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  1. I'm copying and pasting as it's on the premium part of the site. Written by Steve Hummer. I remember this game well and didn't have a good feeling before it began....felt like everybody, and I mean, EVERYBODY, other than Falcons fans were pulling for New Orleans. Once it began, and Gleason blocked that punt, it was over. I want a little payback this week... http://www.myajc.com/news/sports/football/falcons-mark-10-years-since-most-memorable-superdo/nsbHJ/ Monday night, 10 years and a day since he walked into the Superdome in New Orleans under the cover of Michael Vick’s shadow, Matt Schaub will make the same entrance as Matt Ryan’s back-up. As is custom whenever the Falcons play the Saints in this heated intra-division rivalry, emotions will be running in the red. But back then, on the night they reopened the dome as a place for football rather than a hellish refuge of last resort, the passions inside rose as flood waters that could have matched those of Hurricane Katrina herself. Back then, as the Falcons prepared to meet this irresistible force, they wondered how they would manage to function, much less win. Basically, they couldn’t. And they didn’t. New Orleans Saints fans celebrate near the close of a 23-3 victory over the Falcons inside the newly re-opened Superdome. (AP ... read more The Falcons equipment people had Vick and Schaub try ear plugs. They tried covering the earholes in their helmets. “Whatever you could do to minimize the outside noise and amplify what we hear in our headset,” Schaub remembered. They expected it to be loud on the night New Orleans returned to the business of professional football after Katrina. But nothing quite like the constant roar that met them. They might as well have tried to hold back time and tide. “Nothing was working,” Schaub said. “We tried it in practice — and thought, oh, that could work. But we got out there in warm-ups and said this isn’t going to work. We have to just get rid of all this and just go play.” New Orleans Saints running back Reggie Bush (25) jumps away from Falcons defender Kevin Mathis (23) in the second half of ... read more Monday night, a decade and a day since he sat in the apartment his family had settled in after being evicted by Katrina, joyfully watching the Saints roll over the Falcons, Deion Jones will be right in the middle of this rivalry. Only now he’s playing linebacker for the visitors. By that point of 2006, the 11 year old Jones had been moved from Mississippi to Texas and finally back home in the little more than a year since the hurricane had devastated New Orleans. His grandmother had sheltered in the very dome that had reeked of mold and desperation. Now it was returned as a centerpiece of celebration, a symbol of a community on the mend. “It meant a lot, especially with all the stuff that happened in the Superdome. People saying the Superdome might never get back to the condition it was before. To have it back open and playing football in there again, it was great,” Jones said recently. Falcons rookie linebacker Deion Jones will have plenty of additional reason to celebrate when he returns home to New Orleans to ... read more The curious orbits that football men do make will bring the veteran and the rookie back around to the scene of what was the most deeply meaningful football game of the time. It is fitting that the Falcons are the opponent on the 10th Anniversary of the Superdome’s reopening, since they had so dutifully cooperated with the plot of Sept. 25, 2006, losing 23-3. Years ago one former Saint said he remembered that the Falcons were in an impossible position, faced with an assignment that was “like trying to fight destiny.” Which remains undefeated to this day. This week the Falcons must depend on the passage of the years to steal away much of the emotional advantage the Saints fed off a decade ago. They must hope that whatever the remembrance will be Monday night, it will be but a dim echo of ’06. Otherwise, they have no chance. Just as they had no chance then. To know why New Orleans was so loud and so proud that night, think of the Joneses’ story and multiply by the tens of thousands. Watching Katrina churn in the gulf and gain intensity in late August 2005, Cal Jones made the canny choice to evacuate, packing up his wife Tahonas and their one child Deion and heading for the home of his wife’s mother in Mississippi. Cal’s mother, though, would not be budged. For her stubbornness she’d be sentenced to a temporary stay inside the dangerous, damaged, fetid Superdome, until days later being bussed to Texas. To a kid, it seemed only a brief inconvenience. “It was the start of (youth) football season. All the friends I had on the team, we thought we’d be right back to playing in no time. And that didn’t happen,” Deion said. What followed was a rootless six months, as the family went from Mississippi to Houston where they reunited with Deion’s fraternal grandmother Montrell. And then on to Dallas. There were great misgivings about ever returning to New Orleans. But when Montrell fell ill and died, the family took her home to be buried. And they decided to stay. A cab driver before Katrina, Cal Jones would repurpose himself as an air conditioning technician. And Deion would go on to play football at LSU, and get himself drafted by the rival Falcons in the second round of the 2016 draft. The Saints would spend the 2005 season as gypsies, too, playing “home” games in San Antonio and Baton Rouge as the wounded Superdome underwent $185 million in repairs. Some believed the place was beyond salvage. Some had a difficult time envisioning the rituals of normalcy returning to New Orleans. So it was by the time the Saints moved back into their home dome to face the Falcons the place was primed for an almost nuclear triumphant release. This was the ultimate homecoming game. The dome was packed to the ceiling, and ESPN viewership would reach more than 15 million, a record high at the time. U2 and Green Day played during the pregame. Former president George H.W. Bush commanded the coin flip. “It didn’t quiet down one second in that game from start to finish,” Schaub said. “Even during TV timeouts, the noise level and energy level inside that stadium was something I had never been a part of — up until that point and since that point.” And just 90 seconds into the game, when the Saints blocked a punt and recovered it for a touchdown, that noise began jackhammering its way into bone marrow. Said defensive lineman Jonathan Babineaux, the only other Falcon from 2006 still on the team: “We definitely didn’t play to our standard that day as far as I could remember. Those guys had a lot going on for them that day.” Schaub’s career wound from Atlanta to Houston to Oakland to Baltimore and back to Atlanta. How many losses along the way could he look back on and rightfully say, “That moment, that game, I’ll always remember. It’s one of the significant occurrences in your life.” Destiny is not just the name of a Bourbon Street stripper. The Falcons discovered as much 10 years ago, being overmatched against something insurmountable that raucous night. As for the Monday night upcoming, they hope to have only the Saints on the schedule.
  2. Back at your job, how would you handle it? The new hire is this bright, 21-year-old right out of college, brimming with the skills that custom fit the company’s vision of the future. A real up-and-comer, that one. And the lamination on his ID card hasn’t even cooled yet. He’d be the one they’d put on the cover of the monthly company newsletter, beneath the headline: “Tomorrow’s Ideas Today.” You they might mention on the back page, under “Anniversaries.” Everyone loves the shiny latest thing over the tried and true, the new-car smell of undefined potential over the familiar feel of the well-worn norm. And you can read it as clearly as the annual budget, this is someone being measured for your position. Paul Worrilow appears to be dealing with this much better than most. Hard to tell exactly, for the potentially fourth-year Falcons linebacker is the kind of guy you could tell the seas were about to swallow the land and he’d keeping hammering away on the addition to his sun deck. He’s not exactly one to sit around bemoaning his fate. Coming out of the wilderness, an undrafted free agent from a second-tier program, Worrilow has been one of the NFL’s signature over-achievers. Imagine, a guy who even had to walk on at Delaware, blessed with no abundance of size or speed, already having exceeded the average career life span of the NFL player (which has fallen to just 2.66 years according to a Wall Street Journal study). + Paul Worrilow plants one on 15-month-old daughter Juliet after a day at Falcons training camp. (Curtis Compton /ccompton@ajc.com) When he arrived at Flowery Branch in 2013, coaches couldn’t even keep Worrilow’s name straight kept, constantly confusing him for another faceless training-camp worker bee. Contingency plans were on the drawing board. “I wanted to go talk to my dad to see if I could get a job at the refinery that he works at back home (he’s retiring this year),” Worrilow remembered. Ever since, the Falcons have kept looking for someone to replace him. And ever since, for the past three seasons, Worrilow kept leading the team in tackles. The search got especially serious this year when the Falcons drafted not one, but two linebackers in the first four rounds. One of them, second-round pick Deion Jones out of LSU, spent much of Thursday’s opening preseason game playing Worrilow’s old position inside, the rookie even relaying the defensive signals in the huddle. Out of habit, Jones kept glancing to the sideline looking for the coach’s call as he did in college, only to have the commands beam directly into his helmet, NFL high-tech style. + CURTIS COMPTON Deion Jones (45) hastens to the quarterback during a Falcons pass-rush drill. (Curtis Compton /ccompton@ajc.com) Jones, and fourth-round pick De’Vondre Cambpell are just the kind of accelerants that Dan Quinn likes to add to his defense — Jones got very popular when he eclipsed 4.4 seconds in his 40-yard dash at LSU’s Pro Day this spring. As mundane as the preseason is, Thursday’s first game still was a thrill for the first-timers. For Jones, the best moment of the night — even beyond being on the kick-return unit that brought one back 101 yards — was “first running out and feeling the crowd, finally getting to feel the atmosphere.” The player whose father named him after Deion Sanders — and now playing in the very stadium that Sanders once claimed as “my house” — was even shaky before a game that didn’t count. But the veterans such as Worrilow, the guy he may not so subtly be nudging aside, were a big help. “Thanks to the older guys in the room, it made me feel a little bit better. Took the nervousness out.” + In the first quarter of the first preseason game against Washington, Paul Worrilow meets Redskins running back Matt Jones. (AP Photo/Brynn ... Read More And the reaction from Worrilow, after watching Jones speed from sideline to sideline, supplying exactly the kind of uncompromising pursuit that Quinn covets, for a couple quarters? “It was a lot of fun, especially seeing the young guys out there flying around. That’s awesome,” he said. “They killed it.” Not a drop of forced sincerity evident in a word of what he said. Worrilow is well aware that this preseason represents his biggest challenge since perhaps his first one with the team. He is facing a cutback in playing time and prominence, as he works this preseason more on the weak side than the middle. Perhaps his very spot on the roster is in jeopardy. But then why should 2016 be any different than just about any other he has suited up? “Every year I’ve been playing football, it has felt like your back’s against the wall. If that pushes me, I don’t know,” he said. One of the first people Jones heard from after the draft was Worrilow, via a welcoming tweet. Since arriving, Jones said, Worrilow has, “guided me, showed me what it takes to be a pro — from recovery to mental aspect to getting ready for games.” The veteran and the rookie have more in common than you might believe. At 26, just five years older than Jones, Worrilow is so consumed by contact sport that he even seeks out more. This offseason, he dropped in on a mixed martial arts gym in Buford. Soon he began working out there, initially to sharpen his tackling skills, but then to actually bond with that MMA community. One wonders, could there be a future in cage fighting for him one day after football. “I wouldn’t rule it out, despite what my wife would say,” Worrilow said. As for Jones, he picked up the kind of nickname at LSU that doesn’t normally attach to the timid: “War Daddy.” Both seem comfortable performing whatever chore is necessary in order to see a football game to its conclusion. Separately, they were present on all forms of special teams Thursday night. The Falcons’ leading tackler the past three seasons is not too proud to do this version of stoop labor (in fact, he loves it). And Jones thrived on special teams while awaiting his chance to start on defense for LSU, which wasn’t until he was a senior. “Football is football to me, it doesn’t matter what play, what part of the game it is,” Worrilow said. “If I’m out there I want to play my best and dominate my role. Roles change. Whatever your role is, the attitude is that you’re going to own it.” There is nothing in Jones’ past to suggest that he would disagree. They are twins on this matter. It is what separates the two that counts most here in August, in the timeless competition between vet and rookie, in the hardest knock workplace imaginable. http://www.myajc.com/news/sports/football/worrilow-and-the-rookie-a-timeless-training-camp-t/nsFNc/
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