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A preview of the Atlanta Falcons 2008 training camp a year after Michael Vick was indicted for his alledged dog fighting sentence
A preview of the Atlanta Falcons 2008 training camp a year after Michael Vick was indicted for his alledged dog fighting sentence

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Published by: armatt on Jul 28, 2008
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Welcome To Flowery Branch

July 26 7:30 a.m., 2:45 p.m. July 27 7:30 a.m., 2:45 p.m. July 28 7:30 a.m. July 29 7:30 a.m. July 30 12:30 p.m. July 31 7:30 a.m. Aug. 1 9:15 a.m., 6:15 p.m. (Mill Creek) Aug. 2 Roam the Dome (11 a.m.) Aug. 4 7:30 a.m. Aug. 5 7:30 a.m. Aug. 6 7:30 a.m. Aug. 7 7:30 a.m. Aug. 8 9:15 a.m.

Aug. 9 Aug. 16 Aug. 22 Aug. 28 at Jacksonville 7:30 p.m. (WATL) Indianapolis 7:30 p.m. (WATL) Tennessee 7:30 p.m. (WATL) at Baltimore 7:00 p.m. (WATL)

From the south: Take I-85 north. Exit to the left on I-985 toward Gainesville. Take exit 12 (Spout Springs Road). Turn left off the exit ramp onto Spout Springs Road. Go under I-985 and travel a quarter-mile and turn right on Thurmond Tanner Road. Proceed on Thurmond Tanner Road for about one mile to the stoplight, then turn right on Atlanta Highway (Ga. 13). Go about a mile on Atlanta Highway (which becomes Falcon Parkway) past the Wrigley plant on the left and back over I-985. The Falcons complex will be on the left (4400 Falcon Parkway).
One offensive position group and one defensive position group (for example, offensive backs and defensive linemen) will sign autographs along the rope line located at the front of the fan viewing area. After every practice, approximately 20 players will be signing autographs.

From the north: Take I-985 south. Take exit 12 (Spout Springs Road). Turn right off the exit ramp onto Spout Springs Road. From here, use the same directions as above.

FALCONS HOTLINE: 770-965-2752


It’s All About The Fans

Everything you need will be in the Falcons Training Camp Fan Shop near the camp’s main field entrance. (The lost and found area is also in the Falcons Training Camp Fan Shop.) Any questions about training camp may be directed to associates in the Falcons Training Camp Fan Shop near the fan field’s main entrance. In addition, any Falcons staff member can assist you.

Training camp parking is available at the Hog Mountain Sports Complex and Flowery Branch High School across the street from the Falcons training complex. After Hall County schools begin on Aug. 4, parking will be available at the Hollis Transportation Lot located one mile from the Falcons training complex. A complimentary shuttle service will be provided from this location. Please follow the signs to this location. There is no general parking available at the Falcons training complex. Fans with disability parking permits will be allowed to park at the Falcons training complex. Disability permits must be properly displayed for law enforcement officials to grant entry. A designated seating area will also be provided for fans with disabilities.

Food and beverages will be available for purchase at each practice session. The main concessions are on the top of the spectator hill.

Youth ages 17 and under can experience Youth Week at Atlanta Falcons Training Camp from Saturday, July 26 to Friday, August 1 in Flowery Branch. Daily activities will include the Falcons Fun Zone, Kids Only Autograph Zone and Look Like A Pro, where kids can view and try on equipment used by players during the season. There will also be unique activities taking place on specific days, such as Show Your Spirit (July 26) and Back To School Jam (July 30). The Kids Zone interactive area will be available one hour prior to each practice session.


Hats, jackets, rain gear, sunglasses, sunscreen, binoculars, blankets, umbrellas, lawn chairs and strollers. Coolers are permitted but will be subject to search by Falcons security, team personnel or law enforcement officials. Alcoholic beverages and glass containers are prohibited. In addition, please do not bring noisemakers, loud radios, large signs or inappropriate attire. Backpacks and bags larger than 8.5 inches wide by 13 inches long by 5 inches deep are not permitted at training camp. All people, bags and purses are subject to inspection. Any individual who refuses an inspection will be denied entry.

In an effort to ensure comfort for all fans who attend a Falcons practice during training camp, the club has a 10-by-10-foot area at the top of the spectator hill for fans to get out of the sun and cool off.

• Falcons Friday Night Lights (Aug. 1 at Mill Creek High School, 6:30 p.m.) will feature a live scrimmage between the Falcons offense and defense. Head coach Mike Smith has developed a scoring system to allow the defense to tally points in a game atmosphere. The team has added other special features to allow fans to “feel and hear the scrimmage” including field microphones to record the action; microphones inside offensive and defensive players' helmets; and coach microphones. The scrimmage will begin around 7:15 p.m., followed by a 15-minute autograph session and a fireworks display from the baseball fields at Mill Creek High School. • At Roam the Dome (Aug. 2 at the Georgia Dome, noon), fans will experience a simulated game including a performance of the National Anthem, a coin toss and player introductions at the newly-renovated Georgia Dome. An autograph session with the entire roster will take place at the conclusion of the simulated game, and fans can also participate in skills games on the field with players.

For your safety and protection, Atlanta Falcons security personnel – along with the Flowery Branch Police Department, Hall County Police Department and other local law enforcement officials – will be present at training camp. In serious cases of rowdy behavior or profane/abusive language, security will first issue a warning. If the disruptive behavior continues, the fan will be subject to removal or arrest. Multiple violations may result in the individual being banned from the Falcons complex.

Special guests, VIPs and sponsor check-in sites are located near the main building entrance of the Atlanta Falcons training complex.


Still cameras with lenses less than 12 inches and without flash attachments are permitted during all training camp workouts. No flash photography will be permitted at any time. No audio or video recording devices are allowed, including camcorders and cellular phones with video capabilities.

For the comfort and health of all fans, the Falcons training complex is a smoke-free environment. There is no smoking allowed anywhere on the grounds or inside the buildings.


A Falcons first-aid station will be set up adjacent to the training camp fan field’s main entrance. Authorized medical personnel from the Falcons and Hall County will be available one hour before each practice through one hour after each session.

Check the list of daily activities on the club’s Web site (www.atlantafalcons.com) or inquire about events in the Falcons Training Camp Fan Shop. The Training Camp hotline number is 770-965-2752.

Check the Falcons Web site at www.atlantafalcons.com for updates or call the Atlanta Falcons Training Camp Hotline at 770-965-2752. Practice times are subject to change without notice.

The Falcons Training Camp Guide was produced and published by Score Publishing, a division of Score Atlanta. The publisher is I.J. Rosenberg, editor is Tad Arapoglou and creative director is David Gaudio. The photos in the Guide were taken by Falcons team photographer Jimmy Cribb and the cover photos of the three fans are courtesy of Scott Cunningham and Jimmy Cribb.

CAMP PARTNER In 2007, Russell Athletic and the Atlanta Falcons announced an agreement that includes title sponsorship of the team’s threeweek preseason training camp at its in-season training facility in Flowery Branch, Ga. The four-year agreement designates Russell Athletic as an official sponsor of the Falcons. Other deal points include designating Russell Athletic as a preferred supplier of promotional apparel and premium items, presenting sponsor of all preseason games on WXIA-TV and its affiliates, plus radio spots during 20 Atlanta Falcons games on Falcons flagship radio station DaveFM, dominant signage presence throughout the interior of the Georgia Dome including a high-profile branded fan zone where fans will receive one-of-a-kind Russell Athletic apparel. Russell-branded products will also be available for purchase at all Falcons home games.


Mike Smith was named new head coach of the Falcons after coming off a successful campaign as defensive coordinator of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Smith recently sat down with Score Atlanta publisher I.J. Rosenberg to discuss his new role in Atlanta and what to expect in the near future.

Smith: They can. And I think that the dynamics of this league are ever-changing, every season, every week, every game. I think that the talent level from top to bottom is not as wide as people believe it is, and I’ve said this many times: a large percentage of the games are [decided by] seven points or less and usually they come down to the last four minutes. I think it’s important for our team to realize that you have to be successful at the end of the game. That’s the time when most games are won or lost. Through the minicamps, what have you seen that you really liked? Smith: The group of men that we’ve got together work extremely hard, they’ve been very energetic, and they have really taken to how we’re going to do things. We’ve basically told them that this is how we’re going to do things – not only on the football field, but in the meeting rooms, in the cafeteria, and how we’re going to deal with things in the community. We haven’t gone out there and dressed in full gear and actually had contact. But the way that we’ve practiced and the way we’ve gone through the sequencing of a practicing day is what we’re going to do in the regular season. What’s your plan for Matt Ryan? Smith: Matt has done an outstanding job in learning the system and the verbiage. Now, I will say this: The quarterback position is probably the most difficult position to transition into from the college game to the professional game. But if there’s anyone I think has a chance to compete and play early, it’s Matt. He’s very cerebral, he has a very good understanding of the game, he’s a hard worker, and he’s got a great mental makeup. I have made our football team well aware that we’re going to play the best players, and we are not concerned about where they were drafted or how many years they have in this league. It’s our job as a coaching staff to put the best players on the field that give us the best opportunity to win. What’s your long-range vision for yourself and the organization, and do you think about those sorts of things? Smith: The thing that I see long term is that we want to be successful on the football field, we want to win a lot of games, but we also want to be an organization that the community is going to be very proud of. For instance, in the month of May, when we were in our OTAs, there were 64 times that we had players out in the community. I think that it’s very, very important that our players are interacting with the community in terms of going out and making appearances. Lots of coaches think about their jobs all of the time. When you go home at night to go to sleep, are you one of those people who stays up all night thinking about the big game or something like that? Smith: I’m a big believer in visualization. I taught and coached that philosophy when I was a college coach. What I do is rehash the day: Did I get A, B and C accomplished, and then somebody threw D and F at you. But then I do visualize, I do see us being successful. I see us lining up against Detroit and having success, stopping them on defense, having success on special teams, moving the football offensively. I think it’s very important that you have that positive reinforcement.

Talk about transitioning into this job, moving into a head-coaching job, all of the details, since it is much different than being a coordinator or an assistant. Smith: When you’re a defensive coordinator or a position coach, you really have tunnel vision in terms of how you concern yourself with the defense. As the head coach, you have to look at all aspects of the football team: offense, defense and special teams. Probably the thing that is the most overwhelming is the day-to-day interaction with other people in the organization. People can talk to you about how it’s going to be different, for example in terms of making decisions with ticketing and marketing. Are the Falcons conscious that the organization needs a boost, needs a face, a head coach that is out there in the community? It does seem like this organization, after the year it went through, needs someone out there that people can associate with. Smith: Well, I don’t see it as something that is part of the job description as much as that it’s more my personality and who I am. And I received some really good advice from a number of coaches and people I talked to when I knew that I was going to have an opportunity to interview. That [advice] was, you have to be yourself and don’t do anything different. Be yourself because that’s what has gotten you to the point where you are right now and it has given you the opportunity to interview for this job. How hands-on will you be with your coaching staff and your coordinators? Smith: They’re going to call the game on game day, but we are going to be very involved in the preparation during the week. I’m very confident with the staff that we’ve put together, with Brian VanGorder running the defense, Mike Mularkey running the offense and Keith Armstrong running our special teams. I think it’s the head coach’s job to prepare the team and the coaching staff during the week. On game day, the players go out and play, and the offensive and defensive coordinators make the calls. But I also think it’s important that a head coach manages the game. They have to make the right decisions at the right time that affect the outcome of the game. Every year some teams tend to make a huge shift and go from perhaps not being a very good team to being a very competitive team. You can look at the New York Giants last year as an example. I’m not saying that we’re going to do that, but the league has set itself up where teams can make quick turnarounds.

“... we want to be successful on the football field ... but we also want to be an organization that the community is going to be very proud of.”


QB Matt Ryan Pick: First round, pick No. 3 (third overall) out of Boston College The skinny: Will Ryan be the next Tom Brady? Those are lofty expectations, but he possesses prototypical size (6-4, 220 pounds) and intangibles for the quarterback position. Was the 2007 ACC Offensive Player of the Year with 4,507 passing yards. OT Sam Baker Pick: First round, pick No. 21 (21st overall) out of Southern California The skinny: A four-year starter at USC, Baker (pictured right) should combine with Justin Blalock to form a talented young front. Good athleticism at 6-5 with the frame to add more weight. His father, David, is commissioner of the Arena Football League. LB Curtis Lofton Pick: Second round, pick No. 6 (37th overall) out of Oklahoma The skinny: An early-entry draftee, Lofton (pictured below) was the best linebacker on a talented OU defense last season. As a junior, Lofton notched 157 tackles, four forced fumbles and three interceptions. Could eventually see time as a starter at middle linebacker. CB Chevis Jackson Pick: Third round, pick No. 5 (68th overall) out of LSU The skinny: A battle-tested cornerback who brings 40 games of SEC starting experience to the NFL. Not a burner but possesses good size (6-0, 192) and a national championship pedigree. Five interceptions in his senior season. WR Harry Douglas Pick: Third round, pick No. 21 (84th overall) out of Louisville The skinny: Enjoyed a productive career at Louisville as Brian Brohm’s No. 1 downfield threat. Superb hands and route running make up for small stature (5-11, 172). Will push for starting spot alongside Roddy White and Laurent Robinson. S Thomas DeCoud Pick: Third round, pick No. 35 (98th overall)) out of California The skinny: DeCoud could be a special teams ace (six career blocked kicks). Has played every position in the secondary, but showed his future at safety in 2007 (117 tackles, four interceptions) in his first full season without injury. LB Robert James Pick: Fifth round, pick No. 3 (138th overall) out of Arizona State The skinny: Finally broke through in his senior season, compiling 106 tackles, 2.5 sacks and four interceptions. Despite his size (5-11, 219), James can mix it up and shows good awareness in coverage. First Team All-Pac 10 selection in 2007. DE Kroy Biermann Pick: Fifth round, pick No. 19 (154th overall) out of Montana The skinny: The star defensive end excelled in his senior season, putting up gaudy numbers (72 tackles, 15 sacks and five forced fumbles). Was the 2007 Buck Buchanan Award winner (best defensive player in Football Championship Subdivision) with 15 sacks. RB Thomas Brown Pick: Sixth round, pick No. 6 (172nd overall) out of Georgia The skinny: The Atlanta native (Tucker) stays at home after a productive career at UGA. Brown could be a viable third-down option and provides good hands (39 career receptions) and special-teams versatility (32 kick returns). CB Wilrey Fontenot Pick: Seventh round, pick No. 5 (212th overall) out of Arizona The skinny: Diminutive corner (5-9, 176) brings 46 career starts and 4.4 speed to the pros. Has a chance to emerge from the shadow of Antoine Cason, the more heralded Wildcats corner. Had 174 tackles and five interceptions in college career. TE Keith Zinger Pick: Seventh round, pick No. 25 (232nd overall) out of LSU The skinny: Excellent blocking tight end who won a national championship with now-Falcons teammate Chevis Jackson. Zinger was seldom used in the passing game at LSU, but has good hands and is a mauler off the line.


S Erik Coleman (5th year) The skinny: Signed from the New York Jets, Coleman has been a steady contributor in the secondary since being drafted out of Washington State in 2004. The 5-11, 206-pounder made 41 tackles in 15 games last season. He is capable in both run support and coverage (seven career interceptions).

DB Deke Cooper (6th year) The skinny: The Swainsboro, Ga., native joins the Falcons from Carolina, where he achieved career highs in tackles (59), passes defended (four) and interceptions (three) last season. Cooper brings size (6-2, 210) to a Falcons secondary that is sparse on height. K Jason Elam (16th year) The skinny: Elam (pictured right), a two-time Super Bowl champion with the Denver Broncos, is one of the best kickers in the game. Despite entering his 16th season, Elam brings a big leg to Atlanta, one which is responsible for the longest kick in NFL history (63 yards). Could be revitalized kicking indoors. DE Simon Fraser (4th year) The skinny: This beast of a defensive end was released by the Cleveland Browns after a 2007 season in which he registered 14 tackles in limited time. At 6-6 and 300 pounds, Fraser will be counted on to bring his high-motor game to a Falcons defensive line that lacked punch last season.

TE Ben Hartsock (5th year) The skinny: Hartsock should enter camp as the starting tight end after two seasons each in Tennessee and Indianapolis. The Ohio State alum pulled in 12 passes for 138 yards last season in a run-dominant offense. Taking over for Alge Crumpler, his production should increase in Atlanta.

DB Von Hutchins (5th year) The skinny: Part of a much improved Texans defense last season, Hutchins is a physical player in the secondary despite his 5-9 frame. Notched a career-high 95 tackles (third on the team) and six passes defended in 2007. On his third team after beginning his career with Indianapolis in 2004.

DL Rashad Moore (5th year) The skinny: GM Thomas Dimitroff is familiar with Moore from his season as a Patriots reserve. The 6-3, 325-pound defensive tackle has had stints with the Seattle Seahawks, New York Jets and Patriots, and will get a chance to shore up a Falcons run defense that was porous in 2007.

DT Kindal Moorehead (6th year) The skinny: The 6-2, 285-pound defensive tackle has been a solid reserve for the division-rival Carolina Panthers since 2003. Playing on the same line as All-Pros Julius Peppers and Kris Jenkins has rubbed off on the Alabama product: Moorehead has 9.5 sacks in only 13 career starts.

TE Jason Rader (3rd year) The skinny: After a two-year stint with the Miami Dolphins from 2005-2006 and one season with the Patriots, Rader is back with the Falcons. The Falcons originally signed him as a rookie free agent out of Marshall in 2004. The 6-4, 271-pounder was released by the Patriots on Sept. 30.

C Alex Stepanovich (5th year) The skinny: One of six former Ohio State players on the Falcons roster, Stepanovich appeared in 12 games last season for his homestate Cincinnati Bengals. Drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in 2004, starting all 16 games as a rookie. Has 34 starts in 42 career games.

RB Michael Turner (5th year) The skinny: After a four-year apprenticeship under LaDainian Tomlinson in San Diego, Turner has been handed the keys to the Falcons running game. With a career average of 5.5 yards per carry, “The Burner” is the real deal and will have every opportunity to prove he can handle a full workload.

UNDRAFTED FREE AGENT SIGNINGS – On offense, running back Jamar Brittingham (Bloomsburg) is only the second player to make it to the NFL from the small Pennsylvania school. Tony Gonzalez, one of Matt Ryan’s favorite targets at Boston College, makes the team as a wide receiver, and will try to give the Kansas City Chiefs tight end of the same name a run for his money. Tight end Brad Listorti (Massachusetts) is 6-4, 255 pounds with experience at fullback. … On defense, Brandon Miller (Georgia) is a 6-4, 254-pound hybrid defensive end/linebacker who can offer versatility on special teams or speed off the edge in passing situations. Auburn product Eric Brock is an SEC savvy defensive back with good measurables (6-0, 202). Central Michigan product Isaac Brown is a speedy, undersized linebacker (5-11, 203) who recorded 106 tackles in his senior season. After overcoming multiple injuries in college, including two ACL surgeries, Miami’s Glenn Sharpe brings experience at both cornerback and safety to the Falcons.



Owner Arthur Blank made big moves in the offseason, most notably bringing in Mike Smith as head coach and Thomas Dimitroff as general manager. Score Atlanta publisher I.J. Rosenberg caught up with Blank to talk about the changes taking place within the organization.
I imagine July 26 will be a special day for you – the first day of training camp and the official opening of the 2008 season. How excited are you? Blank: I’m thrilled about our new season – and not just because last season’s over. That was a very long season. One of the reasons I’m already excited about this season is due to the work that Thomas [Dimitroff] did in free agency and the draft this year. Also, our coaching staff, led by Mike Smith, includes outstanding coordinators and position coaches with lots of NFL experience. I think we were very successful in free agency, obviously with Michael Turner and a number of other players we acquired. I also think we had a very good draft starting with finding the quarterback we were looking for in Matt Ryan. So I’m looking forward to July 26. The combination of Thomas Dimitroff as new GM and Rich McKay as the team’s president gives you the opportunity to have one of the best front offices in the NFL. How do you think the relationship has grown between Thomas and Rich? Blank: I think it has worked very, very well. Thomas is doing a great job, and we’ve seen evidence of that. He handles himself well beyond his years. Rich has been very supportive in working with Thomas, not only in terms of salary cap and contract management, but in terms of providing history on the personnel moves that were made before Thomas joined us. Rich has a lot of strengths given his long history and variety of positions in the National Football League, and Thomas has been involved in player evaluation for almost 20 years, so that clearly is impressive. So the two working together is a pretty powerful combination. Coach Smith has also brought something fresh to the team – a coach who while very serious about his job also is someone people like to be around. It seems like the fans are going to take to him. Blank: He’s just a very good person. He is also a very fine football coach, and he will demonstrate that as head coach for us. But I think beyond that, if you just talk to the guy, spend time with him, he’s a very sincere person. He communicates very well and people enjoy talking with him. Your first draft pick (third overall) was quarterback Matt Ryan. While making the transition from college to pro can take some time for a quarterback, it appears Ryan may be ahead of schedule.

Blank: The first time I spent time with Matt was over dinner in Boston. After our group left the dinner and headed back to the hotel, I said, ‘I’m trying to reflect back on when I was 23 years old. Do any of you think you had that level of maturity at 23?’ I really loved his answer when somebody at the table asked him a question about how he would feel about starting this year or not. Matt said, ‘Look, I’m going to compete, you’re paying me a lot of money and I plan on doing the best that I can. And if that means I can earn the starting role, wonderful. If it means that the coaches decide it’s not in the best interest of the game for me to do that, then that will be fine as well.’ You mentioned Michael Turner as a big pickup, and he’s someone who gives the team a strong one-two punch with Jerious Norwood. The running game should be a real strength on this team. Blank: I think that’s a key part of the offense (Offensive Coordinator) Mike Mularkey wants, but his full offense is filled by power running and a strong passing game. His offense doesn’t work if it’s just running the ball, so he feels very strongly about certain kinds of runners that have a certain capacity. In terms of running the ball, between the capabilities of Jerious, Michael and Ovie Mughelli, I couldn’t agree with you more. The team continues to make a big effort to get out in the community. Turner, despite being new, is an example of this outreach to the fans. It appears you have a team that is focused both on and off the field, to help get this franchise to where you want it to be. Blank: We just completed our most active offseason in the community – 75 playerinvolved community activities in the last three months. We don’t make our players go. We do tell them why it’s important, why it’s their responsibility as a Falcon and why it’s good for themselves and their families. But it’s not something where if they don’t do it they don’t get paid; they do it because when you start doing community work, what you quickly find out is that no matter how much you give, you get a lot more in return. The Georgia Dome is going to have a new look this year. How do you think everything has gone with the renovations? Blank: The Falcons and Georgia World Congress Center Authority (which owns the Dome) have invested close to $50 million in the last couple of years in enhancing the Dome environment. The outside of the building is completely repainted in Falcons colors, which makes it look like the Falcons’ home, and the inside general seating was completely redone, along with all the concourses. When you go inside the building, it looks dramatically different. You have always been a big fan of training camp. I know you look forward to seeing all those Falcons fans sitting on the hill watching workouts. Blank: We probably get close to 100,000 folks who come out to watch us over the course of training camp. Our training camp facility is a great place; the viewing is wonderful around the entire area; there’s food, drinks and souvenirs; and our players not only stay to sign autographs, they look forward to seeing the fans there. So I encourage all Atlanta Falcons fans to come out and get a first-hand feel for the game and the players. What expectations do you have for this team when the regular season begins against the Detroit Lions on Sept. 7? Blank: I expect our team to play hard, and I expect them to be very well coached. I think those are the two things to count on. One of the beauties of the NFL is that the system is designed to encourage and allow teams to move, if you will, from last to first. In fact, in the last four years in our division, the team that has finished last ended up finishing first the following year. I’m not in the business of predicting wins and losses, but I am in the business of predicting our effort, energy and enthusiasm. And I think we are going to surprise a lot of people.





QB: Chris Redman (No. 8, 6-foot-3, 221 pounds) – The former third-round pick for the Baltimore Ravens is coming off his best season to date. In seven games, Redman threw for 1,079 yards, 10 touchdowns and five interceptions. Backups: Joey Harrington (No. 13, 6-4, 220) – A solid veteran who has seen it all. The Oregon alum had one of his better statistical seasons leading the Falcons to three victories last season. … D.J. Shockley (No. 3, 6-0, 222) – Spent all of last season on injured reserve due to an ACL tear. He will fight for the No. 3 spot. … Matt Ryan (No. 2, 6-4, 220) – The rookie out of Boston College has the tools to become a great NFL quarterback. In his career at BC he threw 56 touchdowns and was named ACC Offensive Player of the Year. RB: Michael Turner (No. 33, 5-10, 244) – A powerful back who has blazing speed and quickness. Has a career yards per carry average of 5.5 yards. Turner will get his time to shine as he was a backup to LaDainian Tomlinson for the last four seasons at San Diego. Backups: Jerious Norwood (No. 32, 5-11, 202) – Doesn’t have great size but is considered one of the fastest running backs in the NFL. Rushed for 613 yards as a reserve last season. … Jason Snelling (No. 44, 5-11, 229) – The former seventh-round pick has the ability to line up at running back or fullback. Snelling is a good back for short-yardage situations. …Thomas Brown (No. 27, 5-8, 200) – The rookie is well known around these parts, as he played at the University of Georgia. A smaller back, but extremely strong and fast. FB: Ovie Mughelli (No. 34, 6-1, 245) – The contract he signed last season made him the highest paid fullback in NFL history and he lived up to expectations. Not known for his running ability but is one of the best blocking fullbacks in the league. He picks up the blitz well and can also catch the ball in the backfield. Has 30 receptions for 231 yards in his career and also has one rushing touchdown. In Mike Mularkey’s new offense, he looks to improve on those numbers. Backups: Corey McIntyre (No. 38, 6-0, 258) – A very versatile player who can also play special teams. In fact, he was the special-teams captain and did not disappoint as he tallied eight tackles in 14 games. Not the blocker that Mughelli is, but can fill in whenever called upon. WR X: Laurent Robinson (No. 19, 6-2, 194) – Had a strong rookie season in 2007, tallying 37 receptions for 437 yards and one touchdown. Showed that he has the ability to make big plays, as he scored on a 74-yard touchdown reception in Week 16. Backups: Michael Jenkins (No. 12, 6-4, 215) – A tall receiver that can make tough catches. Had at least one reception in 15 games last season. … Joe Horn (No. 87, 6-1, 211) – Horn has 8,744 receiving yards and 58 touchdowns in his 13-year career. Will help mentor a young receiving corps. … Adam Jennings (No. 81, 5-9, 176) – Scored the first touchdown of his career last season against Tampa Bay. Has good speed and will see action on special teams. … Chandler Williams (No. 18, 5-11, 178) – Drafted by Minnesota in 2007. Played college football at Florida International. TE: Ben Hartsock (No. 89, 6-4, 264) – Will try to fill the void that was left by Alge Crumpler. Not known for his hands but is a great blocker and helped the Tennessee Titans become a top-five rushing team last year. Backups: Martrez Milner (No. 88, 6-4, 259) – Showed promise before a season-ending injury midway through the season. Not a strong blocker but has great hands and will be used plenty in double tight end sets. … Jason Rader (No. 85, 6-4, 271) – Played in five games with the Miami Dolphins in 2006. Was signed by the Falcons in 2004 as a rookie free agent. … Keith Zinger (No. 82, 6-4, 268) – Was a member of the 2007 LSU Tigers that won the BCS Championship. Like Hartsock, Zinger is known for his stout blocking. RT: Todd Weiner (No. 74, 6-4, 300) – Missed half of last season due to a knee injury. A very physical and strong blocker who does well when it comes to run blocking. Before the injury, Weiner started 98 of 103 games in the last seven seasons. Should be healthy and ready to go by Week 1 of the 2008 season. Backups: Pat McCoy (No. 64, 6-5, 333) – Signed with the Philadelphia Eagles as an undrafted free agent in 2006. Started the 2007 season on Philadelphia’s 53-man roster before being assigned to the team’s practice squad in September. Was signed by the Falcons on Dec. 12, 2007. McCoy was a Division II All-American at West Texas A&M, where he was a finalist for the Gene Upshaw Award, which honors the best lineman in Division II football. RG: Tyson Clabo (No. 77, 6-6, 332) – After playing right tackle for much of 2007, Clabo will now start as the team’s right guard. Took over for Todd Weiner after his injury halfway through last season. Clabo is very versatile and can play both guard positions. Backups: Kynan Forney (No. 65, 6-3, 302) – He has not played a full season since 2005 but when healthy, there are very few guards that are as quick and athletic. Should be back to old self with the new installation of the run-first offense. … Harvey Dahl (No. 73, 6-5, 308) – Originally signed by the Dallas Cowboys in 2005 and spent some time there as well as with the San Francisco 49ers in the last three seasons. Was signed by the Falcons in October 2007 and played in the final game of the season against Seattle. C: Todd McClure (No. 62, 6-1, 301) – This tough veteran is the anchor of the offensive line and is one of the most underrated offensive linemen in the NFL. He has not missed a start since 2001 and is great at making line adjustments when needed. Backups: Alex Stepanovich (No. 69, 6-4, 296) – This four-year veteran spent the first part of his career with the Arizona Cardinals and spent last season with the Cincinnati Bengals where he played in 12 games. He helped the Bengals give up only 12 sacks, which is a franchise low. … Ben Wilkerson (No. 67, 6-4, 310) – Signed with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2005 where he played in three games. Wilkerson played in all 16 games with the Falcons last year and will be expected to contribute more this season. LG: Justin Blalock (No. 63, 6-4, 333) – Played in 14 games last season and showed signs of promise. Can also play the tackle and he worked at that position during minicamp. Blaylock will continue to improve year after year and he will not disappoint. Backups: Quinn Ojinnaka (No. 76, 6-5, 305) – Started in seven games last year at tackle due to the numerous injures at that position. Moved to guard this year and will be expected to contribute as he is one of the many linemen that played a good amount last year. … D’Anthony Batiste (No. 70, 6-4, 313) – Signed with the Falcons before the start of last season and played in four games. Batiste is another big guy who will compete for a backup tackle position during training camp. LT: Sam Baker (No. 72, 6-5, 312) – Was one of two 2008 first-round draft picks for the Falcons (No. 21 overall). Was a three-time All-American at Southern Cal. Has the ability to play through pain, a big plus for an offensive line that has seen several injuries in recent years. Backups: Renardo Foster (No. 79, 6-7, 340) – After Wayne Gandy’s midseason injury, Foster started two games and played in seven in the 2007 season. One of the biggest linemen on the roster and can protect the quarterback’s blind side. … Terrance Pennington (No. 64, 6-7, 315) – Played in five games last year. Was on the Buffalo Bills’ roster in 2006 where he started nine games. Pennington is another lineman that will battle for a roster spot. WR Z: Roddy White (No. 84, 6-0, 208) – Had a breakout year in 2007, as he hauled in 83 receptions, 1,202 yards and six touchdowns. White showed that he had the ability to get off the line quickly and get separation from the defender. Backups: Harry Douglas (No. 83, 5-11, 171) – Had a great minicamp and even worked with the first team. Some experts compare him to New England Patriot Wes Welker. … Brian Finneran (No. 86, 6-5, 206) – After missing the last two seasons due to a knee injury, Finneran is ready to make a comeback. When healthy, he is one the most reliable receivers on the roster. Had his best statistical season in 2002, catching 56 passes for 838 yards and six touchdowns (all career highs). K: Jason Elam (No. 1, 5-11, 195) – This 15-year veteran is one of the most accurate kickers in the NFL, as he has made 395 of 490 field goals. Elam has spent all 15 seasons with the Denver Broncos where he won two Super Bowls. Elam won Special Teams Player of the Year in 2001 and holds the record for the longest field goal in NFL history at 63 yards. May not have the leg strength that he used to, but can still get the job done. Backups: Kevin Lovell (No. 6, 5-9, 153) – Was originally signed by the St. Louis Rams last year but was released prior to the start of the 2007 season. Played college football at Cincinnati where he made 16 of 21 field goals and made all 25 extra points. KR: Jerious Norwood (No. 32, 5-11, 202) – Because of his explosive speed, Norwood is a perfect fit to be a returner. Last season, he averaged 25.3 yards per return, which was good enough to place him fifth in the conference. His longest return of the year was 76 yards, so once he sees the hole and finds a crease, not too many defenders are going to stop him from picking up a big gain. Backups: Adam Jennings (No. 81, 5-9, 176) – Norwood will get the majority of the returns, but Jennings can get the job done as well. He only had 17 returns last year but averaged 25.2 yards per return. Has plenty of experience returning kickoffs as well as punts, as he was a standout specialist at Fresno State.




L D E : Jamaal Anderson (No. 98, 6-6, 282) – Did not have the season he wanted as a rookie, as he started all 16 games and did not register a sack. However, he did have 30 tackles and forced a fumble. He will continue to improve this year and should register some sacks this season. B a c k u p s : Willie Evans (No. 99, 6-1, 267) – Signed with the Falcons in January after spending time with the New Orleans Saints and the New York Giants. Was a standout player at Mississippi State where he recorded 219 tackles and 24.5 sacks. … Simon Fraser (No. 75, 6-6, 274) – Spent the last three seasons with the Cleveland Browns where he registered 54 tackles and 4.5 sacks. He will be a key part of a very young defensive end rotation. L D T : Montavious Stanley (No. 96, 6-2, 302) – Had a solid first year with the Falcons, recording 29 tackles (one stuffed tackle) and two fumble recoveries. Has a nonstop motor and always finds a way to make big plays. B a c k u p s : Trey Lewis (No. 97, 6-3, 323) – Suffered a knee injury in Week 11 last season and is looking to bounce back this year. Showed that he can get after the ball carrier and the quarterback, as he also recorded two stuffed tackles. … Tim Anderson (No. 93, 6-3, 325) – Signed with the team in November but did not see any playing time. Spent the last three seasons with the Buffalo Bills. … Rashad Moore (No. 90, 6-3, 353) – Played in one game with the New England Patriots last season where he recorded one tackle. R D T : Jonathan Babineaux (No. 95, 6-2, 284) – A very versatile lineman who saw action at both tackle and end last year. He had a good 2007 campaign where he compiled 45 tackles, three sacks and two forced fumbles. One of the more experienced linemen on the roster, and the Falcons will need him to play at a high level game in and game out. B a c k u p s : Kindal Moorehead (No. 94, 6-2, 299) – Spent the last five seasons with the Carolina Panthers where he registered 104 tackles, 9.5 sacks and one interception over that span. Will provide much-needed depth and experience to a defensive line that is looking to find a complete rotation. … David Patterson (No. 91, 6-5, 297) – Signed with the Falcons in May 2007 but did not see any playing time. R D E : John Abraham (No. 55, 6-4, 266) – He is one of the premier pass rushers in the game and does not show signs of slowing down. Had another strong year in 2007 with 10 sacks and four forced fumbles. Needs to stay healthy for the defense to be successful. B a c k u p s : Chauncey Davis (No. 92, 6-2, 274) – A quality backup player who can also be a starter. Last season Davis played in all 16 games and compiled 31 tackles. Will see plenty of playing time this season. … Kroy Biermann (No. 71, 6-3, 241) – Had a stellar career at Montana where he was named the 2007 Buck Buchanan winner, which is awarded to the top defensive player in the FCS subdivision. Could see action at outside linebacker due to his size. S L B : Michael Boley (No. 59, 6-3, 223) – Had a breakout 2007 season with 110 tackles, four forced fumbles and two interceptions. His best game was against the Indianapolis Colts on Thanksgiving night, as he racked up 10 tackles, sacked Peyton Manning three times and forced a fumble. Should be a strong candidate for the Pro Bowl. B a c k u p s : Cameron Vaughn (No. 49, 6-4, 240) – Spent the 2007 season with the Arizona Cardinals and did not see any action all year. An LSU alum, he tallied 239 tackles and seven sacks in 52 college games. … Brandon Miller (No. 68, 6-4, 259) – Signed as an undrafted rookie free agent in April. Had a solid career at Georgia where he totaled 73 tackles and one interception. M L B : Tony Taylor (No. 53, 6-0, 235) – Signed as a rookie free agent in 2007 and earned a spot on the team with a tremendous training camp. Saw limited action but his best game was against Seattle when he totaled four tackles. Is a fan favorite, as he played college ball at Georgia where he was an All-SEC player, and played high school ball at Oconee County. B a c k u p s : Curtis Lofton (No. 50, 6-0, 248) – A tough athlete who can play inside or outside linebacker. Was a standout player at Oklahoma where he had 157 tackles, one sack, four forced fumbles and three interceptions. He was named to the All-Big 12 Team and was named Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. He is one rookie that has the ability to play right away. W L B : Keith Brooking (No. 56, 6-2, 241) – Is the only player remaining from the 1998 NFC Championship team. Is a throwback linebacker with good speed and rarely misses tackles. He has not missed a start since 2000. B a c k u p s : Stephen Nicholas (No. 54, 6-3, 232) – Saw action in 13 games last year and totaled 33 tackles and one sack. Will likely see more playing time this season, as the coaches like what he brings to each game. … Robert James (No. 51, 5-10, 218) – One of the smaller linebackers on the squad, but when he was playing at Arizona State, he was nicknamed “The Beast” for his reckless abandon on the field. He will contribute on special teams. … Travis Williams (No. 52, 6-1, 221) – Last season he tallied seven tackles in six games. L C B : Von Hutchins (No. 25, 5-10, 185) – Spent last season with the Houston Texans where he played in 15 games. He totaled 95 tackles, one interception and one forced fumble. Was named to the 2008 AFC All-Joe Team by USA Today. He is a solid veteran that will also help the young cornerbacks. B a c k u p s : David Irons (No. 30, 5-11, 197) – Spent the majority of the 2007 season on special teams. Played in 15 games and tallied 13 tackles. Irons will make a strong push for the starting job as, he is probably the most physical cornerback on the roster. … Wilrey Fontenot (No. 29, 5-9, 169) – Was a four-year starter at the University of Arizona and compiled 174 tackles and seven interceptions. Will contribute on special teams to make the team. R C B : Chris Houston (No. 23, 5-11, 175) – Played in all 16 games as a rookie and totaled 57 tackles and one forced fumble. Struggled at times with one-on-one coverage but does possess great closing speed. He should have a better 2008 season as he continues to improve,and hopes to make fans forget about DeAngelo Hall. B a c k u p s : Brent Grimes (No. 20, 5-10, 185) – Played in only two games for the Falcons in 2007, but collared 11 tackles in Week 16 against Arizona. … Chevis Jackson (No. 22, 5-11, 185) – Wasn’t the flashiest defender for the 2008 BCS Champion LSU Tigers, but he was the main reason why the secondary was one of the country’s best. He is not the fastest corner but does play well in zone coverage. S S : Lawyer Milloy (No. 36, 5-10, 185) – Had another strong season last year with 95 tackles and two interceptions. Has slowed over the years but is still an intense competitor who can bring it every game. Should continue to be consistent this year. B a c k u p s : Daren Stone (No. 39, 6-3, 215) – Saw action in 12 games last year and compiled 10 tackles. Stone is one of the bigger safeties and should see more action this year. Is also very physical at the point of attack. … Antoine Harris (No. 41, 5-10, 197) – Played in 13 games last season and totaled 15 tackles and one forced fumble. His best game was in Week 17 when he collared seven tackles. Will try to make the team contributing on special teams like last season. F S : Erik Coleman (No. 26, 5-11, 206) – Was a member of the New York Jets last year where he amassed 50 tackles in 15 games. In his five-year career, Coleman has 373 tackles, two sacks and seven interceptions. B a c k u p s : Thomas DeCoud (No. 28, 6-0, 197) – Had a stellar career coming out of California. He was named defensive captain and was also named All-Pac-10 Honorable Mention last season. Has the quickness to play cornerback and is also known for his stellar play on special teams. … Deke Cooper (No. 35, 6-2, 210) – Has six years of experience, spending time with the Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars and Carolina Panthers. Started 15 games with the Panthers last season where he tallied 86 tackles and three interceptions. P : Michael Koenen (No. 9, 5-11, 199) – Had a good 2007 season, as he averaged 43.5 net yards, which was ninth in the conference. Ranked as the best in the NFL in pinning teams back in their own territory off kickoffs in the past two seasons. Out of the 88 punts he attempted, 30 went inside the 20-yard-line. Has one of the strongest legs in the league and he even does kickoffs. There are some cases where he is used as an emergency place kicker for very long field goals; however, is not as accurate as Elam. He has been the punter for the last three seasons after beating out Toby Goodwin at the 2005 training camp. Should have another strong season, as he is entering his fourth year in the NFL. Look for him to be used more in long-distance field goal situations if it’s out of Elam’s range. P R : Adam Jennings (No. 81, 5-9, 176) – Ranked 11th in the NFC last season with 6.2 yards per return. His longest return was 23 yards but he was fourth in the conference in fair catches with 17. Jennings will try to improve on that number as he has the speed to break away from defenders. B a c k u p s : Jerious Norwood (No. 32, 5-11, 202) – If there is a situation in which Jennings can’t go, Norwood will be the candidate to step up to the plate since he is the primary kick returner. He did not return any punts last year but he is one of the fastest guys on the roster and can put the offense in a good position whenever he has the ball in his hands. Will see more time at running back, so it’s unlikely he will return many punts this year.



After spending five years as the Director of College Scouting with the New England Patriots, Thomas Dimitroff joined the Falcons in 2008 as their new General Manager. Score Atlanta publisher I.J. Rosenberg recently spoke with Dimitroff on the upcoming season. What has the transition to GM been like and what have you learned so far?
Dimitroff: The transition has been quite smooth. I’ve been very fortunate to be dealing with an owner who is incredibly competitive and committed to winning, a president in Rich McKay who’s very knowledgeable in many facets of the game, as well as a coach who was and is very open to evaluating talent. And those three individuals working together with me has lent itself to this being quite a smooth [transition]. Talk more about you and Rich. How has that worked out? Dimitroff: My relationship with Rich McKay has worked out very well. I feel there’s mutual respect. Again, Rich is very knowledgeable in many facets of the game. He knows the rules of the league inside and out. He’s always there if I’m asking for advice on league rules and such. It has been a very harmonious relationship. What kind of an experience has it been working together with Rich, Coach Smith and Arthur Blank? Dimitroff: With an owner like Mr. Blank and Rich’s experience in this league, being around football from the day he was born, and Coach Smith, with all his knowledge on the defensive side of the ball and his evaluation prowess, I’m excited to be working with these three gentlemen. Has your role as GM been what you expected? Dimitroff: There are a lot of challenges. And they are challenges that I welcome, not only for myself, but for Coach Smith. It’s been exciting, it’s full of opportunities in my mind and it has been everything I expected and possibly more. And as this continues to move forward, I’m excited about jumping into other facets of the football operations department; i.e. league rules, athletic performance, technology and such. There has been a big push with concern to players getting out into the community. For an organization that took its lumps from a PR standpoint last year, how important is that? Dimitroff: I believe our player involvement in the community is very, very important. We made a concerted effort to acquire free agents and draft picks who we felt were not only very skilled on the field, but also the type of people that the city of Atlanta and all Falcons fans can be proud of. It’s very important for that fan base to get their hands on these players so to speak, and realize exactly the type of people they are. Going into summer camp, what do you think the strengths are on this team? Dimitroff: I think the fans will be impressed by the receivers group. I think it’s a good mix of different types of receivers that can bring different things to the table. I think the running back group as a tandem, with Jerious [Norwood] and Michael Turner, and the change of pace that those two bring will be very impressive. I’m pretty excited about our linebacker group, with the ability to have Michael [Boley] outside and Keith Brooking outside and the opportunity for some of the young guys at the inside positions. Do you feel better than you expected regarding where this team is right now? Dimitroff: One thing I’ve been very impressed with is the focus of this team. This team is redirecting its focus and its approach. They’re beginning to really believe in themselves again, which I think is very important. That’s what

I’ve been impressed with. When you’re on the practice field walking around watching the different groups, there is an intense focus, for not only the coaches, but the players as well. How would you describe Matt Ryan mentally as a quarterback? Dimitroff: Matt Ryan physically is exactly what a lot of teams would be looking for: just shy of 6-foot-5, he’s got the skills on the field; i.e. accuracy in the short, intermediate, and long area. He moves around in the pocket well. That, combined with his sense of confidence, his savvy in the pocket, his intelligence and his innate leadership abilities will all help him be successful in this league. A lot of the players from the draft are going to have to step up immediately and help. Is that something you think could happen? Dimitroff: Oh, definitely. I think what’s also very impressive is Coach Smith has been very open with everyone on the team that every position is open for competition. It doesn’t matter if someone has 13 years in the business or a matter of three or four months in the business, the best person at the position will start. And we are expecting big things and solid contributions from our draft class this year.

The fans in this town want to like their coach. Does it help to have someone like Coach Smith, who seems to be such a likable guy? Dimitroff: With Mike Smith, what you see is what you get. He’s a very affable, communicative person. And he is true to his colors. People see that very quickly with him. He is open to talk about what needs to be talked about. He’ll look you straight in the eye and be very honest with you, and I think that the players appreciate that, his staff appreciates that, and the whole building appreciates that. How has your relationship been with Arthur Blank? Dimitroff: It’s been going very well. My relationship with Mr. Blank from the outset of my job has been very smooth. He’s offered opinions when he feels his opinion needs to be offered. He’s also pulled back when he knows it should be left up to Mike Smith and myself as far as football decisions go. Arthur is obviously a very impressive leader and both Mike and I can tap into his leadership prowess. How excited are you about getting the season going? Dimitroff: I’m very excited. I think moving forward, putting the pads on and seeing exactly what we have with this team is one of the most exciting things that I’m feeling right now. When you lay in bed at night as the GM of the Falcons, what do you think of before you go to sleep? Dimitroff: I have not been necessarily thinking about the W’s in the win column, I’ve been more thinking about putting together a team that is very passionate; fiery football players who are flying around the field, who are a team to be reckoned with. So, no matter what the end result of a game is in this first year, the teams that come in to play the Atlanta Falcons will know that they’ve played a hard-fought game and a very competitive football team.

“There are a lot of challenges. And they are challenges that I welcome, not only for myself, but for Coach [Mike] Smith.”


ecovery. Rebirth. Return to glory. Following a tumultuous year that saw the team register a 4-12 record, the Falcons approached the 2008 NFL Draft with the notion of rebuilding prominently on their minds. When it came time for the Falcons to make their selection with the third overall pick, the team went with Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan, passing on some of the draft’s other top prospects like LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey and Arkansas running back Darren McFadden. With news of the selection, some criticism surfaced from fans and media alike, as the team was accused of reaching for Ryan because of the position he plays, which just so happens to be the most important in the game. All the while, the Falcons’ focus remained unchanged: recovery, rebirth and return to glory.


ability to deal with adversity, adapt and remain focused, while drastically improving his game, is not only noteworthy, but also key to his and the Falcons’ future success in the NFL.



With the help of time, the Falcons have begun their recovery from last year’s difficult season. And as the team sees it, with the addition of Matt Ryan, the process of rebirth–the awakening of a franchise under a new light and with a new leader at the helm–has begun. To understand why the team is so confident in Ryan’s abilities, one needn’t look far. While the voices of critics echo loudly, it is the talented quarterback’s ability to ignore and cope with doubters that matters most. “I don’t think you can worry about critics,” Ryan explains. “No matter what decision a team’s going to make early in the draft, there’s going to be criticism of that decision. You just can’t get caught up in it. For me, it’s been all about just coming down and preparing and just trying to earn the respect of my teammates and get better on a dayto-day basis. That’s what I try to do.” For proof of resiliency, consider Ryan’s college career. In his first two years at BC, the 6-foot-5, 220-pound quarterback threw for less than 2,000 yards combined with only 10 touchdowns and eight interceptions. In his final two seasons, Ryan completed better than 60 percent of his passes, and threw for 7,449 yards to go along with 46 touchdowns. As such, the signal caller’s

As scouts and analysts obsess over statistics, 40-yard-dash times and other such measurables, they often ignore the rare intangibles that make good players great. And while Ryan certainly has the height, arm strength, agility and athleticism to be a successful professional quarterback, it is his intelligence, maturity and composure under pressure that will truly separate him from the pack. In 2007, the Eagles were involved in three games decided by four points or less. Ryan led his team to victory in all three. On the road, in hostile territory against Clemson and Virginia Tech, “Matty Ice” threw game-winning touchdowns in the waning seconds of both contests. Simply put, when the going gets tough, a condition the Falcons have certainly grown accustomed to of late, Matt Ryan is at his absolute best. As a rookie expected to become the face of the franchise, Ryan is faced yet again with a great deal of pressure. Not surprisingly, he is more than ready to deal with such pressure. “[The expectations are] something that shouldn’t be the most important thing to you; playing football and being a solid teammate and a real aggressive player on the field is the most important thing. But, at the same time, that’s part of being an NFL player, making sure that you project a positive image for the team that you play for. That’s something that I try to embrace.” While Ryan hopes to be running with the first team come Week 1, he admits that what is truly important is becoming “a better player by the end of the season than I was at the beginning.” No matter what his personal, short-term expectations are, however, one thing is for sure: in the long-term, the Falcons are far better off with Matt Ryan on their side. By Scott Janovitz, who can be reached at sjanovitz@scoreatl.com.

YEAR 2004 2005 2006 2007* TEAM BC BC BC BC CMP 35 121 263 388 ATT 71 195 427 654 PCT 49.3 62.1 61.6 59.3 YDS 350 1514 2942 4507 AVG 4.9 7.8 6.9 6.9 TD 2 8 15 31 LNG 32 61 79 71 INT 3 5 10 19 RAT 91.6 135.7 126.4 127.0

*Was the 2007 ACC Offensive Player of the Year

can also break the big one – he has three carries of over 70 yards in 228 attempts, including an 83-yard touchdown run against the Colts in 2005 – Turner will need to be an offensive catalyst for a Falcons team that parted with mainstay Warrick Dunn earlier in the offseason. Expect him to be the “thunder” to Jerious Norwood’s “lightning” in what promises to be a more smashmouth approach under new head coach Mike Smith and offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey. Falcons fans will hope that the Turner/Norwood pairing will achieve similar success as the Tomlinson/Turner duo of old, but Turner declines to compare the Chargers backfield of the last four years to the one the Falcons will sport in 2008. “It’s really two different situations,” he says. “Both Jerious and LT are great running backs. Me and Jerious are both very young in the league, we’re just trying to make our mark.”

or a while now, football fans have had their eye on Michael Turner. The versatile runner was a backup for four years behind allworld running back LaDainian Tomlinson in San Diego, but his talent shone through nonetheless. In the final regular-season game of the 2004 season, his rookie campaign, Turner got his first start and ran for 87 yards against the Kansas City Chiefs. In last year’s AFC Divisional game, with Tomlinson injured, Turner went for 71 yards on 17 carries in a 28-24 win over the defending champion Indianapolis Colts. Earlier in the year, he exploded for a career-high 147 yards in a win at Denver. With a 5.5 yards per carry average in his four seasons – and his contract with the Chargers up – it was Turner’s time to take the lead role. During the free-agency period in which he was considered by many to be the top prize, Turner spurned other franchises for the chance to play in Atlanta. “The situation’s been building for years,” Turner says. “I knew the opportunity was going to come one day. I’m just glad it’s finally here.” Very quickly, Turner has embraced his new surroundings. The 26-year-old Chicago native, who starred at Northern Illinois, says the unfamiliar city has been nothing but supportive. “It’s going great so far. I didn’t know what to expect, but I’m loving the city and the people, and the fans have been great.”


Besides the change in scenery and the promise of a marquee role in the Falcons offense, Turner will have to make another transition: the switch from a perennial playoff contender in San Diego to a Falcons team trying to pick up the pieces after a rough 2007 season in which it went 4-12. Turner, however, says the situation he enters with the Falcons is something he has seen before in his career. “I think about it in terms of when I first got [to each team]. San Diego was coming off a 4-12 season [in 2003]. Everybody’s job was up in the air, they didn’t know who the quarterback was going to be. There were a lot of similarities. You don’t want to say rebuilding, but both franchises were trying to bring guys in who would do a good job.” He certainly will be expected to shoulder a heavy load on a team in flux, but Turner, who has been praised through the years for his even keel and quiet focus, says his approach will stay the same no matter what. “I’ll be doing the same things [as in San Diego], just doing more of it. I’m just going to go do my thing.” Falcons fans hope Turner’s “thing” is to help turn around a franchise that needs someone new to root for. Fortunately, he’s perfect for the role. By Alex Ewalt, who can be reached at aewalt@scoreatl.com.

Turner’s running style and work ethic should quickly endear him to any fan base. Nicknamed “Burner” by Chargers fans, Turner brings a little bit of everything to the table with his no-frills approach. “I’m not flashy, there’s not a whole lot going on,” he says. “I say it’s a blue-collar style. Power and speed – the power to run over people but the speed to run around them.” If you’ve watched Turner play over the last four years, you will probably agree with that assessment. Known as a punishing runner who

SEASON TEAM G 2004 SAN DIEGO 14 2005 SAN DIEGO 16 2006 SAN DIEGO 13 2007 SAN DIEGO 16 ATT 20 57 80 71 YDS 104 335 502 316 AVG 5.2 5.9 6.3 4.5 LNG 30 83 73 74 TD 0 3 2 1 REC 4 0 3 4 YDS 8 0 47 16 AVG 2.0 — 15.7 4.0 LNG 7 0 30 12 TD 0 0 0 0


SUN 9/7

Compiled by Tad Arapoglou

Georgia Dome Atlanta, GA

The Lions finally achieved a winning record last season, and defeated the Falcons in their last meeting back in 2006. Falcons fans will see former Georgia Tech star Calvin Johnson make his return to Atlanta. Detroit has only won one time at the Georgia Dome and it won’t be easy to pick up No. 2 in the Falcons’ home opener. The Falcons face their NFC South rivals in their first road game of the season. Last year in the teams’ meeting in Tampa, the Bucs scored on the third play from scrimmage when Ronde Barber returned a pick for a touchdown. Tampa Bay went on to win 37-3. The Falcons will definitely be looking for some payback this time. The Falcons return home in Week 3 for a clash with Kansas City from the AFC West. The Chiefs’ defensive line will feature Glenn Dorsey, a rookie that some expected the Falcons to select in the 2008 NFL Draft. Atlanta’s own defensive line had better be ready for this one, because Larry Johnson has emerged as one of the NFL’s best RBs. These teams just don’t like each other. Last year’s game at Bank of America Stadium was one of the few highlights for Atlanta, as Joey Harrington threw a touchdown pass to Alge Crumpler in the final seconds for a thrilling come-from-behind victory. Crumpler is not around this time, however, so the Falcons will look for a new target in hopes of a win. As long as the Falcons can contain Brett Favre … what’s that? He retired? Wow, we hadn’t heard – the media must have missed that one. All jokes aside, the Packers had a great season last year but with new quarterback Aaron Rodgers taking the snaps, who knows what to expect? Thank goodness this game isn’t being played in November or December. You have to go back to 2005 for the last matchup between these two teams, a 16-3 Bears win in the Windy City. Chicago seems to only have one true threat to score, and that is punt/kick return master Devin Hester. As long as Atlanta can keep the ball out of his hands, the hometown fans may be leaving the Dome with smiles on their faces. When healthy, Donovan McNabb typically has the Eagles contending for an NFC Championship. Falcons fans found that out after Atlanta’s loss to Philly in the 2004 NFC Championship Game. Still, those other Birds struggled last year as the only NFC East team that did not reach the playoffs. At least their fans are always polite and classy. Speaking of fans, the silver-and-black have some wild ones of their own, and the Falcons face off against DeAngelo Hall for the first time since his departure. Though the Raiders went 4-12 last season, second-year quarterback JaMarcus Russell and rookie running back Darren McFadden give Oakland a potentially dangerous backfield for years to come. Will the Saints find the magic they had in 2006 or will they repeat their disappointing 2007 season? Tough to say but if Deuce McAllister can stay healthy, he and Reggie Bush should be a dynamic duo all over again. Home-field advantage has not helped the Birds recently as the Saints have won two straight in the Dome – can Atlanta stop the skid? No matter who is at running back for Denver, expect him/them to excel – that’s how it has worked for the Broncos for more than a decade. Hopefully the Falcons can come away with a win here because, quite frankly, many of us are still bitter after losing to the Broncos in Super Bowl XXXIII. This is Denver’s first trip to Atlanta since 1998. Last year, Joey Harrington had a career day in the Dome against the Panthers, throwing for 361 yards, two touchdowns and no picks … and Carolina still came away with the win. Of course, much of that had to do with DeAngelo Hall racking up the penalty yardage. This divisional home game could be crucial at this point in the season. LaDainian Tomlinson shattered the record for most rushing touchdowns in a season back in 2006. His former backup Michael Turner will now have a chance to shine with the Falcons, and we hope Turner can show his old team why it was a mistake to let him go. The Falcons will try and give the perennial playoff contenders a run for their money on the road. The Falcons never like losing to the Saints, so the fact that they have lost their last four matchups can’t make them feel too good. With the season winding down at this point, this game could mean everything. The Falcons have not had much luck in the Superdome since its reopening in 2006, but they are still 44-34 all-time against their division rivals. The Falcons found themselves in position to be just one game out of the NFC South lead when the Bucs came to the Georgia Dome last year. But after Tampa Bay handed the Birds a 31-7 smackdown, the Falcons never recovered, losing six consecutive games. After that tough loss, you can bet the Falcons have “revenge” on their minds. Don’t expect a similar game to the one in 2007. The Vikings relied on their defense, as two INTs were returned for scores in Minnesota’s win. After seeing Adrian Peterson win the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award, there should be more offense this time. Sports Illustrated’s “Dr. Z” even picked the Vikings to win the Super Bowl this year. The Falcons end the season at home against the Rams, who have not won in the Georgia Dome since 2001. No. 2 overall draft pick Chris Long will suit up for St. Louis’ defense, and he may find himself looking across the line at No. 3 pick Matt Ryan. St. Louis started 2007 with an 0-8 record but still somehow found a way to beat Atlanta in Week 12.

SUN 9/14
4:05 P .M. FOX-TV

Raymond James Stadium Tampa, FL

SUN 9/21

Georgia Dome Atlanta, GA

SUN 9/28

Bank of America Stadium Charlotte, NC

SUN 10/5

Lambeau Field Green Bay, WI

SUN 10/12

Georgia Dome Atlanta, GA

SUN 10/26

Lincoln Financial Field Philadelphia, PA

SUN 11/2
4:15 P .M. FOX-TV

McAfee Coliseum Oakland, CA

SUN 11/9

Georgia Dome Atlanta, GA

SUN 11/16

Georgia Dome Atlanta, GA

SUN 11/23

Georgia Dome Atlanta, GA

SUN 11/30
4:05 P .M. FOX-TV

Qualcomm Stadium San Diego, CA

SUN 12/07

Louisiana Superdome New Orleans, LA

SUN 12/14

Georgia Dome Atlanta, GA

SUN 12/21

The Metrodome Minneapolis, MN

SUN 12/28

Georgia Dome Atlanta, GA


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