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QB Controversy Brewing

July 27th, 2007 Comments off

You technically can’t have a QB controversy without the coaching staff and/or front office being involved. But that fact doesn’t stop the media or fans alike to do their best to fan the flames.

Okay there was somewhat of a controversy when Schaub was still around, although it never really manifested itself within the organization.

But I have the feeling that with both Schaub and Vick out of the picture, the concerns over the Falcons quarterback position have not diminished.

And this is not to bash Joey Harrington. I personally like Joey Harrington, have since his days at Oregon. But frankly, short of a Jim Plunkett-like renewal at some point in the future, he’ll go down in history as one of the biggest draft busts of all-time. He’s not quite on the level of Ryan Leaf, if only because Harrington has managed to be demoted into journeyman status in the NFL as opposed to locker room pariah.

I’m not an optimist. I respect Bobby Petrino’s abilities, but I don’t expect him to “resurrect” Harrington’s fallen career and make him into the player that the Detroit Lions thought they were getting five years ago. That would be a leap of faith that considering all the disappointments that have surrounded the Falcons the past few years, I’m unwilling to take.

I think where the controversy lies in will be in D.J. Shockley. Shockley, being a UGA alum has a strong local fan base. And Harrington makes a very easy target for fans and media as he did in Detroit.

And I feel a lot of the hope that has been displaced by Vick’s downfall will fall into Shockley’s lap. Face it, we Falcons fans have been spoiled with having a strong-armed and athletic quarterback lining up behind center the past few years. And anytime anyone that has not fit that description has played (Kurt Kittner, Doug Johnson, Schaub), that player has been met with general revilement. And then when you factor in the Bulldog Nation, well you can see how Shockley could inherit the title of “Mr. Can’t Do Wrong” that Vick somehow managed to cast off.

And I see much the same for Harrington in this 2007 season. Shockley just shares too many similarities with Vick not to be beloved. They are almost identical in size, and although Shockley’s athletic gifts pail in comparison to Vick’s (don’t worry D.J., the rest of the world is in the same boat), he still is heads and heels above roughly 95% of the rest of the NFL quarterbacking landscape.

When will the controversy begin? There will be distant rumblings probably during the preseason, as we will likely get more exposure to Shockley during exhibition games than Harrington. That’s just the nature of it, in the summer you fall in love with the backups, while in the fall, they generally don’t do much besides warming pine.

I wouldn’t expect it to reach it’s crescendo until several weeks into the season, especially if the Falcons don’t get off to the fast start that has been the normal case with Vick as the guy the past five years.

But that hope that fans have in Shockley is probably misplaced. Frankly, D.J. Shockley is not Michael Vick. And never will be. And despite all the untapped potential and upside you want to label Shockley with, it’s only a minuscule fraction to what Michael Vick possesses. Michael Vick was the number one player picked in his draft choice. D.J. Shockley had two hundred and twenty two players selected ahead of him for a reason.

This is not to say I believe Shockley incapable of being a contributor to this team this year or in future years. But he’s a seventh round pick. Statistically, his chances of lasting more than four years even as a backup in the NFL are about on par with the chances of Michael Vick being acquitted in federal court. It is indeed far from the realm of impossibility, but still manages to stray into the realm of overwhelming unlikelihood. You bet on those kinds of odds only because you’ve been blinded by greed, as opposed to filled with logic and reason.

There might certainly be a point during this season that the team is so dismal, that Harrington taking control of the clipboard may be warranted.

Harrington struggled in Detroit, although not initially caused, but were certainly aided due to the lacking support of the Detroit media and fans. I’m hoping that the same does not occur in Atlanta, although I’m not very optimistic about it. Eventually he probably will be swallowed by the sea of red and black that is the Bulldog Nation as opposed to the inviting one of Falcons fandom.

But if anything the Falcons need is perhaps a positive interest story this year. And what better than to have Joey Harrington pull a Kurt Warner? Heck, I can do without a Super Bowl run. I’ll settle on a wildcard and a Brenda Warner-free January.

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Falcons sign Blalock and QB

July 27th, 2007 1 comment

As an update to previous reports, the Falcons did come to terms with second round draft pick Justin Blalock on Thursday. Blalock agreed to a five-year deal. Blalock began his Falcon career on Friday taking snaps with the first team at left guard, where he will be attempting to hold off Toniu Fonoti for the starting role.

Also the Falcons signed free agent QB Lang Campbell. Campbell will fill the role of fourth quarterback during training camp as the Falcons are without Michael Vick for an indefinite amount of time.

Campbell most recently spent time with the Austin Wranglers of the Arena Football League this past spring, passing for 2279 yards and 41 touchdowns. Prior to that he played with the Berlin Thunder in NFL Europe the previous spring. He has spent the past two training camps with the Cleveland Browns, but has failed to make the roster each time. He spent the final week of the 2006 season inactive as the Browns third quarterback.

He was an undrafted rookie in 2005 out of William & Mary, where he won the Walter Payton Award as a senior, given annually to the top player in Division I-AA football.

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Vick trial date set for November

July 27th, 2007 5 comments

AP/Jonathan Ernst Michael Vick plead not guilty at his arraignment today in Richmond, Virginia. Vick will receive a jury trial which is set to begin on November 26, which will coincide with the end of Week 12 of the NFL schedule.

Vick may face up to six years in federal prison and pay around $350,000 in fines if convicted.

According to Lester Munson of ESPN Vick could face further charges down the road due to a “superceding indictment” that will be filed by prosecutors by the end of the month. Charges could be added or eliminated, but per Munson, it is likely they will be added.

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Houston, Irons, and Lewis sign

July 26th, 2007 Comments off

Steve Wyche of the AJC reports that the Falcons have come to terms with three of the five remaining rookies. Most notable among them is second round pick Chris Houston, along with sixth rounders David Irons and Trey Lewis.

Houston agreed to a five-year contract, while both Irons and Lewis signed four-year deals. Houston is expected to compete for a starting position with Lewis Sanders opposite DeAngelo Hall. Irons and Lewis will both be competing for reserve roles at cornerback and defensive tackle, respectively.

Their signings along with the inking of top pick Jamaal Anderson means that only second round pick Justin Blalock remains as the only unsigned rookie among the Falcons eleven player draft class.

Wyche reports that Blalock is expected to be signed before the team takes the practice field at 3:00 pm Thursday.

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Anderson agrees to terms

July 26th, 2007 Comments off

Steve Wyche of the AJC reports that Falcons top draft pick Jamaal Anderson will be signed when practices kick off this afternoon at training camp. Anderson will receive a five-year deal. Per ProFootballTalk.com, it is worth upwards of $31 million and it includes $15.36 million in guaranteed money. There are escalators in years four and five based on playing time and sacks.

This signing makes Anderson the highest first round draft pick to come to terms. He was selected eighth overall. The Falcons have had each of their top draft picks in the past three seasons miss at least one training camp practice. Anderson’s signing brings that streak to an end.

He is expected to compete with third-year veteran Chauncey Davis for the starting position at left defensive end, vacating by Patrick Kerney. Not missing any time at camp will allow Anderson to get off to a better start.

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Dunn out 3-4 weeks

July 26th, 2007 Comments off

Steve Wyche of the AJC reports that running back Warrick Dunn underwent back surgery on July 21, and will miss the next three to four weeks. In his absence, second-year back Jerious Norwood is expected to take snaps with the first team.

Dunn’s injury may cause him to miss several if not all of the preseason, and might carry over into the early weeks of the regular season.

Wyche also reports that linebacker Demorrio Williams is cleared to practice on Thursday’s start to training camp. Williams, who tore his pectoral muscle earlier this off-season was expected to miss some time during the regular season, but his rehabilitation is ahead of schedule.

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Falcons to sign another QB

July 25th, 2007 Comments off

Falcons head coach Bobby Petrino indicated in yesterday’s press conference that the Falcons would be in the market to sign another quarterback in the coming days due to the absence of Michael Vick, who has been ordered by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to stay away from camp.

Petrino said that a fourth passer is necessary in order for the team to go through all its camp drills. Who they would sign is unknown at this time, but there have been rumors per Pro Football Talk.com, that recently released quarterback Daunte Culpepper might show up on the Falcons radar.

Also, the Falcons had James Kilian earlier this off-season, but he was released in April in order to make room for Joey Harrington on the roster.

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Vick to take leave of absence

July 23rd, 2007 Comments off

Fox 5 Atlanta reports that according to the NFL, Michael Vick is expected to take a leave of absence, stemming from his federal indictment.

Various reports earlier today have indicated that a decision by either Comissioner Roger Goodell or Falcons owner Arthur Blank was expected to occur soon. It has not yet been confirmed if this leave of absence is the decision reached by either party.

UPDATE: Jay Glazer of FOX Sports confirms the FOX 5 report indicated that the NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has decided to order Michael Vick to not attend the Falcons upcoming training camp when practices begin this Thursday on July 26. All Falcons players are supposed to report by midnight the previous evening. Vick is scheduled to be at an arraignment on Thursday at 3:30 when the Falcons first practices begin at 3:00 pm Eastern.

Glazer’s report indicates that this may be the first of many actions the league decides to take against Vick. This current move is designed to buy more time for more information to be either revealed or processed by the NFL.

It seems that due to this mandate from the league office, Vick will not be found in default of his contract, and the Falcons will not seek to pursue the return of bonus money from Vick in the immediate future.

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Williams cited for marijuana possession

July 23rd, 2007 Comments off

According to a report by CBS 46 Atlanta, Falcons defensive back Jimmy Williams was cited on June 2 just outside Richmond, VA for misdemeanor marijuana possession.

Williams has disputed the charges. He was scheduled to make a court appearance last week, which has been pushed back to December 3.

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Falcons could recover more than $28 million from Vick

July 22nd, 2007 Comments off

ProFootballTalk.com reports that the Falcons have the ability to recover a large sum of the guaranteed money they paid Michael Vick when he received a ten-year contract extension in 2004 worth a total of $130 million. Due to his federal indicment Vick is set to be arraigned on July 26, the first day of the Falcons 2007 training camp. Missing that day of practice could leave Vick in default of his contract, and thus allow the Falcons to recover a sizeable portion of money.

According to ProFootballTalk, the Falcons could recover $28.7 million of the $37.5 million guaranteed paid in his 2004 extension. That figure is based on how many potential games are left remaining through the extent of Vick’s contract, which is du to expire after the 2013 season. The Falcons may not choose to find Vick in default of his contract, by given him written permission to miss practices on July 26 and/or later dates. But the Falcons still hold the option to recover bonus money at a later date, but as time goes on, the potential money recovered will decrease.

Earlier reports suggested that because the majority of Vick’s guaranteed money was paid in roster bonuses, it would be less likely the Falcons would be able to recover that money due to arbitration on a grievance filed against former Falcon and Denver Bronco receiver Ashley Lelie last summer. The Broncos sought to recover bonus money from Lelie for holding out of off-season activities, but because it was option bonus money, Lelie was not deemed liable to repay that money. Previous reports suggested that roster bonuses would be treated similarly as option bonus, although the report at ProFootballTalk suggests otherwise.

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