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Turner plans to be just as effective with lighter load

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I checked the first 2 pages and did not see the title so I took a chance and posted. Sorry if I overlooked.

By D. Orlando Ledbetter

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

FLOWERY BRANCH -- After a recent practice, Sean Weatherspoon, the Falcons' loquacious rookie linebacker, saw running back Michael Turner sitting in the bleachers with his helmet in his hand.

Weatherspoon came over, picked up the helmet and informed the team's franchise running back that his headgear would be in his locker.

"I've got to take care of the vets," Weatherspoon said.

Turner just laughed and shook his head.. After a hard practice, it must be nice to have your load made a little lighter.

Weatherspoon isn't the only one either. This season, the Falcons also plan to lighten Turner's load.

He's not expected to get anywhere near the 376 carries he had in 2008, as the team plans to diversify the offense. There will be plenty of carries for Turner, who ran for 1,699 yards in 2008, but he'll also give some up some of his workload to Jerious Norwood and Jason Snelling.

The Falcons also flirted with flanking him outside in the preseason and have thrown him more passes. He only has 22 career receptions.

But after all of the new plans for Turner have been laid, it all still revolves back to the power running game. The Falcons offense will start and stop with Turner.

"That's our motto: power football," Turner said. "That's something that we want to establish. We have to be a powerful offense."

The team has shown a certain patience at making the running game work, but there is also a determination that it has to work too.

"We have to force the issue, getting downhill and making holes sometimes where there is not a hole there," Turner said. "Sometimes you have to make the tough yards and that will lead to longer drives and bigger plays."

Last season, Turner got off to a slow start and then was just hitting his stride when he suffered a high right ankle sprain. He went down in Week 9, hurt in the second quarter of the Carolina game, when he had already gained 111 yards.

He was rushed back too soon from the injury and could play in just two of the team's last seven games, carrying the ball just 13 more times before ending up on injured reserve. The Falcons were 5-3 when he was hurt and 4-4 after his injury.

After the season, Turner spent a great deal of time in the team's training facilities. The intent was strengthening his legs and re-sculpting his body.

"He truly knows what it takes for him to physically get back into the swing of things," general manager Thomas Dimitroff said. "I've seen him many, many times in the weight room, digging away with his endurance as well as with his lifting. He is a focused guy."

The extra work has produced visible results. He's appears much lighter than the 244 pounds that Falcons list as his weight.

"He's running faster than he ran last year," Falcons coach Mike Smith said. "I think he's running with more confidence. He's a big part of what we want to be able to do in the regular season."

Turner was not overly pleased with how the team ran the ball during the preseason. The first-team offense moved the ball, but failed to score touchdowns.

The starting unit scored only one touchdown on 13 possessions. Turner had 28 preseason carries for 108 yards before sitting out the fourth exhibition in Jacksonville. His longest gain all August was 10 yards.

"We were getting some good runs here and there, but we've still got a lot of work to do," Turner said. "Not just in the run game, but as an offense. We are not satisfied with what we are doing right now."

Turner's plan is to make sure the ground game is rolling from the outset of the season.

"We just have to be more consistent," Turner said. "That's what we are stressing right now, to be more consistent with what we are doing."

Turner is a big proponent of his offensive line, which spent some extra time working on blocking against 3-4 defenses during training camp.

"The way they finish plays, that's the No. 1 thing," Turner said. "They take some hits off of me, by them finishing downfield and hitting guys before the whistle is blown and the play is called dead. Because some guys like to get that extra hit in on the ball carrier."

Turner is a soft-spoken guy and not given to a lot of brash talk. However, he knows the Falcons are considered contenders in the NFC South and he is one reason why.

"We know that we have to stay healthy," Turner said. "We see the "Rise Up" signs everywhere. That's something that we've been taking note of. It's our time. It's our opportunity. We don't know how long this window is going to be open, so we have to take advantage of it."


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Turner seems like a straight foward guy. I like how he will let you know that the offense still has a lot of work to do, and that he's not satisfied with what they have been producing in the preseason.

For him(#33) to say "We see the "Rise Up" signs everywhere. That's something that we've been taking note of. It's our time. It's our opportunity. We don't know how long this window is going to be open, so we have to take advantage of it." gives me a lot of cofidence to think we ARE going to step it up and reach that final game.

It also shows to me that the players do care about their fans, and want to bring that trophy to the city.

Good luck this year Falcons. The future is in your hands.

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