Atlanta Falcons Blog

Atlanta Falcons blog by D. Orlando Ledbetter, the pro football and Atlanta Falcons reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
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Cover 9@9: Julio Jones and Antonio Brown makes no sense

Good morning! Welcome to the Cover 9@9 blog. It’s our weekly list of nine things at 9 a.m. Wednesday that you need to know about the Atlanta Falcons. 

1. Jones, Brown not a dream duo. While mercurial wide receiver Antonio Brown’s days in Pittsburgh appeared to be numbered, the Falcons makes absolutely no sense as a landing spot.

Brown has worn out his welcome in the Steel City and he’s made coach Mike Tomlin look like he has no control of the team. He should have been more sternly reprimanded after shooting that ridiculous video in the locker room after the game.

Just downright disrespectful.  

Brown’s type of narcissistic behavior would not be a fit with Jones or in the Falcons’ locker room. 

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The Falcons need some guards, not another wide receiver who would stunt the growth of Calvin Ridley. 

A few years back, during a one-on-one interview with Jones at the Top Golf in Midtown, I asked him about Brown. He spoke will of Brown’s work and how he’s been playing. He noted that they were two different types of receivers and that he didn’t really know Brown all that well.

TMZ Sports caught up with Jones in Los Angeles. Looks like Jones was on Rodeo Drive doing some shopping and waiting for his Uber to show up. Sounded like he wants a Uber deal and he definitely wants and Under Armour deal.

They asked him about fired offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian.

“It’s a business,” Jones said.

They tried to ask about new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter and then they asked about Antonio Brown joining the Falcons.

“Nah, we’re tight over here,” Jones said. “We good.”

2. Hooper to the Pro Bowl.  Falcons tight end Austin Hooper, who’s in his third season in the NFL, was picked to replace Eagles tight end Zach Ertz in the Pro Bowl on Tuesday.

Hooper, who had a breakthrough season, was the first alternate at the position. The Pro Bowl is set for Sunday, Jan. 27 at CampingWorld Stadium in Orlando.

Hooper caught 71 passes for 660 yards and four touchdowns, all career-highs, last season.

“It was great considering all of the hard work that I was putting in over the offseason,” Hooper told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution after being named the first alternate. “So, it’s just gratifying to know that if you make sacrifices and put in the work that it would come.”

Hooper and Ertz both played at Stanford. 

3. Ryan workouts. The California native spent the majority of the offseason in Atlanta working with quarterback Matt Ryan, beginning as soon as the quarterback began throwing in March. The connection between the two players was evident all season long as Ryan posted a 108.3 passer rating when targeting Hooper.

4. McKinley situation. Falcons defensive end Takk McKinley was detained by Los Angeles police on Tuesday and is undergoing a mental evaluation. 

TMZ Sports was the first to report the incident. The Falcons acknowledged the incident in a statement Tuesday night.

“We were recently made aware of the situation involving Takk in Los Angeles earlier today,” coach Dan Quinn said in the statement released by the team Tuesday night. “Any time a situation occurs that is or could be related to mental health issues we take it very seriously. We will do everything we possibly can to support and assist Takk as our players’ mental and physical well-being are always our top priority.”

The website reported that McKinley was in a hotel when a friend became concerned for his well-being and called police.

McKinley cooperated and left with police. He was not arrested for a crime, according to the report.

McKinley was drafted by the Falcons in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft.

Ridley named to PFWA’S All-Rookie team: 

Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley was named to the All-Rookie team by  the Professional Football Writers of America on Tuesday.

Also, teammate  Julio Jones was named to the All-NFL team  along with wide receivers DeAndre Hopkins of Houston and Michael Thomas of New Orleans.

Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield was named the rookie of the year. Giants running back Saquon Barkley was named the offensive rookie of the year and Colts linebacker Darius Leonard was named the defensive rookie of the year. 

Ridley, the 26th pick in the 2018 draft, had 64 catches for 821 yards and a team-high 10 touchdowns.

5. Party for Smitty: Mike Smith, who’s won the most games of any coach in Falcons’ history, appears set to ride off into the coaching sunset.

Smith, who will turn 60 in June, was fired this season as Tampa Bay’s defensive coordinator. He was on SiriusXM NFL radio on Tuesday with Alex Marvez and Ed McCaffery. 

“Well, Alex, I’ve been very blessed to have the opportunity to coach in the National Football League,” Smith said  via JoeBucsFan.com. “I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”

Smith then contended that it was time for him and his family to “look at some new adventures” outside football. “I’ve been in this league and coached a long time and I think it’s time to go do something different,” said Smith, who did not immediately return a call to his cell phone. 

After seven seasons, the Falcons fired Smith on Dec. 29, 2014

Smith took the Falcons to the playoffs in four of his first seven seasons. 

6. Back to back winning seasons. In 2008 and 2009, he posted consecutive winning seasons for the first time in franchise history.

Over Smith’s first five seasons, his teams played solid defense, keep down penalties and made it a habit of winning close games. They were solid, played hard and were competitive.

He took over after the horrible 2007 season in which quarterback Michael Vick was sent to federal prison and coach Bobby Petrino quit after 13 games.

Smith helped restore order quickly as the team posted an 11-5 regular-season record and went to the playoffs.

He talked regularly about “the process” leading to that team’s success.

7. 10 yards away. Under Smith, the peak was reaching the NFC Championship game after the 2012 season. The 49ers rallied from a 17-0 deficit that day to win 28-24 at the Georgia Dome and advance to the Super Bowl.

The Falcons would end the season 10 yards away from what have been the franchise’s second trip to the Super Bowl. Dan Quinn’s 2016 team would later become the second team in franchise history to reach the Super Bowl.

The 1998 team under Dan Reeves was the first Falcons team to play in the Super Bowl. 

Smith’s record was 66-46 (.589) and 1-4 in the playoffs with the Falcons.

8. Super Bowl premium action. Former Dallas Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith, who will serve as the Super Bowl LIII brand ambassador for On Location Experiences, was the MVP of the first Super Bowl played in Atlanta, Super Bowl XXVIII in 1994. 

Super Bowl hospitality packages –  the pricey combinations of game tickets, pregame entertainment and other premium perks -- are being sold by the NFL’s official hospitality partner.

“First and foremost, I’m extremely excited about being the ambassador for On Location Experiences,” Smith said in a recent phone interview. “That’s what the Super Bowl is all about. It’s about the fan experience. It’s about the player experience on the field as well as off the field. It’s about the city experience itself being able to host such a tremendous atmosphere and environment for all fans alike.”

Sales for Super Bowl LIII are up about 17 percent from last season’s event in Minneapolis, according to Sam Soni, the Atlanta-based chief revenue officer of On Location Experiences.

The Atlanta Super Bowl is Feb. 3 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. 

The Rams play at the Saints at 3:05 p.m. on Sunday in the NFC championship game. The Patriots play at the Chiefs at 6:40 p.m. on Sunday in the AFC game. The winners advance to the Super Bowl.

“So, there will a number of people descending on to the ATL coming the week of the Super Bowl,” Smith said. “I know it’s going to be a great time. For me, it brings back fond memories because I became the MVP right there in our second Super Bowl there in the ATL. I’m excited to come back.”

9. Party host. Smith is looking forward to serving as host in his role. 

“They are going to take away a lot,” Smith said. “One thing about On Location Experiences, they are going to have a lot to choose from, a lot of different activities. There are going to three different pre-game parties. Jesse Palmer will be at one, Marcus Allen will be at one of the parties. Akbar (Gbaja-Biamila) of Ninja Warriors will be at one of the parties. I’m going to try to crash all three of them.”

Several NFL players live in the metro area and most have tickets to the game at their disposal. 

“The beautiful thing about Super Bowls, if you’re not playing in it, which can be disappointing if you’re a player,” Smith said. “But if you’re a fan or just a participate around Super Bowl activities, there is a lot of energy, a lot of action, a lot of things going on. 

“When you look at some of these On Location Experiences, you’re talking about Cardi B, Bruno Mars, Migos and Ludacris and so many other talented individuals. It’s like all of the talent in the country and around the world is going to descend on Atlanta around the same time.” 

Subscribe to “The Bow Tie Chronicles” podcast with the AJC’s D. Orlando Ledbetter on iTunes or on the new AJC sports podcasts page.

About the Author

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

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