE Mallard
</td></tr></tbody></table></td></tr></tbody></table></td></tr></tbody></table><!--startclickprintinclude--><!--begintext--> But if his play against Carolina on Sunday was any indication, Mathis, a 10-year veteran, might be able to play as long as he wants.
Playing in the Falcons' nickel defense, Mathis had six tackles, three passes defensed and a forced fumble in the 20-6 victory over the Panthers.
"It was so great to be out there and to be a part of the team," Mathis said.
His injury occurred in practice during the second week of last season. He tore the ACL and the lateral collateral ligament in his left knee.
Through the latest comeback, Mathis' staunchest supporter was Falcons coach Jim Mora, who never doubted that Mathis would return.
"Not with him; he's too tenacious," Mora said. "I wasn't surprised."
For Mathis, it was his second time down that comeback road. His first trip was much more serious than recovering from reconstructive knee surgery.
While a member of the New Orleans Saints, he injured his neck and spine while making a tackle on Washington's Ki-Jana Carter on Dec. 20, 2001. He lost feeling in his legs and arms.
"I hurt my neck, and they said I wouldn't play again," Mathis said. "Coming back from the knee injury, they said I wouldn't play again, but ultimately the Lord has the final word."
After starting 29 of 30 games in two seasons with the Saints, Mathis failed the team's physical and was set to retire.
"I had two bulging discs, and I had, I forgot what they call it, but I was paralyzed for a [short period]," Mathis said. "They said I wouldn't play again."
He decided to retire and was ready to get on with his life's work. After being physically cleared by a doctor, however, he decided, after consulting some friends, to accept an invitation to work out for the Falcons.
"I talked to Michael Irvin, who had a similar injury, and he told me that I could play with it," said Mathis, who broke into the league with the Dallas Cowboys in 1997. "He told me that he would have played with it if he was younger like I was. He advised me to keep going."
Once in Georgia for the tryout, Mathis got cold feet and thought that he probably should give up the game.
"I kind of got scared for a minute, so I called Deion [Sanders]," Mathis said. "I said 'Man, I don't know if this is what I need to be doing. I don't know if I'm ready.' He just told me don't worry about it, the Lord is going to take care of it."
When it was time to battle back from the knee injury, Mathis relied on the resolve that got him through the neck injury.
"The key in getting over injuries is going out there; like they told me, they fixed the injury," Mathis said. "They fixed the knee. Now it's up to you to go out there and play like it's fixed."
After his most extensive action since the 2004 season, when he started 12 of 15 games ? Mathis missed last season's opener after getting into a pregame fight with Philadelphia's Jeremiah Trotter ? the knee was fine.
"No swelling or anything after the game," Mathis said. "No stiffness."
While rookie Jimmy Williams received most of the work as the team's fifth defensive back in the exhibition season, the Falcons monitored Mathis closely. When it was time to play games that counted, the coaches wanted Mathis on the field.
"He's a tough kid," Mora said. "He's what you want on defense. He goes after people when he tackles them. I noticed that. I saw him attack the ball carrier a few times. He's just a heady little ball player who has toughness. It's fun to have him back."


EOG Master
Re: Atlanta Falcons Info Thread

Time for an early gut check

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 09/12/06 Flowery Branch ? John Abraham's groin hurts. Nobody can be certain how much it hurts because he was locked in the Falcons' training room Monday and predictably was unavailable to hovering media vultures, whose job ? and I'm ashamed to admit this ? partly is to obsess about other people's groins.
Now, I'm forced to go out on a limb here, because NFL teams tend to embrace vagueness in their injury reports. So expect the Falcons' injury report this week to list Abraham as "questionable" with "an ailment somewhere south of his nasal cavity."
<!--endtext--><!--endclickprintinclude--><table align="left" border="0" cellpadding="2" cellspacing="0" width="175"></table><!--startclickprintinclude--><!--begintext--> I'm going to make a reasonable guess that Abraham isn't going to play. That's pure speculation, based on a lifetime of watching athletes with pained expressions after something went wrong in areas south of the nasal cavity.
And if Abraham does miss the game? In a sense, the season starts this week.
Injuries happen. Adversity happens. The Falcons are 1-0 following a dominating performance in Carolina. But that's no more impressive than the fact they were 1-0 after an emotional win over Philadelphia last season. We soon learned about the significance of that game and a 6-2 start.
Suddenly, the whole franchise seemed doubled-over with groin issues.
Abraham is hurt. Patrick Kerney is iffy. Ed Hartwell has been absent (although he's pretty much been only a rumor since the Falcons got him). Welcome to the test. What better time to see what substance this team is comprised of?
"Some teams say woe is me," Lawyer Milloy said, "and some teams keep moving."
The Carolina Panthers were all about woe Sunday. They were missing Steve Smith and responded as if somebody robbed them of several vital organs.
The Falcons were floating in woe for much of the second half last season and in the final week went under. Milloy wasn't here a year ago, but he has seen things unravel before. The flip side: He also played for the New England Patriots, whose collective resolve, toughness and discipline have done more to lead that team to three Super Bowl titles than any single player on the roster, Tom Brady included.
So it follows that when Milloy was asked about how significant injuries can sometimes create doubts in a locker room, he responded like somebody questioned his manhood: "Does it look like I care?"
Well, no. And please don't punch me.
"Obviously we want [Abraham] out there, but if he's not we've got guys ready to go," said Milloy, who's rapidly becoming the pulse of the defense. "This league is a league of opportunity. The real stars go in when the starters go down. Drew Bledsoe goes down and Tom Brady has probably the best five years in NFL history. That's part of being a pro. You don't sit back and eat popcorn and watch John Abraham sack the quarterback. You should be sitting back and watching some of his moves in case things like that happen. If you perform well, you might have his spot.
"We're a unit. Injuries happen. That's part of the makeup of a champion."
In his first game with the Falcons, Abraham only had one of the single greatest performances of any defensive player in franchise history. He had two sacks, two forced fumbles and constantly was around the quarterback and/or the ball. The Falcons' defensive line might be the best in the league. When healthy.
Great players can't be replaced. But neither can a team react like it's a kitchen table with a leg cut off. Falcons coach Jim Mora doesn't know that his team's resilience is bulletproof yet, but believes they're getting there.
"It's a mind-set, but a mind-set born of maturity," he said. "It doesn't just happen if you're playing five rookies. It takes more than a year. It takes more than a game. I don't want to say we're there, that no matter who plays we can overcome. But we're headed in that direction."
This might be the week to gauge how close they are.


EOG Master
Re: Atlanta Falcons Info Thread

Falcons' Abraham questionable

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 09/14/06 Flowery Branch ? Falcons defensive end John Abraham did not practice Wednesday because of a groin injury, the severity of which is not being disclosed by the team. He suffered the injury in the season-opening victory at Carolina and was listed as questionable on the team's injury report for Sunday's home opener against Tampa Bay.
Abraham was named the NFC's defensive player of the week Wednesday, but it remained unclear whether he'd be able to earn the honor a second consecutive time.
<!--endtext--><!--endclickprintinclude--><table align="left" border="0" cellpadding="2" cellspacing="0" width="175"><tbody><tr><td><table bgcolor="#cccccc" border="0" cellpadding="1" cellspacing="0" width="170"><tbody><tr><td><table bgcolor="#ffffff" border="0" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" width="168"><tbody><tr class="railscreen01"><td>Your Turn</td></tr></tbody></table><table bgcolor="#ffffff" border="0" cellpadding="9" cellspacing="0" width="168"><tbody><tr><td> <table border="0" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" width="100%"> <tbody><tr> <td colspan="2">
</td> </tr> </tbody></table> <script language="javascript"> function clickVote() { document.pollForm.buttonClicked.value = "yes"; document.pollForm.PageId.value = "poll_vote_submit"; document.pollForm.submit(); } function alert1(){ document.pollForm.buttonClicked.value = ""; } </script> <form method="post" action="/poll/poll/poll/take_poll/PollRefresh.jsp" name="pollForm"> <input name="PageId" value="poll_vote_submit" type="hidden"> <input name="pollID" value="10662" type="hidden"> <input name="page" value="take" type="hidden"> <table border="0" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" width="100%"> <tbody><tr> <td width="100%"> [FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif][SIZE=-1] Are you worried about the injuries on the defensive line going into the Tampa Bay game? [/SIZE][/FONT] </td> <td align="right" height="15" width="46">
</td> </tr> <tr> <td colspan="2" valign="top"> <input name="choice" value="37766" type="radio"> [FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif][SIZE=-1] Nah, everybody played well against Carolina. [/SIZE][/FONT] </td> </tr> <tr> <td colspan="2" valign="top"> <input name="choice" value="37769" type="radio"> [FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif][SIZE=-1] Yes, because they need Kerney and Abraham out there at full strength. [/SIZE][/FONT] </td> </tr> <tr> <td colspan="2">
</td></tr> <tr> <td align="center" width="100%"> <input value="Vote" name="vote" type="submit">
[FONT=arial,helvetica][SIZE=-2]Voter Limit: Once per Hour
View Poll Results [/SIZE][/FONT] </td> </tr> </tbody></table> </form> </td></tr></tbody></table></td></tr></tbody></table></td></tr></tbody></table><!--startclickprintinclude--><!--begintext--> Several players said they were preparing as if Abraham would not be available. They said they were hopeful he would respond to treatment over the next few days and would play against another NFC South opponent that beat them twice last season, but they felt they would be able to maintain if he is out.
"We're just going to take it day-by-day and see how he feels," coach Jim Mora said.
Abraham was not made available for comment.
Mora said Abraham, who had six tackles, two sacks and two forced fumbles Sunday, has made steady improvement since injuring his groin in the final moments of the game. That improvement, Mora said, has led him to draw no conclusions about Abraham's status this early before kickoff.
Depending on how much Abraham improves, the Falcons medical and coaching staffs would also have to weigh the importance of him playing in the upcoming game against risking further damage that could sideline or limit him for a greater period of time.
Abraham missed nine games in 2003 with a groin injury, most of them after he tried to return from his initial injury.
"Hopefully this is a one-week thing, a two-week thing. Who knows?" linebacker Keith Brooking said of Abraham. "However long it is, very good football teams find a way to get it done, and the young guys relish in the opportunity to make a name for themselves and find a spot in this league.
"I have the confidence we have the depth to do that."
Second-year end Chauncey Davis would start in Abraham's place if he can't play. Davis already plays a substantial amount in running situations in place of Abraham, which allows Abraham to stay fresh to rush the passer. Defensive end Patrick Kerney will start at the other end.
Kerney strained his triceps in his right arm in the first defensive series at Carolina and played just a handful of snaps but said Wednesday he'll be ready to start. How long he'll be able to play remains to be seen.
"I was dong push-ups today, doing manual resistance, and certainly there's no pain running," Kerney said. "It's just a matter of having it as strong as I can on Sunday. I'll know more by Friday for sure how much of an impact I'll be able to have in the run game. I expect it to be to the point where I can play as much as I need to."
Undrafted rookie Paul Carrington and recently signed Josh Mallard will be getting a heavy dose of snaps in practice to prepare. Mora said the Falcons could keep four defensive ends active against Tampa Bay ? they typically only use three ? because of the injuries to the starters and possible durability concerns.
Mora said there is no set pecking order regarding Carrington or Mallard, however, Mallard was cut after the final exhibition game, while Carrington was retained.
"It's the NFL, and if a guy can't go, it's the next man up," Carrington said. "I'll have to be ready. The main thing they liked about me coming out of college was my speed and my motor. That's the main reason they kept me, to play behind John Abraham. It's good having him as a role model. I can learn from him and, hopefully, be a good backup for him."


EOG Master
Re: Atlanta Falcons Info Thread

Receiver White misses practice

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 09/14/06 Flowery Branch ? Falcons wide receiver Roddy White, who had one catch in the season opener against Carolina, missed practice Wednesday because of a hamstring injury.
White, a first-round pick in 2005, missed several practices in training camp with a hamstring injury. Coach Jim Mora expected him to return to practice today.
<!--endtext--><!--endclickprintinclude--><table align="left" border="0" cellpadding="2" cellspacing="0" width="175"><tbody><tr><td>
Curtis Compton / AJC
</td></tr><tr><td class="caption"> Falcons receiver Roddy White (left of Panthers cornerback Chris Gamble) missed Wednesday's practice with a hamstring injury.
</td></tr></tbody></table><!--startclickprintinclude--><!--begintext--> Ashley Lelie, acquired in August in a three-way trade with Washington and Denver, lined up in White's position. Lelie averaged 17.9 yards per catch with the Broncos last season to lead the league. He had one catch for 5 yards in the season opener.
"Once he's comfortable, he'll let us know," quarterback Michael Vick said. "I think getting him out there last week, playing in a couple of different packages, was good for him. We'll just move on from there."
Vick irked by drives stalling in red zone
Vick wasn't pleased with two drives stalling inside the 15 against the Panthers.
"We're not satisfied with getting field goals in the red zone," Vick said. "We did a great job last season, finishing in the top five in the NFL in red-zone efficiency. We still want to live up to that standard."
Buccaneers have something to prove
The Falcons are not putting any stock in the Buccaneers drawing some extra motivation from their 27-0 loss to Baltimore on Sunday.
"Now, you can make a point that they got beat fairly significantly, so they are going to be wired up and fired up," Mora said. "But you know what, our team has something to prove as well. I expect us to play with great intensity as well."
Vick was still impressed with Tampa's defense.
"It can happen to anybody in this league if you don't come to play," Vick said. "Watching the film, the defense played good."
Bucs' Gruden lauds Falcons' run defense
Tampa Bay rushed for 314 yards on 64 carries in two victories over the Falcons last season. But the Bucs are expecting the rushing yards to be tougher to come by against the Falcons' revamped defense.
"Lawyer Milloy is one of the best run-stopping safeties in football," Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden said. "He comes up to splatter you."
Running back Cadillac Williams rushed for 116 yards on Nov. 20 and 150 on Dec. 24 against the Falcons.
"I'm impressed with the way the whole team tackles," Gruden said. "DeAngelo Hall tackles. They are as good of a tackling defense as I've seen so far this early in the season."
Mallard added to practice squad
When the Falcons released Tony Yelk, Michael Koenen was left as the lone kicker with the franchise. With John Abraham and Patrick Kerney listed on the injury report, the Falcons wanted another defensive end on the roster.
They signed Josh Mallard to help in practice.
"With the practice squad, what you'll see is a lot of shuffling on and off, week to week," Mora said. "It could even be day to day."
Yelk may not be gone for long.
"Tony could be back here next week," Mora said. "He might be on a week and off a week. We like Tony, so it really had to do with other things."