Cover 9@9: Falcons press onward to NFL scouting combine 

1. Combine lineup. This will be the first NFL scouting combine without Mike Mayock providing the media with his thorough scouting reports in more than a decade.

He was very helpful back in 2008 when the Falcons were scouting quarterbacks and eventually decided to take Matt Ryan with the third over all pick. 

Mayock was named the general manager of the Oakland Raiders and will likely address the media in that role.

The combine is set to run from Feb. 26 to March 4.

The Falcons full contingent of coaches and scouts will be in Indianapolis for the combine. 

There will be live coverage on NFL Network and NFL.com for live drills on Friday, March 1 through Monday, March 4. 

ABC will broadcast two hours of live coverage of the quarterback and wide receiver drills at 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 2.  

Twenty-five former Georgia high school football players have been invited.

Georgia’s representation is tied for third most with California and trails Florida (51) and Texas (31), according to NFL.com. Ohio is next with 20. There are 338 invitees overall.

2. Bryant thanks the fans. Former Falcons kicker Matt Bryant thanked the fans and said he was more amazed than shocked by the team’s decision to let his contract expire, when appearing on the  Dukes and Bell show on 92.9 The Game on Tuesday.  

“When the announcement came down and I put it out there, the response that I got from everybody was, I guess maybe overwhelming,” Bryant said near the end of interview. “I’m very appreciative. You could almost say that my time here was justified from me going on the field and giving everything that I had. I felt that it was reciprocated by the fans that appreciated what I did.”

But the writing was on the wall when the Falcons decided to carry two kickers last season. 

“Nothing was ever said to me in this direction,” Bryant said. “To be flat-out honest, I had a gut feeling that it could happen. But like I thought with my play on the field, it couldn’t happen. Does that make sense?

“Whenever it did come down ... was I caught off guard? Yes because of what I did on the field. But, you know, that’s how it goes sometimes I guess.”

Bryant, who will turn 44 in May, said he doesn’t plan to retire. 

Emmitt Thomas leading the Falcons back in the tough 2007 season. .

3. Thomas to retire.  Former Falcons assistant coach, interim head coach and Pro Football Hall of Fame player Emmitt Thomas will retire from coaching, according to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Thomas coached for the Falcons from 2002 to 2009. He was named the interim head coach after Bobby Petrino left the team after the 13th game on Dec. 12, 2007. 

Thomas played for the Chiefs from 1966 to 1978 after going undrafted out of Bishop College in Dallas. 

The five-time Pro Bowler was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2008.

“I have been blessed and honored to be a part of the NFL for the last 51 years,” Thomas said in a statement released by the Chiefs. “My journey started in Kansas City, and by the grace of God I am able to end my NFL career here as well.”

Thomas was a member of both of Kansas City’s Super Bowl squads, registering four interceptions during the club’s postseason run in 1969 that culminated with a win in Super Bowl IV. He also owns a pair of Super Bowl rings from working on Joe Gibbs’ staff with the Washington Redskins.

After the 2009 season, Thomas’ contract was not renewed by the Falcons. 

"Everyone here in the Falcons organization has the utmost respect for Emmitt, and we deeply appreciate his contributions to our team over the years," Falcons coach Mike Smith said on Jan. 10, 2010. "We wish Emmitt the best in his future endeavors."

He went to coach with the Chiefs in 2010.

Thomas served as the assistant head coach/secondary for 2008 and 2009 under Smith. He had served as an assistant under the team's past three head coaches, Dan Reeves, Jim Mora and Petrino.

He was responsible for keeping the team together when Petrino left and was selected to serve as the interim head coach. 

4. Carter re-signed. Veteran linebacker Bruce Carter, who provided needed depth for the Falcons last season, was signed to a one-year contract on Monday. 

Carter played in 11 games last season and had 21 tackles and seven special teams tackles. 

In 101 career games, Carter, a former starter with the Cowboys, has 327 tackles, five sacks and 14 quarterback hits. He has started 36 games.

Carter was drafted by the Cowboys in the second round of the 2011 draft. He’s also spent some time with the Buccaneers. 

5. Head coaches. A closer look at coach Dan Quinn coaching staff reveals that there are three former NFL and three former college head coaches on the staff. Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, tight ends coach Mike Mularkey and assistant head coach/wide receiver Raheem Morris have all been head coaches in the NFL. Bob Sutton, the latest edition to the staff, was a head coach at Army. Koetter was also a head coach at Boise State and Arizona State. Running backs coach David Brock was a head coach at Delaware. 

6. Offensive coordinators. Three members on the staff have been offensive coordinators in the NFL in Koetter, Mularkey and quarterbacks coach Greg Knapp. 

7. Defensive coordinators. Quinn is set to call his own plays, but could bounce his game plans off former defensive signal-callers Sutton and Morris, who called the defense when he was the head coach at Tampa Bay. 

8. Kronenberg back in coaching. Bob Kronenberg, who’d been working with the Falcons as a pro scout, was moved to the assistant offensive line position.

Kronenberg, 47, will be charged with helping offensive line coach Chris Morgan as they try to re-shaped the unit, which gave up 42 sacks last season.

Kronenberg, who played offensive line in the Canadian Football League, NFL Europe and the Arena Football League, has been with the Falcons for the past eight years after spending the previous seven with the AFL’s Georgia Force as assistant coach and defensive coordinator (2003-08). 

Kronenberg, who played at St. Cloud State in Minnesota, went to NFL training camp with the Buccaneers in 1993 and Redskins in 1998. 

9. Special teams coach an upgrade? Ben Kotwica was with the Jets from 2007-13, as the coordinator only in 2013.

Kotwica has a decent track record in the annual special-teams rankings compiled by former Dallas Morning News columnist Rick Gosselin. In the rankings, the NFL’s 32 teams are ranked in the 22 categories and assigned points according to their standing for 1 (best) to 32 (worst). 

In six seasons as a coordinator, Kotwica’s units have finished in the top half of the league two of six years. His Washington units finished 17th last season.

In 2013, his Jets’ units were ranked ninth. 

In Washington, Kotwica’s units were ranked  30th in 2014  13th in 2015,  17th in 2016  19th in 2017  and 17th in 2018.

The Falcons were ranked 19th last season. 

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About the Author

D. Orlando Ledbetter
D. Orlando Ledbetter
D. Orlando Ledbetter is the Atlanta Falcons beat writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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