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  1. Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith made the radio rounds Friday morning with the team set to begin training camp in the afternoon. "You're going to see Kroy Biermann and Julio Jones participating in practice today," Smith told 92.9 the Game. "Those guys have worked extremely hard getting back. We're going to limit their snaps. They will be as close to full participants as they can. "Kroy will work two days and take a day off to start with. And we'll evaluate after Week 1. And Julio, we're going to give him a day off every other day to start with. We should have those guys by the beginning of the season at 100 percent and ready to go, and that's the No. 1 goal. We want to be as healthy as we possibly can." The Falcons have three players starting training camp on the physically unable to perform list: receiver Drew Davis (foot), defensive tackle Corey Peters (Achilles), and safety Zeke Motta (neck surgery). Motta is not expected to play this season. Smith sounded optimistic about Peters. "We anticipate Corey Peters to hopefully get off of (PUP) very quickly," Smith said. "He's been working extremely hard off of his Achilles."
  2. this is a sports reporter FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The Atlanta Falcons moved one step closer to Friday's opening day of training camp as the veterans reported Thursday. . But at least center Joe Hawley pulled into the lot, fulfilling his promise when team mascot Freddie Falcon asked who was coming to camp this year. The Falcons' media relations department said all the veterans reported, while all the rookies reported Tuesday. Here's a quick wrap-up of the few players that stopped to talk to the media. Defensive tackle Corey Peters, who begins camp on the physically unable to perform list following last year's Achilles' tear, continues to target the season opener against New Orleans (Sept. 7) for his return. Peters isn't expected to do much in the preseason, even when cleared to practice. But he hopes not to start the regular season on the PUP list, which would sideline him for the first six weeks of the season. "I'm excited about it. I'm very optimistic about everything," Peters said. "Hopefully as the days move forward, we'll be closer to getting back on the field." Peters suffered the injury in a Dec. 23 loss at San Francisco last year. He did some light jogging toward the end of minicamp. Wide receiver Drew Davis, also on the training camp PUP list after undergoing foot surgery, doesn't look like he'll be ready to start the season. His left foot was in a walking boot as he scooted his way into the training camp quarters. Davis was placed on the PUP list July 5 after having the procedure following some discomfort. Coach Mike Smith initially called it as six-week injury, which would have put Davis back on the field for at least the last two preseason games. But there is a concern about Davis' availability to start the season. He was not available to talk to reporters Thursday. Defensive tackle Peria Jerry is entering a critical stretch. The former first-round pick hasn't played up to expectations and appears to be on the roster bubble, with players such as Paul Soliai, Tyson Jackson, and rookie Ra'Shede Hageman now in fold. Jerry suffered another setback last season with a knee sprain, but he seems to be beyond that injury. "I feel real good, real confident with myself," Jerry said. "You've got to go out each and every year and try to prove yourself. You know, we're just going to see what happens." Newcomer Josh Wilson is ready to compete for the nickelback position against Robert McClain and Javier Arenas. "I think that every time we have a chance, everything is competitive out here," Wilson said. During minicamp, Wilson did a lot of playful jawing with receiver Harry Douglas, so we'll see if that continues with the cameras from HBO's "Hard Knocks" rolling throughout camp. Running back/special-teamer Josh Vaughan and safety Kemal Ishmael were among the other veterans spotted on report day. ... Pass-rusher Stansly Maponga also was hanging around inside the building. ... Roddy White eventually showed up to sign his four-year contract extension. ... Rookie right tackle Jake Matthews made a cameo appearance on his way to sign autographs.
  3. http://espn.go.com/blog/atlanta-falcons/post/_/id/6249/rodgers-not-concerned-about-his-role While rookie Devonta Freeman generated a lot of buzz for the Atlanta Falcons this offseason, another running back quietly went about his business in preparation for the 2014 campaign. Jacquizz Rodgers, entering his fourth season, isn't worried about being overlooked in the backfield equation, with Freeman being touted as a possible every-down back and Steven Jackson already the starter. Fan-favorite Antone Smith also is a part of the group and undrafted rookie Jerome Smith hopes to make an impression. "There are no concerns," Rodgers said, speaking about the addition of Freeman. "You've got to come and compete every year. It just makes the group better, bringing more guys. It makes everybody work harder at practice. We're going to work collectively. We're going to learn from each other. And we're going to make each other better each and every day." The Falcons had to think toward the future with Jackson ready to turn 31 next month. That is why they drafted Freeman in the fourth round out of Florida State. "He's a good running back," Rodgers said of his new teammate. "Comes from a winning program. Fast guy: a guy that's willing to learn, willing to learn from the older guys. He's a good piece to our puzzle in the backfield." Rodgers has value as an all-purpose back, so he should be part of the rotation entering the regular season. So what happens when Freeman starts taking touches from Rodgers once the season starts? "It wouldn't bother me because you know I'm going to go out there and work hard, and just continue to do what I've got to do," Rodgers said. "I know when I got my shot, I'm going to go all out." Rodgers compiled 1,248 all-purpose yards last season, including 575 kickoff return yards. The addition of Devin Hester as a return man will keep Rodgers from being as a effective on special teams, but he will likely stay in the mix as insurance. Rodgers remains a threat as a pass-catcher out of the backfield and a player capable of creating mismatches. Plus, he brings another aspect that a rookie such as Freeman might have a hard time with initially. "Blocking, I take very good pride in that," Rodgers said. "As a running back, if you want to be on this field, that's one thing that you've got to be able to do." Rodgers is capable of a lot. That is why he should have a place on the field this season .
  4. http://t.co/1hLxJLePfp Atlanta Falcons second-year linebacker Joplo Bartu could care less about hearing his name mentioned as the best possible replacement for injured teammate Sean Weatherspoon, who was lost for the 2014 season with an Achilles tear. Bartu simply wants to improve every aspect of his game rather than try to measure up to Weatherspoon. His growth will continue this week as the Falcons begin their three-day mandatory minicamp on Tuesday afternoon. Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said the team continues to look around for any possible veteran help to add depth to the linebacker position. The Falcons worked out veteran Tim Dobbins and Nick Barnett after Weatherspoon suffered his Achilles tear while rehabbing from a knee injury. Jonathan Vilma also is on the radar, but the Falcons haven't signed anyone just yet. Bartu and Paul Worrilow have been the inside linebacker combination this offseason without Weatherspoon as the Falcons have moved to a 3-4 base defensive scheme. Rookies Prince Shembo and Marquis Spruill also are in the mix inside. "I'm just here to do my job," Bartu said over the weekend. "I don't have any control over what the front office or whatever the coaches decide. I'm here to do my job and do it to the best to my ability. "There are some improvements that I could make. I'm never satisfied. You can never be satisfied in this league. I just feel like there are different things I could work on and I can improve on the things that I'm really good at." Last year as an undrafted rookie, Bartu started 13 of 16 games while playing outside linebacker in more of a 4-3 scheme. He finished third on the team with 85 tackles and also recorded 3.5 sacks while playing 74 percent of the defensive snaps, second most among the linebackers behind Worrilow (74.1 percent). Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan spoke in general terms about Bartu following organized team activities earlier this month, before Weatherspoon went down with the injury. "Joplo played linebacker on the line of scrimmage last year that was most like what he had done in college," Nolan said after OTAs on June 4. "Not expecting him to contribute so soon, that was our way to allow him to mature. He is now aligned at inside linebacker off the line of scrimmage about 4 yards or so. It is new to him but it is his best position as an NFL player. It fits everything about him. He's done OK so far." But Bartu will, of course, have to pick up the pace if he plans to fill Weatherspoon's shoes. How Bartu responds to the transition when the Falcons finally put on the pads should be telling. Worrilow, also undrafted last season, has plenty of faith in his fellow linebacker. "Jop's a great player," Worrilow said. "In OTAs, it's been me and Jop out there with the first team leading things as a linebacker group. It shouldn't be a shock for him to step in there and play well. He played super well last year. His ability to cover tight ends is unmatched. I watch him and he's just really good. I expect him to come in and play really well. "Spoon is still going to be around in our meeting room. He's still going to be the leader in our room. Now on the field, that's where I've got to kind of take the reins on that." Bartu wants to step forward as well. "I feel like I need to work on my vision a little bit," Bartu said. "I just have to calm down and play a little bit slower. When you first come into the league, everything seems like it's moving really fast. Just calm down and look at it and use your vision, peripherals and everything." Bartu also plans to put to good use the lessons learned from Weatherspoon. "Spoon taught me so much, just different techniques and different tricks," Bartu said. "I'm just taking those in. "It was tough to see Spoon go down because he's been working so hard this entire offseason just to get back out there. Even when he wasn't out there with us, he was still encouraging us. He's just a great and awesome leader. I let him know that he was in my prayers, and he just told me to keep my head up and keep working." Bartu's hard work should pay off come the start of the regular season.
  5. http://espn.go.com/blog/atlanta-falcons/post/_/id/6066/joplo-bartu-has-chance-to-make-mark-with-atlanta- falcons?ex_cid=espnapi_public Atlanta Falcons second-year linebacker Joplo Bartu couldn't care less about hearing his name mentioned as the best possible replacement for injured teammate Sean Weatherspoon, who was lost for the 2014 season with an Achilles tear. Bartu simply wants to improve every aspect of his game rather than try to measure up to Weatherspoon. His growth will continue this week as the Falcons begin their three-day mandatory minicamp on Tuesday afternoon. Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said the team continues to look around for any possible veteran help to add depth to the linebacker position. The Falcons worked out veteran Tim Dobbins and Nick Barnett after Weatherspoon suffered his Achilles tear while rehabbing from a knee injury. Jonathan Vilma also is on the radar, but the Falcons haven't signed anyone just yet. Bartu and Paul Worrilow have been the inside linebacker combination this offseason without Weatherspoon as the Falcons have moved to a 3-4 base defensive scheme. Rookies Prince Shembo and Marquis Spruill also are in the mix inside. "I'm just here to do my job," Bartu said over the weekend. "I don't have any control over what the front office or whatever the coaches decide. I'm here to do my job and do it to the best to my ability. "There are some improvements that I could make. I'm never satisfied. You can never be satisfied in this league. I just feel like there are different things I could work on and I can improve on the things that I'm really good at." Last year as an undrafted rookie, Bartu started 13 of 16 games while playing outside linebacker in more of a 4-3 scheme. He finished third on the team with 85 tackles and also recorded 3.5 sacks while playing 74 percent of the defensive snaps, second most among the linebackers behind Worrilow (74.1 percent). Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan spoke in general terms about Bartu following organized team activities earlier this month, before Weatherspoon went down with the injury. "Joplo played linebacker on the line of scrimmage last year that was most like what he had done in college," Nolan said after OTAs on June 4. "Not expecting him to contribute so soon, that was our way to allow him to mature. He is now aligned at inside linebacker off the line of scrimmage about 4 yards or so. It is new to him but it is his best position as an NFL player. It fits everything about him. He's done OK so far." But Bartu will, of course, have to pick up the pace if he plans to fill Weatherspoon's shoes. How Bartu responds to the transition when the Falcons finally put on the pads should be telling. Worrilow, also undrafted last season, has plenty of faith in his fellow linebacker. "Jop's a great player," Worrilow said. "In OTAs, it's been me and Jop out there with the first team leading things as a linebacker group. It shouldn't be a shock for him to step in there and play well. He played super well last year. His ability to cover tight ends is unmatched. I watch him and he's just really good. I expect him to come in and play really well. "Spoon is still going to be around in our meeting room. He's still going to be the leader in our room. Now on the field, that's where I've got to kind of take the reins on that." Bartu wants to step forward as well. "I feel like I need to work on my vision a little bit," Bartu said. "I just have to calm down and play a little bit slower. When you first come into the league, everything seems like it's moving really fast. Just calm down and look at it and use your vision, peripherals and everything." Bartu also plans to put to good use the lessons learned from Weatherspoon. "Spoon taught me so much, just different techniques and different tricks," Bartu said. "I'm just taking those in. "It was tough to see Spoon go down because he's been working so hard this entire offseason just to get back out there. Even when he wasn't out there with us, he was still encouraging us. He's just a great and awesome leader. I let him know that he was in my prayers, and he just told me to keep my head up and keep working." Bartu's hard work should pay off come the start of the regular season.
  6. http://espn.go.com/blog/atlanta-falcons/post/_/id/5966/is-veteran-connor-worth-a-longer-look?ex_cid=espnapi_public The Atlanta Falcons lost a key defensive piece for the 2014 season when linebacker Sean Weatherspoon suffered an Achilles tear while working with the training staff on Tuesday. With Paul Worrilow and Joplo Bartu working the inside linebacker positions in the Falcons' 3-4 base scheme, the team did its best to proceed without Weatherspoon this offseason. He was nursing a knee injury before the Achilles tear. Of course, the Falcons would have been better off with Weatherspoon in the lineup come the start of the regular season based on his experience, talent and reputation as the spiritual leader. But now the Falcons probably have to consider all options just in case depth at the position becomes an issue. One veteran inside linebacker who comes to mind is Dan Connor, the former third-round pick of the Carolina Panthers. Connor worked out for the Falcons this offseason but didn't immediately sign. Connor remains a free agent. It's unclear what the Falcons thought of the 28-year-old Connor after the workout. However, Connor does have 27 career starts. And although Connor performed at his best in the Panthers' 4-3 scheme, he did make a transition to the 3-4 during his brief stint with the Dallas Cowboys. In fact, he bulked up in Dallas to accommodate playing in the new scheme. He started eight games with the Cowboys in 2012. Connor's last action was back with the Panthers last season. If Connor is an option, the Falcons probably would want to get him in before next week's minicamp. The team could just stick with the current group of inside linebackers that includes Worrilow, Bartu and veteran Akeem Dent, along with a trio of rookies in Prince Shembo, Marquis Spruill, and Yawin Smallwood. Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said Spruill needs to get bigger and said he's still unsure about Smallwood, so Shembo might be the guy the Falcons turn to for a contribution.
  7. http://espn.go.com/blog/nflnation/post/_/id/128846/10-observations-from-falcons-otas FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The Atlanta Falcons had their open session of organized team activities on Wednesday with a handful of players absent or out of action. Starting receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White were not on the practice field, as expected. The Falcons continue to be cautious with Jones coming off foot surgery, while White is mourning the loss of his younger brother, who was murdered in South Carolina. Jones is not expected to return until training camp while White's timetable remains unclear. "Our thoughts and prayers are still with Roddy and his family in this difficult time," coach Mike Smith said. [+] Enlarge AP Photo/John BazemoreThe Falcons' Kroy Biermann worked on his pass-rush moves during Wednesday's workout. Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, safetyZeke Motta, and defensive tackle Corey Peters were on the practice field but didn't participate while recovering from injuries. Weatherspoon still has a knee issue while Motta's status for the 2014 season is unclear after neck surgery. Weatherspoon did some light drills with the training staff during practice while Motta did some light running. Peters is coming off an Achilles' tear. Rookie running back Devonta Freemanwas excused from practice to attend the 20th Annual NFLPA Rookie Premiere in Los Angeles. "It's basically mandatory that he goes," Smith said of Freeman. "He came to me and said,'Coach, I don't really want to go.' I said, 'You've got to go.' He said, 'I don't want to miss practice.' I said, 'Well, if you don't go, you can't be here at the facility. That's the way the rules are. So go enjoy California.' It's an honor for him to be chosen to go." Here are 10 other observations from OTAs: 1. When defensive coordinator Mike Nolan screamed out "base defense" midway through practice, the Falcons move into a 3-4 setup with Tyson Jackson, Paul Soliai and Jonathan Babineaux up front, Paul Worrilow and Joplo Bartu as the inside linebackers, and Stansly Maponga and Jonathan Massaquoi rushing as outside linebackers. 2. Left tackle Sam Baker seemed to move around fine coming off what he called a complicated knee surgery. He did not wear a knee brace and practiced the entire two hours without noticeably sitting out reps. Smith felt Baker moved around "extremely well" on Wednesday. 3. Speaking of reps, tight end Levine Toilolo had an undisclosed injury that limited his reps, and he spent time with the training staff during the session. Bear Pascoe and Mickey Shulergot a lot of work as the blocking tight ends in double-tight end sets. 4. Outside linebacker Kroy Biermann, in his return from an Achilles' tear, had a pretty light day of work. He did spend extensive time early in practice working on his swim move with outside linebackers coach Mark Collins. 5. Another player emphasizing his technique was pass-rusher Osi Umenyiora, who worked on his spin move during a break in between individual drills. Umenyiora did individuals with the defensive tackles and defensive ends rather than the outside linebackers. 6. Rookie Prince Shembo, who appeared to line up more at outside linebacker during rookie minicamp, spent the majority of the day at inside linebacker. He did individual drills with the inside linebackers. 7. Free safety Dwight Lowery, a veteran signed this offseason, picked off a Matt Ryan pass that seemed to be a more of a miscommunication between Ryan and the receiver. Lowery spent the entire day with the first-team defense alongside strong safety William Moore. 8. Rookie defensive end Ra'Shede Hageman started yelling at himself after messing up one play. He seems to be really hard on himself. Nolan and defensive line coach Bryan Cox had to calm him down. 9. There were a couple of skirmishes. Shuler and Maponga got into it after Shuler pushed Maponga to the ground after the whistle. Earlier, offensive tackle Terren Jones mixed it up with defensive end Nosa Eguae. 10. Rookie offensive tackle Jake Matthews showed great quickness throughout the day and looked more like a veteran next to the other four offensive linemen. Another rookie who stood out was cornerback Ricardo Allen, who made a tremendous play on the ball during one-on-one coverage drills.
  8. Friday, April 11, 2014 Boise State's Lawrence visits Falcons By Vaughn McClure The Atlanta Falcons are continuing to do their homework on a variety of pass-rushers in preparation for the NFL draft. Boise State's Demarcus Lawrence, a defensive end/outside linebacker prospect, is in Atlanta for a visit, according to a league source. Lawrence is projected as a second-round pick, although his strong workouts have earned him first-round consideration. The 6-foot-3, 251-pound Lawrence is a South Carolina native who attended Butler Community College (Kansas) before transferring to Boise State. Last season, he led the Mountain West Conference with 10.5 sacks and 20.5 tackles for loss. He then declared early for the draft. Lawrence has impressed scouts with his aggressiveness and instincts. At the combine, he showed the ability to drop into coverage while performing linebacker drills. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.69 seconds at Boise State's pro day. Lawrence's agent, David Canter, recently tweeted that his client had 10 visits lined up in 14 days. The Falcons sorely need pass-rush help and are looking into a number of first- and second-round-caliber talents to possibly fill the void. Most expect them to consider Buffalo's Khalil Mack in the first round if he's still available with the sixth overall pick. Trading up for South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney seems to be a long shot at this point, with Clowney projected to go No. 1 overall to the Houston Texans. ESPN Draft expert Todd McShay has Auburn pass-rusher Dee Ford falling to the Falcons in the second round of his latest mock draft. BYU outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy is visiting the Falcons next Wednesday while UCLA outside linebacker Anthony Barr is visiting the week of April 21. Mack, who already had a private workout with the Falcons, doesn't have a visit scheduled with the Falcons just yet.
  9. Tuesday, April 1, 2014 Anatomy of free-agent contract: Paul Soliai By Vaughn McClure After seven seasons in Miami, Paul Soliai will begin a new chapter in Atlanta. Suddenly, there was silence. The team on the phone line had to be thinking all sorts of random thoughts at that moment. Was something said to make negotiations fall apart? Was another team trying to call and get in on the action? Was a cell tower down in the area? No, there was a simple explanation why agent David Canter's conversation with Atlanta Falcons contract negotiator Nick Polk got cut off while they discussed 30-year-old nose tackle Paul Soliai. Blame it on the baby. "I was holding my 2-year-old son, Austen, because we were talking very early in the morning, and my son pressed the button and hung up on them," Canter explained with a laugh. "I called Nick right back because I didn't want him to think I hung up on him." Their contract talks got back on track in a big way. Canter's numerous discussions with Polk and the Falcons during the three-day NFL negotiation period resulted in a five-year deal for Soliai worth $33 million, with $14 million guaranteed -- somewhat defying the odds of age and position. Canter was on a pirate-ship cruise with his wife and sons in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., when multiple teams, including the Falcons, Minnesota Vikings and Indianapolis Colts, started to inquire about Soliai on March 8. "We were docking at 12:08 p.m. that Saturday when the first call came in," Canter recalled. "I really don't remember what team it was because I literally hung up the phone on them to take a call from another team. I honestly didn't expect a phone call Saturday right after noon." A big part of Soliai wanted to remain with the Miami Dolphins, who drafted him in the fourth round out of Utah in 2007. But there was a natural fit in Atlanta, where his former defensive coordinator for the Dolphins, Mike Nolan, now holds the same title. "When you're Mike Nolan and you're [general manager] Thomas Dimitroff and you're sitting there in your meetings and you're talking about moving to a 3-4, you need an anchor for a 3-4," Canter explained. "There's no better anchor, in my opinion, than Paul Soliai." Here is the evolution of Soliai's free-agent contract through the eyes of the guy who negotiated it. Testing the market They had been through this process before. In 2012, Canter and Soliai had thoughts of moving on from Miami. In fact, they were set to take a free-agent deal with the Denver Broncos. But the trip to Denver was canceled at the last minute. Big Money In The Trenches Paul Soliai is seventh among the 10 highest-paid defensive tackles in terms of average salary per year. (Source: ESPN Stats & Information) Ngata, Cofield and Soliai are nose tackles. Ndamukong Suh, Lions $12,600,000 Haloti Ngata, Ravens $12,200,000 Gerald McCoy, Bucs $11,487,457 Geno Atkins, Bengals $10,665,400 Kyle Williams, Bills $7,500,000 Henry Melton, Cowboys $6,875,000 Paul Soliai, Falcons $6,400,000 Vince Wilfork, Patriots $6,333,333 Linval Joseph, Vikings $6,250,000 Barry Cofield, Redskins $6,000,000 "Paul looked me in the eyes and said, 'I'm not comfortable leaving Florida,'" Canter recalled. "He said to me, 'I know you're close to terms with the Broncos, but call Miami and tell them I want to come back.' So we took a two-year, $11.5 million contract to remain in Miami." Signing just a two-year deal allowed Soliai to test the market again this offseason. Canter tried to facilitate an extension with the Dolphins, but it never materialized. He said he met with former general manager Jeff Ireland in the parking lot following Miami's loss to the New York Jets in the 2013 season finale. Ireland told Canter that Soliai was one of the Dolphins' top three offseason priorities. But Ireland and the team parted ways in January. So Canter felt somewhat in limbo with a client who wanted to stay put, yet likely wasn't going to be offered the compensation he desired. "I actually needed a number from Miami in August," Canter explained. "We had a three-year extension on the table, but the major issue was guaranteed money." Canter felt Soliai was taking a chance by playing the '13 season without an extension. The agent's worst fear almost became a reality when Soliai suffered a knee injury in Week 2 against the Colts. It knocked him out of just one game -- against, coincidentally, the Falcons. The Dolphins, under new general manager Dennis Hickey, apparently made another attempt to re-sign Soliai the Friday before free agency began. Canter said the offer was similar to the two-year, $12 million deal defensive tackle Randy Starks accepted to remain in Miami. When contacted for this story, the Dolphins declined to comment on their talks with Soliai. Canter knew what type of money he desired all along. He huddled with his analytics consultant, Brian McIntyre, at season's end and figured $6 million to $8 million per year would be the price range for Soliai. Atlanta, intent on beefing up both the offensive and defensive lines, made the most sense. Soliai's lone Pro Bowl season came under Nolan in 2011. And current Falcons defensive line coach Bryan Cox was the Dolphins' pass-rush coach that same season. "With Atlanta, we heard rumors that there might be a change to a 3-4, so we started really looking at Atlanta as possibly an attractive team in January," Canter said. "But you really don't know until you get to Indianapolis at the combine because teams want to see the other defensive linemen that are out there." Canter proclaimed himself open for business at the combine by hand-delivering analytics packages he developed with McIntyre that broke down all 12 of his free agents, including Soliai. The information also was distributed via email to all 32 teams before the combine. The section devoted to Soliai emphasized that teams shouldn't focus on him being an aging guy playing an undervalued position. "The first thing you had to fight wasn't the position; the first thing you had to fight was the age," Canter said. "There's ageism in the NFL. There's this belief that a player that is 30 years old just isn't worth any money anymore, or not nearly as much money." Soliai hadn't necessarily taken the pounding you would expect from a seven-year interior lineman. He played just 45.7 percent of the Dolphins' defensive snaps in 2013. "The reality is that snap count is what matters," Canter said. "Now, that can be a positive and a negative for Paul. He didn't, for whatever reason in Miami, play on third down a lot. So some teams would say, 'He's not a three-down player.' I disagree with that. Paul disagrees with that. We've proven when he is in on third down, with our analytics packages, that the team actually performed better." Soliai missed only one game the past four seasons, which Canter pointed to as a sign of durability. Even after the brief knee scare in 2013, the tandem felt little to worry about in free agency. "This guy doesn't have an injury history," Canter said of Soliai. "To use Paul's quote, 'I'm Samoan. We don't get hurt.'" Sealing the deal By Monday, March 10, the eve of free agency, Canter believed the Falcons would be the major player in the Soliai deal. There were a few more discussions with Polk, including one during which Dimitroff jumped on the line for 10 minutes. Canter figured he would get at least the $6 million per year range from the Falcons with at least $10 million guaranteed. He said seven teams total inquired about Soliai. "Monday afternoon, I started to get the feeling that I was going to lose teams," he said. "I thought I had another team that I was going to really be able to play against Atlanta. Obviously, I couldn't call them because I'm going to lose leverage. Soliai and his agent, David Canter, reviewed the nose tackle's contract at an Atlanta restaurant. "So Monday afternoon, after I hung up the phone with Nick, I started sending text messages to teams and said, 'Hey, if you want in on Paul, here's the range we're going to be in. Can you beat that? Can you get to $6.5 [million average per year]?'" Canter said. "A lot of teams, they won't say no, flat out. They'll say, 'We have something else working. If we don't get that done, we're coming to you.' That's not good enough for me." Once Tuesday came, Canter and Soliai knew it was all but a done deal. Late that afternoon, Canter tried to push for a little more. "There was a point in time when the Atlanta deal almost went away," he said. "I was set on $8 million a year for the first two years. Obviously, Atlanta wasn't going to go there. And we didn't get there. But we got $7 million a year. So, then I pushed for $15 million over two years fully guaranteed. During those conversations, I felt like we had to pause and reset and they had to pause and reset." The sides eventually agreed to the five-year deal with $11 million going to Soliai in the first year. Without discussing financial terms, Dimitroff explained the negotiations from the Falcons' perspective. "When going through any negotiation, the ultimate goal is to reach a deal that is mutually beneficial for both the team and the player," Dimitroff said. "I think the three-day period in which you can talk with agents has become very beneficial for both sides. It is important to have constructive and honest dialogue during that time. And if that is the case, it can help you when free agency begins." After the deal was done, Canter texted Miami out of courtesy, and he said the response back was, "Tell Paul we wish him the best of luck." When the agreement was announced, Canter was watching with McIntyre on ESPN and actually negotiating the delivery of a Range Rover to another client, Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Sean Smith. "I had to get free window tinting thrown into the deal for Sean because the truck was late being delivered," Canter said. Soliai still had some questions that needed to be answered, such as where the nearest Wal-Mart or Super Target was located in relation to the Falcons' facility and how he could avoid the "challenging" traffic in the city. He nixed the possibility of living in a subdivision popular among the players because it wasn't close enough to a grocery store. Any last-minute concerns Soliai had calmed when he saw the contract numbers in front of him. The final step in the process occurred at the popular Bones restaurant in the Buckhead area of Atlanta. Soliai, his family and Canter dined with a group that included Dimitroff, assistant general manager Scott Pioli, head coach Mike Smith, Polk, Nolan and Cox. As Canter dug into a bone-in filet and Soliai into a veal steak, Canter reiterated to Soliai how fortunate he was to join such an organization. "There are so many amazing football minds in that building, and that's kudos to Thomas Dimitroff, Mike Smith and [owner] Arthur Blank for putting together a hierarchy of coaches and front-office people who have been either general managers or head coaches or pro personnel directors," Canter said. "It blew our minds at dinner." Canter and Soliai scanned the contract details at the dinner table. Canter tried to go line by line over the contract, but Soliai just wanted to sign. "Ever since I signed with David, I've been in good hands," Soliai said. "My family has been taken care of." So now Soliai was set to call Atlanta his new home. He mentioned renting out his place in Florida because he already has a residence back in Utah. As for Canter, he didn't leave town without making one final push: He tried to nudge the Falcons to sign more of his free agents, including safety Steve Gregory and cornerback Brice McCain. "I went up to Thomas Dimitroff and [director of player personnel] Lionel Vital and I was like, 'Let's do another deal. Let's get another guy in the building,'" Canter said. "Maybe I'm a little too aggressive. But that's why guys hire me."
  10. http://espn.go.com/b...look-at-hageman The Atlanta Falcons are sure to take a close look at a number of top prospects before the May 8 NFL draft, including players they've already seen up close recently. Jesse Johnson/USA TODAY SportsMinnesota defensive lineman Ra'Shede Hageman is on the radar of the Falcons, who feel he can fit into any defensive scheme. Last week, they conducted a private workout with Minnesota defensive lineman Ra'Shede Hageman, according to league source. Hageman was on the North team coached by the Falcons at this year's Senior Bowl. He spent a lot of time with new Falcons defensive line coach Bryan Cox. During the Senior Bowl week, Falcons head coach Mike Smith raved about how Hageman had the talent to play in any defensive scheme. With the Falcons moving toward a 3-4-based setup, Hageman could project as a defensive end in such a system. Some experts say he's too tall, a 6-foot-6 and 310 pounds, to play defensive tackle in a 4-3 scheme. Whatever the case, Cox certainly took an interest in Hageman at the Senior Bowl. At one point, he rode Hageman about running behind for a meeting with a team. Cox's tough love symbolized the potential he sees in the talented linemen. Hageman, who has drawn comparisons to John Henderson, has been projected as a late first- or early second-round pick. The Falcons seem destined to address their need for either an offensive tackle or pass rusher if they keep the sixth overall pick. They own the fifth pick (37th overall) in the second round. It makes you wonder if they might consider Hageman if he's still on the board by then, although safety is likely to be a more pressing need if one doesn't fall out of the sky soon. Getting bigger and tougher up front has been the Falcons' theme this offseason. On the defensive side, it meant the additions of nose tackle Paul Soliai and run-stuffing defensive end Tyson Jackson. If Corey Peters isn't recovered from an Achilles' injury by the start of the season, the Falcons could need another young body up front at the other defensive end spot. Hageman, a converted tight end, still is viewed as a raw talent although he'll enter the league as a 24-year-old rookie. Skeptics say he gets stood up too many times at the line of scrimmage. Hageman comes from a rough background, having bounced around foster homes before being adopted, as detailed in this excellent piece written by ESPN's Adam Rittenberg.
  11. Despite all the clever moves made in free agency, the Atlanta Falcons are still in need of a pass-rusher. Specifically, their move to a 3-4-based defensive scheme means the desire for outside linebackers capable of getting to the quarterback. Draft prospect Anthony Barr appears to be one of those guys, and that's why the Falcons plan to take a long look at him. Barr has a private workout scheduled with the Falcons before the end of the month, according to a league source with knowledge of the situation. The UCLA outside linebacker had been projected as a top-10 pick immediately after the college football season, although most draft experts have now dropped him behind the other touted outside linebacker, Buffalo's Khalil Mack. The 6-foot-5-inch, 255-pound Barr has a great combination of size and athleticism. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.66 seconds at the NFL combine, but UCLA coach Jim Mora said Barr improved his time to 4.45 at UCLA's pro day. Mora also said Barr increased his bench press reps from 15 at the combine to 19. "I think definitely in the top 10, from what I got from the (NFL personnel) today," Mora said of Barr after the pro day. "And they understand that the ceiling is so high. He's only played the position for two years. And they see the talent." ESPN NFL draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. projected Barr to be drafted anywhere between 10-20 in the first round. The Falcons currently hold the sixth-overall pick. In terms of the Falcons' needs, adding an offensive tackle such as Auburn's Greg Robinson, Michigan's Taylor Lewan, or Texas A&M's Jake Matthews would appear to take priority over a pass-rusher. Then again, all that could change depending on how things unfold at the top of the draft. It would be hard to pass on Mack, considering how his stock continues to soar. He doesn't have a workout scheduled with the Falcons as of Friday. If the Falcons see something in Barr during the private workout, maybe he'll rise up their draft board. Whatever happens, they are doing their due diligence in checking out capable impact pass-rushers. Arizona State outside linebacker Carl Bradford (6-1, 250) said during an interview he had a workout upcoming with the Falcons, and that workout actually took place Thursday. Bradford is projected as a second-rounder, and the Falcons might have to go that route if they elect to target a tackle in the first round. As things stand for the Falcons right now, Kroy Biermann, Jonathan Massaquoi, and Osi Umenyiora would be the top outside linebackers in the 3-4 setup. Umenyiora reportedly has been asked to take a paycut, so his status for 2014 remains unclear.
  12. ESPN Falcons reporter Vaughn McClure says Atlanta, which has numerous areas of need, should start by bolstering its offensive line when free agency kicks off. http://espn.go.com/b...anta-falcons-18 There's a video that you have to watch, LOL more than just the Picture thyme that your basing your judgement on LOL we are "o" so fast to judge
  13. Umenyiora impressed with Clowney, Ford February, 20, 2014 FEB 20 8:20 AM ET By Vaughn McClure | ESPN.com Atlanta Falcons veteran defensive end Osi Umenyiora already stated his desire to remain with the team. At the same time, Umenyiora realizes the Falcons could add a rookie pass-rusher to the mix. Umenyiora already has an appreciation for two edge-rushers who are set to display their ability at this year’s NFL combine in Indianapolis. Naturally, one of them is South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. "This is a tremendous athlete; a tremendous football player,’’ Umenyiora said of Clowney. "And there’s a guy out of Auburn, Dee Ford, who I think is a **** of a defensive end. He’s a phenomenal pass-rusher. So I definitely think there are a couple of guys who could really upgrade our team.’’ But Umenyiora, a former second-round pick of theNew York Giants out of Troy, has been around the league enough to know that some touted pass-rushers don’t always live up to expectations – not to say that will be the case with Clowney and Ford. "I’ve seen a lot of rookies who were supposed to be good players come in and not do nothing,’’ Umenyiora said. "Or you have a bunch rookies that come in and are supposed to do this and that, and they find out the NFL is a different game. "You can’t always put all your hopes in someone coming in out of college, especially a team like Atlanta that is built to win now. Then again, I’m just employee No. 50 and I do what I’m told. And I definitely understand all the talk about these young pass-rushers.’’ Umenyiora, who has one more year left on his contract and is set to count $4.75 million against the cap, would be the ideal mentor for any young pass-rusher. The Falcons likely would have to trade up to get Clowney. Ford, who impressed at the Senior Bowl, isn’t likely to be picked in the top 10, and the Falcons currently hold the sixth overall pick. Two other pass-rushers linked to the Falcons in terms of draft projections are UCLA’s Anthony Barr and Buffalo’s Khalil Mack. Although most see them as better fits as outside linebackers in 3-4 schemes, even Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said both Barr and Mack are capable of being successful pass-rushers in 4-3 defenses. Combine workouts for defensive linemen and linebackers are on Monday.
  14. http://espn.go.com/blog/atlanta-falcons/post/_/id/3631/adding-a-vet-safety-appears-to-be-in-falcons-plans The Atlanta Falcons and general manager Thomas Dimitroff are still in the process of evaluating players, but the organization obviously has a strong idea of which areas need to be addressed via free agency and the draft. The Falcons seem to be eyeing a veteran safety -- based on buzz around the Senior Bowl -- to work alongside strong safety William Moore, with free safety Thomas DeCoud’s status uncertain despite being signed through 2016. ESPN.com asked Dimitroff if adding a safety was in the plans. "Do we need a safety? I think it’s always important to have good, experienced safeties and safeties that will make plays on the ball and be adept and consistent tacklers,’’ Dimitroff responded. "So, we will always look to continue to improve depth, like we’ve always said. Improving our group of safeties, that’s always going to be an important thing for us.’’ DeCoud, a Pro Bowler in 2012, made noise early this past season with a fumble return for a touchdown in a Week 6 win over Tampa. However, his noticeable struggles tackling contributed to the defense’s inability to slow down offenses. The Falcons allowed opponents to pick up an average of 1.63 yards after contact, which was 27th in the NFL, according to ESPN Statistics & Information. DeCoud, a third-round pick in the 2008 draft out of Cal, made no excuses when he addressed the topic of poor tackling at the end of the season. He finished 2013 with 44 tackles, two passes defensed, and no interceptions in 15 games, missing one contest due to a concussion. During his Pro Bowl year, he had 62 tackles, six interceptions, a sack and nine passes defensed. "On some, it could be angles and on some, it could be overpursuit,’’ DeCoud said of the poor tackling. "Big plays can wipe things away. You can miss a couple of tackles here and there but get a forced fumble or fumble recovery, or interception and it can wipe those things away. The cookie didn’t crumble in my way, in my favor, in terms of turnovers. This is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league. … You’ve got to go out and produce every week.’’ DeCoud signed a five-year deal in March of 2012 with a max value of $21 million, including a $17.5 million base. He has a cap number of $4.8 million next season, $4 million in 2015, and $4.2 million in ’16. If the Falcons decide to part ways with him, it would save them $3 million in cap room. The top veteran free safety likely to entice the Falcons is Buffalo’s Jairus Byrd, although Bills general manager Doug Whaley recently said the team plans to extend Byrd an offer soon to keep him off the open market. Carolina’s Mike Mitchell, once labeled a draft bust, had an impressive year for the Panthers after signing a one-year deal and also could be appealing. Rookie seventh-round draft picks Zeke Motta and Kemal Ishmael are the other safeties currently in the Falcons’ mix, although Motta is recovering from surgery after sustaining a cervical fracture .
  15. http://espn.go.com/blog/atlanta-falcons/post/_/id/3386/bears-analyst-tice-brings-edge-to-falcons#comments
  16. FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- It's hard to imagine where the Atlanta Falcons' defense would be without Jonathan Babineaux. In a dismal season where yielding big plays has been the norm for the unit, Babineaux has maintained a high level of consistency, despite the team's 4-10 record. The defensive tackle's steady play hasn't gone unnoticed. "Well, Jonathan Babineaux, I think, has really had a very good season,'' Falcons coach Mike Smith said. "He's been very disruptive. You know, Jonathan makes those plays in the defensive backfield – many times he's led the league since we've been here in minus-yardage plays. "He had the two fumble recoveries [against Washington]. Jonathan has the ability to basically play in three of the four spots on our defensive front. And he's a very good leader of that group; has been since we've been here. He's probably the one constant that we've had now since Day 1. Jonathan is a tough, hard-nosed, smart football player.'' Smith's high praise makes it even harder to fathom the Falcons taking the field without Babineaux next year. He is set to become a free agent at season's end, and there has been no progress just yet toward signing him to a new deal. Babineaux believes his play warrants another contract, but it's not his call. "That's just part of the business,'' he said. "I'm just going to go out there and continue to work; do what I do. And we'll see at the end of the season what's going to happen.'' Babineaux is one of three Falcons defensive linemen set to become unrestricted free agents along with Peria Jerry and Corey Peters. Although the Falcons are trying to incorporate more young players into the lineup down the stretch in order to get a glimpse of the future, the bulk of inexperienced players along the defensive line are defensive ends, not tackles such as Babineaux. At the same time, the Falcons could decide to go younger at defensive tackle, too. Babineaux understands the reality and the possibility of having to test the free-agent market for the first time. "I definitely want to finish my career here in Atlanta,'' he said. "I started here. I've been through the good times, the bad times. And I definitely want to finish here. So, we'll have a lot of time for that in the offseason – for them and me to decide on something. Hopefully, I'll be able to continue my career here.'' Smith refused to discuss any details related to Babineaux's contract situation. Babineaux has a base salary of $4.7 million this season. "Jonathan's been an integral part of our success here,'' Smith said, "and I can hope that he continues to be an Atlanta Falcon. We all do.'' Babineaux was a second-round draft pick of the Falcons in 2005. Entering this season, he led all defensive tackles since '05 with 49.5 tackles for loss. He currently leads the Falcons with seven tackles for a loss this season to go with one sack. Babineaux's teammates look up to him for his play on the field and community service away from football. "Babs is one of the most consistent lineman in the NFL,'' receiver Harry Douglas said. "He's a tough player and comes up big when we need him to. "I'm close to him. I watch him work every day. And he's a true professional. It's always great to have a guy like that.'' Babs also graded out as a top 15 interior run stuffer according to Pro Football Focus. I always lol when people try to claim he is not any good. Last year he was 2nd in the league in TFL too
  17. http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/10007817/tony-gonzalez-says-atlanta-falcons-not-quit-coach-mike-smith?ex_cid=espnapi_public Tony Gonzalez: 'We haven't quit' Updated: November 20, 2013, 8:41 PM ETBy Vaughn McClure | ESPN.com FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Although four straight losses and a 13-point defeat at the hands of 1-7 Tampa Bay might suggest otherwise, Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalezwanted to make something clear: The players haven't shut it down on head coach Mike Smith, despite a 2-8 record. "We haven't quit on Coach Smitty," Gonzalez told ESPN.com on Wednesday. "If anything, we've quit on ourselves during certain momentum swings during the game. I think that's been our biggest problem. And I've been on teams before like this. It seems like when something bad happens -- which happens in every game, I don't care how good you are -- we're not responding like we should. We're letting it take control of us, I guess, with a here-we-go-again-type attitude. And we don't need to do that. [+] Enlarge Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsCoach Mike Smith, left, and the Falcons haven't had the season they expected, but the players say they haven't quit on him. "That's something that comes with us individually and collectively. It has nothing to do with the coach. Nothing. ... Don't get me wrong: I love a good pregame speech as much as anybody. But at the same time, once that ball is snapped, that's up to me, especially when I've got to do it consistently over and over. So I would never put that off on any coach because I love doing this for a living. And I would hope all these guys feel the same way." Gonzalez said he felt the team's week of practice leading into the Tampa Bay game represented the best week of practice of the season. And the Falcons still lost the game. "And we have to go out there and put a product out there that people want to come watch," Gonzalez said. "There's no way I would quit, ever. I have too much pride for that. I'm not quitting, and I don't think anybody in this locker room has. If that's what it looks like, that's just because we're not playing very well. It has nothing to do with quitting on Coach Smith. That's not the case." Gonzalez reiterated his stance from a few weeks ago, when critics were calling for Smith to be fired after a 34-10 loss to the Carolina Panthers. Both owner Arthur Blank and general manager Thomas Dimitroff gave Smith a vote of confidence. "He's the same guy who went to the NFC Championship [Game] last season," Gonzalez said of Smith. "But like I said, that's how the NFL goes: What have you done for me lately? The talking heads are going to talk. But Coach Smith ... there are a lot of other reasons why we haven't been successful this season. "Probably the most important thing is we haven't had our guys out there. We're not healthy like we were last year. We've been decimated. I mean, Julio Jones. Kroy Biermann. Our fullback [Bradie Ewing]. Sam Baker. It goes down the list. Guess what? When you don't have your starters and your players that you counted on to be there, big-money players, your team is not going to perform as well." The Falcons have six more games to try and get back on track, starting with Thursday night's showdown with NFC South rival New Orleans (8-2). "We still have to play the game and we have to play it to the best of our abilities," Gonzalez said. "And hopefully, that can start to translate to winning, because that's what we play this game for. And I expect to go out there tomorrow and play with a winning attitude. And everybody on this team is going to play with a winning attitude."
  18. FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Don't expect the Atlanta Falcons to spread the carries around among running backs Steven Jackson, Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling. Jackson If anything, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Jackson get even more carries Sunday at Tampa Bay, if the Falcons can avoid falling behind and having to rely on the passing game. Although Jackson managed just 11 yards on nine carries in a 33-10 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter sees the need to give Jackson more opportunities. "My opinion is Steven Jackson is a workhorse running back and we haven't been able to work him," Koetter said. "I mean, I think Steven is one of those guys that gets better the more he touches it. "We're not running it successfully enough to get him enough carries. If he's carrying in multiple times, he's going to need to come out and then that's going to lead to [Rodgers] and Jason getting more carries, too. But unfortunately, because we're not doing anything successfully right now and we're getting behind on the scoreboard, [the running game] sometimes gets away from us." Jackson's season-high in carries was 13 against Carolina, and he seemed to run with more authority with each attempt while gaining 57 rugged yards. He had a season-high 77 rushing yards on 11 carries in the season opener at New Orleans, but that total included a 50-yard run. Jackson, 30, has averaged 18 rushing attempts per game over the course of 10 seasons. Right now, he's averaging a career-low 9.4 attempts, slightly below his average as a rookie in St. Louis (9.4). Four times with the Rams, Jackson averaged 20-plus carries in a season. And he averaged 4.1 yards per carry or better in three of those four seasons. So far this season, Jackson is averaging a career-low 3.2 yards per carry. But keep in mind that he missed four games with a hamstring injury and is running behind an offensive line that has struggled to open holes. Not to mention the Falcons have had trouble with backside blocking. It will be interesting to see how many more carries Jackson gets Sunday against the league's fifth-best rushing defense in Tampa Bay. "I think if you look at any premier running back over the years, they all get better the more they get the ball," Koetter said. "When I was in Jacksonville with Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew, shoot, if they had their way, they wanted the ball every time. "Anybody that's got the stats that Steven Jackson does, they want the ball a lot." http://espn.go.com/blog/atlanta-falcons/post/_/id/1857/falcons-want-to-run-jackson-more-not-less?ex_cid=espnapi_public
  19. Sorry if posted. I didn't see it on the first couple pages. http://espn.go.com/blog/atlanta-falcons/post/_/id/1134/falcons-nolan-to-remain-on-sideline-for-now Falcons Nolan to remain on sideline, for now FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Much was made of Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan's decision to leave the coaching box and be on the sideline last Sunday. Nolan plans to do the same this week at Arizona. Then he'll decide week-to-week whether or not to continue the same regime. Some wondered if Nolan's presence truly made a difference for a defense that showed improvement against Tampa Bay thanks to some timely blitzes, yet still had a few hiccups. Nolan refused to pat himself on the back for the transition. He did, however, believe it helped him in terms of communicating with his players. "We do have a young group, and I thought in calling the game, I'm much more helpful if I can be on the field to do that same thing because I can relay the things that I have to people right there in their face," Nolan said. "I wasn't leaving anything behind by leaving the booth." Nolan was asked to assess the results of the move following his team's 31-23 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. "Well we won the game, I feel good about that," he said. "If we hadn't won the game, I'd probably be back up in the booth." Nolan illustrated the benefit of being on the field rather than on the sideline. The Falcons started three rookies and played four others. "When you're up in the booth, the only way I can communicate with the guys is to get on the phone, get somebody to get them to the phone, and talk to them," Nolan said. "Well, they're tired. They want to sit. For them to have some guy come and say, 'Hey, coach wants you on the phone,' they go up and get the phone, they don't know when they're walking to the phone what they're going to get. They don't know if they're going to get somebody yelling in their ear. Plus there's not that face-to-face, 'Listen, here's what's going down.' "When you're on the sidelines with all the players, if I had something on my mind I want to tell ... like in the booth, I might only call down 15, 20 percent of the time. I also put myself in their shoes. I want to leave them alone because they're in the game. When you're on the field, if there's something on my mind, I can go over and share with a guy.'' Nolan related his thoughts to a specific game situation. "We're getting ready for two-minute (drill), I know what I'm going to call ... I can't call everybody on defense (from the box) and say, 'Hey guys, here are the calls. Everybody get ready.' So this way, I can group them all up, 'Here's what you're look at. I'm calling this, this, and this.' " Time will tell if the defense will continue to respond to Nolan's presence.
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