Cover 9@9: Lawrence Taylor: ‘I don’t think I could play nowadays’

1. The no spin zone: Former NFL linebacker Lawrence Taylor, who wrecked offenses from 1981 to 1993 for the New York Giants and amassed 142 sacks, doesn’t believe he could play in the current league with the rules titled in favor of the offense.

“I just enjoyed…. what I did back in the day and how I played the game,” said Taylor, who was in Suwanee for his foundation’s golf tournament on Monday. “I played my heart out and stuff. I don’t think I could play nowadays. That type of football because that type of football is not exciting football to me. Alright, if you can’t hit, why am I out there? But hey, it is what it is.”

Taylor believes he was perhaps the best defensive player to have played the game.

“Wow, it is what it is,” Taylor said. “People say, who’s the best this? Who’s the best that (played)? Like I say, and some people say I’m the best defensive player. Then there are other people who say I’m not the best defensive player. Well, I’m like alright. I don’t care. Just tell me who? Who is….if I’m not, then tell who?”

Reggie White, Deacon Jones or Jack Tatum would be on my Mount Rushmore with Taylor.

There were over 120 golfers on hand for the 4th annual Lawrence Taylor Family Foundation golf outing, including Pro Football Hall of Famers Marcus Allen, Rickey Jackson and Eric Dickerson.

Founded in 2020 by Taylor’s daughter Tanisha Taylor Jones, the foundation is dedicated to uplifting individuals and families in underserved communities.

2. Taylor on Belichick: Bill Parcells was the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach for the Giants in 1982 and 82. He was the head coach 1983 to 1990 before leaving for New England.

Taylor crossed paths early in his career with Bill Belichick, who went to turn New England into a dynasty and was a candidate for the Falcons head job over the offseason.

“Belichick, I didn’t realize how good he was until, really until after about my fourth year,” Taylor said. “I thought he just….he started out as an assistant special teams coach. Then, he went to special teams coach, then linebackers and then defensive coordinator. When Parcells named him as defensive coordinator I was really upset. This guy has got no….I ain’t playing for him. But, he earned his right to be a coach.”

Taylor eventually warmed up to Belichick.

“I’ll tell you what…he wasn’t all that personable, but when he called the defense or when he put in a defense, everybody listened because the man knew what he was talking about,” Taylor said. “I would have to ….I’m very happy with him.

“Bill Parcells will always be my man. He will always be may man.”

3. Sewak’s undefeated: Former Georgia Southern head coach Mike Sewak (2002-05) is enjoying retirement.

“Haven’t lost a game this week, so it’s good,” said Sewak, who was also an assistant coach at Georgia Tech (1984, 2008-2018) “You can only be as good as you were last week. I’m undefeated.”

Sewak was preparing to play in the tournament.

“It’s always great to see athletes come back and give back because it gives everybody an opportunity,” Sewak said. “The opportunities that he’s provided for so many children’s families that it great to support him and why I happy to be here today.”

Sewak’s son, Nick Sewak, is in his first season as the offensive line coach at Albany State.

Former NFL player, college coach and XFL head coach Terrell Buckley at the 4th Annual Lawrence Taylor Family Foundation golf outing on Monday, June 25, 2024 at Bear's Best in Suwanee, Georgia

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

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Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

4. Buckley bullish on West Georgia: Former NFL defensive back Terrell Buckley, who played in the NFL from 1992 to 2005 and has been coaching since 2007, recently completed a volunteer internship (spring football) at West Georgia, who’s under first-year head coach Joel Taylor.

“I was heavily involved with them,” said Buckley, who was most recently the head coach of the Orlando Guardians in the XFL (2023). “I was like the assistant to the head coach. They are going to have a good team. He’s an excellent old-school coach.”

West Georgia is set to start making the transition to FCS on July 1. Buckley believes its future is bright.

“They have plenty of land,” Buckley said. “They remind me of Central Florida. You know, when Central Florida just started. They had the facilities, the land and they started building stuff. Now, you see where they are at.

“I think West Georgia is in that same situation. They’ve got plenty of land and an young, bright and excited coach. They are going to be able to get players in there.”

Buckley, 53, would like to one-day coach in the NFL.

“I haven’t given up on it yet,” Buckley said. “I had a great time doing it (in the XFL). I learned a lot being a first-time head coach. It’s different, but the challenge of it is also exciting. I would like that opportunity to do it again.”

5. Justice was on hand: Former Braves star Dave Justice flew in from Los Angeles to help out Taylor.

“Anytime we can help out our fellow professional athlete and raise some money, and do some things for the community and the people, I’m always down for that,” Justice said. “Especially, when I get a chance to come back to Atlanta.”

Justice’s youngest son, D.J. Justice, is a defensive back at UCLA.

“Looking forward to a good, healthy season for him this year,” Justice said. “He plays nickel and safety. He can play. He’s a dog, but in that sport, you must stay healthy. So, hopefully he stays healthy and I wish a lot of luck to the new head coach DeShaun Foster, getting an opportunity to coach. Hopefully, he’ll have a great year.”

Justice was elated that Foster added longtime NFL coach Eric Bieniemy to his staff.

“Eric doesn’t do anything, but bring energy and positivity,” Justice said. “He knows the game. So, I know he’ll have a positive affect on the team.”

6. Nothing on the Falcons: The Falcons may have had a notable offseason, but they didn’t make Taylor’s radar screen.

“I’m not a big football buff,” Taylor said. “I left football some years ago. I still watch little bit. We just had a thing in New York for the top 100 players. I’m not a big follower of the football game as I used to be. As a matter of fact, I may watch a little (more) basketball than I watch football.”

He was pleased with the Celtics winning the latest NBA title.

“I was OK with it because I had my money on the Celtics,” Taylor said. “Yes, sir.”

Pro Football Hall of Famers Marcus Allen (left), Rickey Jackson (middle) and Eric Dickerson (right) at the 4th Annual Lawrence Taylor Family Foundation golf outing on Monday, June 25, 2024 at Bear's Best in Suwanee, Georgia.

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

icon to expand image

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

7. Medical pipeline program: The NFL, the NFLPS (NFL Physician’s Society) and the Professional Football Athletic Trainers Society (PFATS) will have students from 21 medical schools, including Morehouse School of Medicine, participate in the league’s Diversity in Sports Medicine Pipeline Initiative this season.

This will be the third class of the program which aims to increase and diversify the pipeline for students interested in pursuing careers in sports medicine in the NFL.

“I am thrilled to participate in the NFL Diversity in Sports Medicine Pipeline Initiative, and I hope this experience will broaden my skills and understanding of sports medicine,” said Eden Obomeghie, a student Morehouse School of Medicine who’ll intern with the Indianapolis Colts.

The Falcons are set to host an intern.

“My dream is to become a sports medicine physician, and I’m thrilled to make the most of this program as it gives me the opportunity to learn from the best, develop lasting relationships, and take the first step in turning my dream into a reality,” said Jerry Yue, a Morehouse School of Medicine student, who’ll work with the Atlanta Falcons.

8. Penix signs deal: Michael Penix, Jr., the No. 8 pick in the 2024 NFL draft signed a four-year, $22.88 million deal with a $13.46 million signing bonus on Monday. It was previously reported that the parties had agreed on the contract.

The Falcons previously signed rookie outside linebacker Bralen Trice, who was drafted in the third round (74th overall) of the NFL draft. He signed a four-year contract worth $5.9 million May 17. His deal included a signing bonus of $1,121,379.

The Falcons flipped the draft upside down by selecting Penix at No. 8 overall after signing veteran quarterback Kirk Cousins in free agency to a contract worth up to $180 million.

Most were projected to help the defensive pass rush.

9. Depth chart: Late in the offseason, the Falcons sought to improve the depth along the offensive and defensive lines.

Defensive tackle Prince Emili and offensive tackle Jaryd Jones-Smith, who both played in the United Football League this season, signed with the Falcons on June 20.

Offensive tackle Andrew Stueber, once a draft pick of New England, signed with the Falcons in early June.

The signings are in line with the team’s plan to constantly upgrade, even if it’s the backup tackle and defensive tackle position.

“We feel good about our roster,” assistant general manager Kyle Smith said after the draft. “Our minds, I don’t want you to take this the wrong way, but (on) the personnel side, you never feel like you’re a piece away. Like that’s not my job.

“My job is to always continue to find something else. That’s what we do every day ... watching tape and (thinking about) how can we upgrade? How can we go to the (Canadian Football League)? These new leads find something to upgrade, like we’re always constantly trying to upgrade.”

Emili played with the San Antonio Brahmas, and Jones-Smith played with the St. Louis Battlehawks. The Falcons released offensive lineman Nolan Potter and defensive lineman Willington Previlon to make room for the new players on the 90-man roster.

Emili, 25, who’s 6-foot-2 and 300 pounds, played at Pennsylvania. He spent time with the Saints and Bills after going undrafted in 2022. He has played in two NFL games.

Jones-Smith, 28, who’s 6-7 and 320 pounds, played at Pittsburgh. He was with the Raiders in 2020 and played in three games. He was with the Ravens in 2021 and played in three games.

To make room for Stueber, the team released wide receiver JaQuae Jackson.

Stueber, who was drafted by the Patriots in the seventh round (245th overall) of the 2022 draft, played at Michigan.

The Falcons list Stueber at 6-foot-7 and 338 pounds.

Here’s the updated depth chart:


QB – Kirk Cousins, Taylor Heinicke, Michael Penix Jr., John Paddock

RB – Bijan Robinson, Tyler Allgeier, Avery Williams, Carlos Washington Jr., Jase McClellan

FB – Robert Burns

WR – Drake London, Josh Ali, Austin Mack, Greg Washington, Dylan Drummond

Slot WR – Rondale Moore, Ray-Ray McCloud

TE – Kyle Pitts, Charlie Woerner, John FitzPatrick, Austin Stogner, Ross Dwelley

LT – Jake Matthews, Tyler Vrabel, Barry Wesley, Andrew Stueber

LG – Matthew Bergeron, John Leglue, Ryan Coll

C – Drew Dalman, Ryan Neuzil, Jovaughn Gwyn

RG – Chris Lindstrom, Kyle Hinton,

RT – Kaleb McGary, Storm Norton, Jaryd Jones-Smith

WR – Darnell Mooney, KhaDarel Hodge, Chris Blair, Isaiah Wooden, Daylen Baldwin, OJ Hiliare.

DEFENSE 3-4 alignment

DE – Zach Harrison, Kentavius Street, Demone Harris, James Smith-Williams, Brandon Dorlus

NT – David Onyemata, LaCale London, Tommy Togiai, Eddie Goldman, Zion Logue

DT – Grady Jarrett, Kentavius Street, Ta’Quon Graham, Prince Emil, Ruke Orhorhoro

LOLB – Arnold Ebiketie, Bradlee Anae, Kehinde Oginni

LILB – Kaden Elliss, Donavan Mutin, Milo Eifler

RILB – Troy Andersen, Nate Landman, JD Bertrand

ROLB – Lorenzo Carter, DeAngelo Malone, Bralen Trice

CB – A.J. Terrell, Antonio Hamilton, Jayden Price, Anthony Sao

Nickel CB – Mike Hughes, Dee Alford, Trey Vaval

FS – Jessie Bates III, Micah Abernathy, Tre Tarpley III

SS – DeMarcco Hellams, Richie Grant, Lukas Denis, Dane Cruikshank

CB – Clark Phillips III, Natrone Brooks, Kevin King


K – Younghoe Koo

P/H – Bradley Pinion, Ryan Sanborn

LS – Liam McCullough

PR – Ray-Ray McCloud or Avery Williams

KOR – Ray-Ray McCloud or Avery Williams

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