Page B4 Sports Athens Banner-Herald, Wednesday, July 27, 2011
NFL BRIEFS FALCONS VANHOOSE from B1
Ravens plan to cut four
Birds getting back to work
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