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Dunn's Falcons future in doubt


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Dunn's Falcons future in doubt

By STEVE WYCHE

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Published on: 01/30/08

Phoenix Falcons tailback Warrick Dunn accepted the inaugural Home Depot NFL Neighborhood MVP award Thursday, cherishing yet another honor for his lengthy and heartfelt community service. If only his hard work on the football field could land him some similar hardware.

In the twilight of his career and maybe the end of his time with the Falcons, Dunn lamented on being part of the Super Bowl activities but not part of the Super Bowl. After 11 seasons the most recent being the most taxing on his soul and mind Dunn wants one chance to play for the ultimate prize.

"Hopefully, the right situation comes along and I get an opportunity to play in a game this big," Dunn said.

At 33, coming off a mentally and statistically rough season (227 carries, 720 yards, 4 TDs), Dunn's opportunity might not come with the Falcons. Atlanta recently hired Mike Smith from Jacksonville as its new head coach and Mike Mularkey as its offensive coordinator, and change, possibly radical change, is coming.

Smith and Mularkey said they want to establish a powerful, physical running game, something the Falcons don't have the personnel for at the moment. That could change and change quickly, but some players would have to be cut to create salary-cap room for the Falcons to go shopping in free agency.

The diminutive Dunn could be at the front of the line. His base salary for 2008 his final year of his contract is $4 million. At his age, he's not the type of player teams tend to build their futures around, either.

"Hopefully, that all gets worked out and I'm in Atlanta playing to win a division, getting to the playoffs and making a run for the Super Bowl," Dunn said. "Nothing is guaranteed. I'm going to meet with the head coach, but they still have to sit down and meet, figure things out on which direction they want to go. I should know my future, my fate, in February. That's the month we all find out who's going to be cut and who's going to stick around."

If Dunn is released, he said landing with former coach Tony Dungy in Indianapolis or going back to Tampa Bay, which drafted him out of Florida State in 1997, would not be a bad way to finish out his career.

"If I wasn't a Falcon, and I went back to Tampa or played for coach Dungy, it would be something that's full circle," said Dunn, who played for the Buccaneers from 1997 to 2001 under Dungy. "It's not what I'm hoping for and wishing for, but you never know."

Dunn said he has spent the past few weeks decompressing mentally and physically. He's also ready to start working out to prove that he can still play. Mularkey said Dunn can still play. Whether he will play for the Falcons is something Mularkey said he wouldn't talk about because he and the staff haven't made full evaluations on personnel.

"The first word that comes to mind is 'competitor'," said Mularkey, who recently was hired after spending the past two seasons with the Dolphins as offensive coordinator and tight ends coach, respectively. "He competes every Sunday from start to finish. It's obvious by his body language. He's a leader on the field.

"On tape I can see if he's a dog. See if it's important to him. See if he's injured. I still see that he wants it, even where he is in his career."

Dunn became the 22nd player in NFL history to rush for more than 10,000 yards last season. Other than that, he wants no memory of what occurred, starting with quarterback Michael Vick's lengthy investigation and eventual imprisonment on federal dogfighting charges to coach Bobby Petrino forcing him into a misfit system them quitting with three games left in the season.

"I'm not going back to look at any game film, anything," Dunn said. "It was one of those seasons that you wish you could erase it out of your memory. I want to be able to have amnesia."

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I read this yesterday. Good post. The end of the article worries me a bit, though. How can you have the attitude of wanting "amnesia" for last year's performance, and still expect to identify areas where you can improve? Maybe I misunderstood what he was saying, but to me Dunn needs to apply a little Roddy White ethic to his work, pray that they don't cut him or trade him, and pray that the OL issues are shored up this year. Then he needs to take full responsibility for whatever his part was in his lackluster 2007 performance, and make sure that doesn't happen again. IF he gets the chance... He'll be gone by '09 if he doesn't.

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