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					Page B4                                                                                           Sports                                           Athens Banner-Herald, Wednesday, July 27, 2011

NFL BRIEFS                       FALCONS                                                                                                                             VANHOOSE from B1
Ravens plan to cut four
well-known veterans
                                 Birds getting back to work
                                        Associated Press
                                                                                                                                                                       The rule change certainly has
                                                                                                                                                                     something to do with the trend
                                                                                                                                                                     of so many different winners this
                                                                                                                                                                       As the final race before the
                                                                                                                                                                     Chase draws closer, expect more
                                    FLOWERY BRANCH                                                                                                                   teams outside the top 10 in
                                 — Matt Ryan had sever-                                                                                                              points to take some all-or-
                                 al good reasons to show                                                                                                             nothing chances in hopes of
                                 up early for his first trip                                                                                                         winning a race and a playoff
                                 to Atlanta Falcons head-                                                                                                            berth.
                                 quarters in five months.
                                    The two-time Pro Bowl                                                                                                            Worst Gimmick
                                 quarterback was eager to
                                 catch up with teammates                                                                                                                The “couples-only” racing at
                                 he hadn’t seen during the                                                                                                           Talladega and Daytona, which
                                 NFL lockout, watch some                                                                                                             is made possible by the new car’s
                                 film and spend a few min-                                                                                                           design that features front and
                                 utes with his new position                                                                                                          rear bumpers that line up
                                 coach, Bob Bratkowski.                                                                                                              perfectly, has changed restrictor
                                    It was four long months                                                                                                          plate racing for the foreseeable
                                 of waiting for Ryan and                                                                                                             future.
                                 his teammates, but they                                                                                                                Instead of the breathtaking
                                 finally feel like full-time,                                                                                                        pack racing fans had grown used
Jackson could hold out           professional football play-                                                                                                         to over the last 20 years, the
                                 ers again.                                                                                                                          drivers break off into pairs and
                                    “We put in a lot of hard                                                                                                         literally push each other around
                                 work this offseason as play-                                                                                        John Amis/AP    the track. Fans I talk to — except
                                 ers,” Ryan said Tuesday.                                                                                                            for some guy in Tennessee —
                                 “I know that the coaches                                                                                                            haven’t been amused.
                                 put in a lot of hard work        regular-season opener in          told by general manager           this stuff behind us at this
                                 this offseason as well. I just   Chicago on Sept. 11.              Thomas Dimitroff and              point,” Ryan said. “We can     Best Race
                                 wanted the opportunity to           “We’re trying to cram a        coach Mike Smith after            focus on what it is that we
                                 kind of talk to them about       lot of things we missed into      the season that he will not       like to focus on, and that’s      The Goody’s 500 at
                                 some things. (Showing up         a few weeks,” cornerback          be offered a new contract;        playing football and trying    Martinsville Speedway showed
                                 early) wasn’t intentional or     Dunta Robinson said. “It’s           Defensively, middle            to play at a high level.”      why the half-mile paperclip in
                                 anything. I was just kind        going to be tough, man, but       linebacker Curtis Lofton,            Ryan, who organized         Virginia is the best short track
                                 of like a kid on Christmas       they don’t call us profes-        right end John Abraham,           and led 7-on-7 drills for      on the NASCAR circuit. Dale
                                 morning.”                        sionals for nothing. We’ve        tackle Jonathan Babi-             six weeks at nearby Buford     Earnhardt Jr. passed Kyle Busch
                                    Despite the league’s          got to be professional            neaux and Robinson,               High School, has other         late in the race and was cruising
                                 longest work stoppage            about this situation. Spend       who anchors the right             reasons to be excited, most    to victory before Kevin Harvick
                                 since 1987, Atlanta play-        a lot of time in the meeting      side of the secondary, are        notably an $11.25 million      ran him down.
                                 ers believe the team is pre-     room, something a lot of          standouts in a lineup that        bonus he’s due Friday that        Earnhardt’s losing streak has
                                 pared to begin training          vets don’t really like to do,     returns 10 starters. Left         honors the terms of a six-     continued, while Harvick has
                                 camp Friday without any          but it’s going to be needed       cornerback Brent Grimes           year contract he signed as     become an early favorite to win
                                 major glitches.                  if we’re going to get those       signed a one-year contract        the NFL’s No. 3 overall        his first championship this
                                    The core of last year’s       young guys up to speed            tender as a restricted free       draft pick in May 2008.        season.
Moore leaving Carolina           team and all of its elite        with what we’re trying to         agent in February, but               He insists, however,
                                 players return with no           do as a team.”                    hopes for a long-term deal        that his concerns are far      Best finish
                                 reports of major inju-              Offensively, Ryan joins        after earning the Pro Bowl        more about football than
                                 ries. But the Falcons, who       Pro Bowl selections Roddy         spot Green Bay’s Charles          lifestyle. Last season,           It would be easy to pick the
                                 ended last season with a         White at wide receiver,           Woodson declined.                 despite unseating the New      Coca Cola 600 — Earnhardt Jr.
                                 crushing home playoff            Michael Turner at running            Strongside linebacker          Orleans Saints as NFC          ran out of gas on the final turn,
                                 loss to eventual Super           back and tight end Tony           Mike Peterson, a 12-year          South champions, the Fal-      which gave the win to Harvick —
                                 Bowl champion Green              Gonzalez, the NFL’s career        veteran who started the           cons ended their season in     but the finish to the Southern 500
                                 Bay, know they’re far from       leader at the position.           last two years in Atlanta,        disappointment.                at Darlington Raceway provided
                                 complete.                        Rookie Julio Jones, the No.       wants to re-sign.                    That setback continues to   even more fireworks.
                                    Schedules are tight.          6 overall draft pick, could          O n s p e c i a l t e a m s,   fuel Ryan, a self-described       Smith held off a charging Carl
                                 Training camp begins Fri-        replace starting receiver         kicker Matt Bryant is             consumer of game film          Edwards to grab his first win.
                                 day, and all players must        Michael Jenkins.                  a priority to re-sign, but        who says he’s spent much       Behind them, Harvick and Kyle
                                 report the day before.              The offensive line might       punter Michael Koenen             of his down time breaking      Busch were roughing each other
                                 Undrafted and “street”           lose three starters while         could be on his way out           down his skills and those of   up. The confrontation ended
                                 free-agent signings are          unrestricted free agents          as a restricted free agent.       his opponents.                 with Busch pushing Harvick’s
                                 moving at a furious pace         Tyson Clabo (right tackle)        Return specialist and Pro            “Really the only thing      unmanned car into the pit wall.
                                 as Atlanta tries to get the      and guards Harvey Dahl            Bowl selection Eric Weems         that changed for me this          Harvick and Busch are still
                                 maximum-allowed 90               and Justin Blalock consid-        will be back.                     offseason is where we did      feuding. That’s a good thing, too.
                                 players in camp, a number        er offers from other teams.          “I think everybody is          our work and that you
                                 that will be whittled down       Brian Finneran, a Falcons         excited to finally get back       weren’t able to speak with
            — Associated Press   to 53 by the week of the         receiver since 2000, was          to work and have all of           your coaches.” Ryan said.       Email

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