A look inside the Falcons' personnel department

FLOWERY BRANCH -- Around 11 a.m. Monday, Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff walked into Les Snead's office.

Dimitroff had just met with coach Mike Smith, who wanted to get an offensive lineman in practice and one who had practice-squad eligibility.

That's when Snead, the teams' director of player personnel, and his staff started to go through their databases. The goal was to have the lineman in place for Tuesday's 6:30 a.m. team meeting.

The key in a short time window is to locate the prospect, find out what airport he can fly out of, get him to the team facilities for a physical and then put him through a workout to make sure he's in shape.

"You have to see if they can get through it," Snead said. "Then you get him orientated."

Also, working against the personnel men is that it's the second week of training camp, and most of the good players already are in another NFL camp.

Snead, working closely with his assistant Lionel Vital, eventually settled on Mark Ortmann. He's a former Michigan player who was signed by Carolina as an undrafted rookie free agent in April, but was released after the Panthers' organized team activities.

If the Falcons hadn't already completed the leg work on more than 6,000 draft-eligible players, they would not have had any idea that Ortmann was a fit for their opening.

"You may not find them in time," Snead said. "And if you want to get them to a practice the next morning, if they don't call you back until late at night, well, that's too late."

Snead joined the Falcons in 1998 when Ron Hill and Dan Reeves hired him. A former tight end and graduate assistant at Auburn, Snead was hired as a scout in 1995 by former Jacksonville coach Tom Coughlin.

He described the Ortmann signing as a "unique training-camp move," but the work for the Ortmann signing started months ago.

After the major draft meeting in February, the personnel department starts to get ready for the next draft. They already have key information on the top college players for the coming season.

Most major colleges have 15 to 20 draft-eligible players, and the Falcons' personnel department will have to whittle that list to seven or eight legitimate NFL prospects.

"Two days after the draft we can get ready for next year by doing scheduling," Snead said. "Really if you can manage the process well, we've got the people to do the work."

After the Miami game, the Falcons must trim their roster to 75 players by Tuesday and to 53 by the following Saturday.

Over the past two seasons, the team has been active in signing released players and in making trades. So the cuts are important, but also important is knowing who other teams release.

When the Falcons have to deliver the news to a player that he's being released, Dimitroff and Smith meet with the player in Smith's office.

"They call each individual in and look them in the eye, and I think it's done in a professional and first-class way where those guys are hearing it from our general manager and our head coach," Snead said. "The two leaders of your organization, and they hear it from them first and they deliver the message."

It's written in the team's policy book that no player will leave the organization without seeing Dimitroff and Smith.

"It doesn't matter if you're a future ring-of-honor player or you are the 80th guy, those two are going to talk to you," Snead said.

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