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Mike Peterson - Embracing his new role as non-starter


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No longer starting, Peterson embraces new role

D. Orlando Ledbetter

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

FLOWERY BRANCH -- Unconcerned about a reduced role, Mike Peterson, the most senior and decorated member of the Falcons' linebacker corps, had one thing in mind when he elected to re-sign with the team.

"I have the same ultimate goal that my younger teammates have," said Peterson, who turned 35 in June. "At the end of the year, we want the ring."

It's still strange to see Peterson stay on the sidelines when the coaches yell out, "First-team base!" Peterson, since signing with the Falcons in March 2008, has always been with the first unit. He now watches Stephen Nicholas, Curtis Lofton and Sean Weatherspoon take the field.

Peterson is a sub because last season he struggled in pass coverage at times. While he was still solid against the run, the team decided to go with its younger linebackers this season.

He's taken the demotion as well as can be expected. He works the sidelines, offering tips. When he gets on the field, he's quick to show he can still knock a running back's helmet sideways.

"You know, I've got to be a pro about it," Peterson said. "I've never been one to settle for second or, you know, take a second off and not compete. I'm still going out there to compete in whatever role. I'm going to try to fulfill it to the best of my ability."

It's that type of attitude that impressed coach Mike Smith and general manager Thomas Dimitroff. It factored in keeping the veteran around.

"Mike Peterson has been a heck of a football player in this league," Dimitroff said. "He still has a presence and can be a legitimate contributor for us."

Dimitroff believes that Peterson's approach is infectious.

"His presence as a tough, hard-nosed football player is invaluable for us," Dimitroff said. "I maintain, and I told him the other day, that he has the best swagger in the league."

Peterson interacts well with the other linebackers. Last season he mentored Weatherspoon and called himself "Daddy Lion" and the then-rookie "Baby Lion." The younger linebackers know that it's wise to listen to Peterson.

"He always knows what is going on," Weatherspoon said. "He's been playing in this league for a long time. If some of us could play half as long as he's played, we'd be lucky."

They haven't seen him slack off either in his less-involved role.

"He's still intense," Weatherspoon said. "He's still out there hitting people. He's looking forward to strapping it up this weekend and getting it going again."

Nicholas, normally low key, now roars at good plays and is quick to praise the other backers. Peterson is the reason.

"I've taken some of his swag," Nicholas said. "He's got major swag. The way that he plays the game, he plays it in a great way; just some hard-nosed ball."

In addition to all of the intangibles, Peterson provides the Falcons with someone who can play all of the positions in a pinch. He started his career in Indianapolis as an outside linebacker, played six seasons in Jacksonville as a middle linebacker and started at outside linebacker for the Falcons for the past three seasons.

"I take it in stride," Peterson said. "I kind of pride myself in being able to play all of the positions."

If the Falcons want Peterson to cover kicks and play on special teams, he's fine with that, too.

"I started off on the kickoff team," said Peterson, reflecting back to his days with the Colts. "I started from being one of those guys covering kicks and being on the punt team. ... Like my dad always told me: Don't be a stranger to hard work."

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And I am happy they moved Weatherspoon to his position. Weatherspoon was playing out of position last season.

Yes he was. And I said if Peterson is starting again this year that it would mean trouble for our linebacking corps. Our LBs already had a hard enough time in pass defense last year with him in there and Spoon sidelined by injury most of the year, it wasn't going to get better with Peterson starting again.

However, it moves Peterson into a super-utility backup role that not many teams can boast.

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I L O V E Love our players this is awesome to know. We have so many great guys all around it makes me proud to be a fan.

I think Pete will be allot more effective in his knew role and I also think we'll see spoon contributing huge being back in his natural position. It's great to hear Nic's getting vocal too. I really see him as the surprise leader of the group, his excitement is contagious and can charge the whole d.

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And to think people wanted to get rid of Pete... :wacko: I have always like Pete and he brings a lot more to the table than tackling and coverage, as pointed out by this article. He is a natural leader and a guy people want to play with.

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And to think people wanted to get rid of Pete... :wacko: I have always like Pete and he brings a lot more to the table than tackling and coverage, as pointed out by this article. He is a natural leader and a guy people want to play with.

I don't think many wanted to get rid of him, they just wanted Nic and Spoon starting over him.

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