Postcard from camp: Falcons
In Flowery Branch, Ga., which, quite honestly, has a whole bunch of flowery branches. It's out in the sticks, 50 miles northeast of downtown Atlanta -- just where the Falcons like it. The players stay in oversized condos, with seven-foot beds, right on campus, avoiding the hotels in the area. Come to think of it, there aren't any hotels in the area. (Exaggeration!)
Kroy Biermann, defensive end. The man known more for his girlfriend (a Real Housewife of Atlanta) than his football saw the Falcons sign a free-agent defensive end, Ray Edwards, to take his place, in essence. The Falcons haven't lost hope in Biermann, but he had plenty of chances last year, and he had only three sacks. The fact that he can't get to the quarterback with any regularity left the Falcons no option but to go pay for Ray Edwards this week. He will be a revolving defensive end between the left and right sides, which is one step away from the revolving door out of the organization if he doesn't get to the quarterback more this year.
Quarterback coach Bob Bratkowski got drummed out of Cincinnati as offensive coordinator and found a home here as quarterback coach, replacing Bill Musgrave, who went to the Vikings as offensive coordinator. Of course, coaching Matt Ryan's not going to be the hard part. But the backup situation here is interesting. John Parker Wilson impressed the front office and coach Mike Smith last year, and he could push Chris Redman for the No. 2 job once he's able to practice; as an exclusive rights free agent (for some idiotic reason), Wilson can't practice until the ban on free agents practicing is lifted in the next few days.
I enjoyed a nice rectangle of chicken pot pie in the Falcons cafeteria with owner Arthur Blank at lunch. (He had the southern delicacy as well.) Light, flaky crust, with chunks of white-meat chicken breast and not the oily dark meat that sometimes plagues chicken pot pie. Along with a fresh garden salad with lite ranch and a cranberry juice cocktail, the camp-meal tour got off to a promising start. Grade: B+.
September will not be kind to the Birds. At Bears, home for the emotional Mike Vick reunion, at feisty Bucs. The good thing for Atlanta is that five of the last eight are home. Which, of course, means five of the first eight are on the road. One other thing about the schedule: Matt Ryan gets to relive his Tramon Williams nightmare in Week 5, when the Packers return to the Georgia Dome.