Mark Bradley - Staff
Monday, May 15, 2006
Flowery Branch --- At 32, Lawyer Milloy wasn't looking for a fixer-upper. Lawyer Milloy was looking for a home that was pretty much fixed. In his free-agent rounds, he visited three teams --- Seattle, which won the NFC title last season; Cincinnati, which won the AFC North, and Atlanta, which won nothing of consequence. Milloy's presence in this minicamp tells us he believes the Falcons are primed to rectify that posthaste.
"I'm at the point in my career where I don't have the time or the energy to wait for a team to rebuild," he said Sunday, speaking after the morning session of minicamp. H aving won one Super Bowl, he wants another. He believes the Falcons can get him there. More to the point, the Falcons believe Milloy can help get them there.
He's a safety who hits hard and tackles expertly. The Falcons' safeties of 2005 --- Keion Carpenter and Bryan Scott --- were chief culprits in this defense's abrupt descent to being the NFL's seventh-worst against the run. "I've never heard such negative talk about what they experienced last year at this position," Milloy said. Then, pointedly: "But that's not me."
And the way of the new Falcons --- the Blank-McKay-Mora Falcons --- isn't to wallow in self-pity but to solve problems at full gallop. The Falcons hated their safeties, so they found two new ones. (Chris Crocker is the other.) The Falcons needed a pass rusher to offset Patrick Kerney, so they traded for Pro Bowler John Abraham. This organization got so much done in one inspired offseason that the disappointment of last year has given way to hope born of the realization that this franchise no longer considers 8-8 an achievement.
"It's a credit to their dedication to get this team more balanced," Milloy said. "They were really aggressive. They were able to make the necessary transactions. That tells me they want to be champions now, to win now."
Milloy is an impressive guy. Four times a Pro Bowler, he was the defensive captain on New England's first championship team. A year later, he refused to restructure his contract and was cut, a move wildly unpopular in the Patriots' locker room. He signed with Buffalo, where he spent the past three seasons, and the Patriots got over their disappointment and won the next two Super Bowls. So yes, Milloy knows better than most that, while players do the heavy lifting, the grand design for winning titles is set by the front office. Or not.
"If you build something special, and it's for real, it will last for a while," he said. "I think this organization can win now and win in the future."
Maybe the Falcons weren't quite as good as they seemed two seasons ago, when they played for the NFC title, but there's growing evidence they weren't as flimsy as they looked at the end of last season. Gifted players still dot this roster --- Vick, Dunn, Crumpler, Kerney, Brooking, Coleman, Hall --- and this offseason has yielded three (and perhaps four, depending on the rookie Jimmy Williams) more. Were there deficiencies? Sure. Have most of the areas of need --- wide receiver is still an issue --- been addressed? Absolutely.
"Some people have a knack for that," Milloy said. "They had problems and they corrected it. In this league you don't sugarcoat things. If you have problems as a player and you can't correct them, you don't last long. People want to read and hear about success."
If the weekend's work didn't exactly suggest the Falcons are bound for Super Bowl XLI --- "You don't peak in minicamp," said Milloy, who has been around long enough to know --- the conspicuous personnel upgrades were impossible to ignore. The Falcons didn't take 8-8 lying down. They roused themselves and got better.
"I've seen nothing since I got here to deter my attitude," Lawyer Milloy said. "It's all set up to win."