Fans complain regularly, and usually rightfully, about the lack of media attention paid to the Falcons, as well as the relative lack of confidence the media tend to place in the Falcons in general. Well, NFL Network's "NFL AM" is doing their best to make fools out of us this week, as wide receiver Harry Douglas, general manager Thomas Dimitroff and tight end Tony Gonzalez have all been featured on the show over the past two days.
Harry Douglas, as you may know, is a University of Louisville alumnus, and called in to the show to discuss Louisville's impending appearance in the Final Four in Atlanta, but talk soon turned to Atlanta's loss in the NFC Championship Game. Douglas said that, while he recognizes what an accomplishment it is to reach the NFC Championship, the way that it ended was devastating, and he never wants to endure that feeling again. He talked about how motivating that will be for the team heading into the 2013 season.
NFL AM also welcomed Thomas Dimitroff onto the show yesterday, and Dimitroff had a lot to say on signing Brian Banks, the return of Tony Gonzalez, and whether John Abraham may be striking fear into the hearts of opposing quarterbacks as a Falcon next season.
On Banks, Dimitroff talked about how the team did invite him to Flowery Branch last fall, toward the end of preseason, and they liked his progression physically, but the timing was not right for the Falcons to sign him at that time. While Dimitroff particularly likes Banks' character, drive and work ethic, he emphasized that this is not a guy who is just, and I quote, "slopping around." Banks, according to Dimitroff, is 6'2" and 250 pounds, has a 40 time in the low 4.8s, and Dimitroff feels confident that can be improved, and his functional movement screens were very good. Dimitroff also believes that Banks' experiences of wrongful conviction and exoneration speak volumes about his perseverance, which he believes will carry over to issues like learning schemes, learning the playbook and preparing physically.
Dimitroff was asked about the timing of the return of Tony Gonzalez. Dimitroff admitted that when he told the media that he believed Gonzalez' chances of retiring were closer to 50/50 than the 95% or 97% certainty Gonzalez had articulated, that he was just going off of a gut feeling, as opposed to any concrete information from speaking with Gonzalez. He appreciated Gonzalez announcing his decision to return when he did, because it allowed the Falcons to move forward with their plans in free agency and the draft. Dimitroff, uncharacteristically, made a point of saying that they are looking for a tight end in the draft.
Dimitroff also discussed the Osi Umenyiora signing, and the snail's pace at which it was accomplished. Dimitroff said that they were working through compensation issues, and they do have a good relationship with Umenyiora's representatives, and although it was not at all contentious, the negotiations were just slow.
When asked about the possibility of bringing back John Abraham, whose effectiveness last season would likely be amplified with Osi Umenyiora coming off of the other edge, Dimitroff reiterated his "never say never" stance.
When asked about a potential contract extension for Matt Ryan, Dimitroff emphasized that Matt Ryan's contract will be extended, and while he did not place a timetable on the process, suggested that they might have something finalized heading into the season.
Tony Gonzalez was featured on NFL AM this morning, and discussed everything from his decision to return to the Falcons, to the allegations that not participating in training camp was one of the conditions of his return, to the importance of a healthy scalp and flake-free hair, guys.
Gonzalez said that the Falcons did not give him a deadline to make a final decision about retirement, but he made the decision as early as he could out of respect for the Falcons. Whether he returned or not, he wanted the Falcons to be able to make the necessary moves in free agency and also adequately prepare for the draft so that they can field the most competitive team possible. That, my friends, is class.
When asked why he opted to stay with the Falcons, when he could have signed with any other team, Gonzalez said that it was, "Falcons or bust." He indicated that Atlanta is the only place he wants to be, because of the talent on the field, and the fan support in Atlanta, and he believes the Falcons are one of the best organizations in the National Football League.
When asked about the report that one of his conditions to return to Atlanta was that he would need to miss training camp, Gonzalez clarified the situation. Missing training camp in its entirety was never a condition or a request on Tony's behalf. He has made commitments to family, particularly his son, and the Falcons will work with Gonzalez to ensure that he is able to keep those commitments.
On the changes to the Falcons roster over the course of free agency, Gonzalez said that he trusts Dimitroff at all to put the team in the best position to win. On the Falcons signing Brian Banks, Gonzalez said that it is emblematic of what kind of organization the Falcons are, and Banks will be welcomed as family, just like everyone else who becomes a Falcon.
You can watch the interviews with Thomas Dimitroff and Tony Gonzalez in their entirety on AtlantaFalcons.com. Just be prepared, because what they have to say will likely make you extremely excited about the coming season.