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Monday NFL News and Notes

Monday NFL News and Notes

NFL Preseason Preview - Cincinnati (0-2) at Atlanta (1-1)

(Sports Network) - The Cincinnati Bengals will try to secure their first win of the 2007 preseason on Monday night, when Marvin Lewis' club travels to meet the Atlanta Falcons in the third preseason contest for both teams.

The Bengals have fallen in each of their first two August warm-ups, dropping a 27-26 decision to the Lions in their preseason opener before succumbing by a 27-19 count to the Saints last Saturday.

Cincinnati quarterback Carson Palmer, who is expected to see his most extensive action of the preseason on Monday night along with the rest of the first-team, will be seeking his first touchdown pass of the tune-up period. Palmer is 12-of-21 passing for 134 yards and a passer rating of 76.3 during the preseason to date.

Defensively, the big story for the Bengals will be the anticipated first appearance in a Cincinnati uniform of linebacker Lemar Marshall. Marshall, who was recently released by the Redskins, was signed last week to bolster a shaky group of linebackers. The seventh-year-pro started 15 games at middle linebacker for Washington last season.

The Falcons, meanwhile, will be trying to take another step beyond the controversy surrounding quarterback Michael Vick, who entered into a federal plea agreement stemming from dogfighting charges this past Friday.

Atlanta and new head coach Bobby Petrino have prepared to move forward with quarterback Joey Harrington, who like Palmer has been absent from the TD pass category during the preseason to date.

Harrington, who will be followed in the lineup by backup Chris Redman and perhaps newly-acquired third-stringer Casey Bramlet, is 10-of-16 passing for 119 yards and an interception and a passer rating of 59.1 in a pair of preseason appearances.

Bramlet, who was picked up after being cut by the Redskins earlier in training camp, should win the No. 3 job after D.J. Shockley was lost for the year with a knee injury suffered in last week's 13-10 loss to the Bills. Bramlet, a University of Wyoming product, was a seventh-round draft choice of Cincinnati in the 2004 Draft.

Also of note on Monday is the expected first appearance of the 2007 preseason for Falcons running back Warrick Dunn. Dunn has missed most of training camp after recovering from offseason back surgery.

Atlanta has won seven of the nine preseason meetings between the two teams all-time, including a 37-10 victory in the last such matchup, prior to the 2000 season.

The Falcons were also 29-27 winners when the teams met in Cincinnati in Week 8 of the 2006 season.

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What bettors need to know: Bengals at Falcons

Cincinnati Bengals at Atlanta Falcons (+3, 38)

Back to the future

Carson Palmer’s major knee surgery had bettors wondering whether the Bengals offense would be tamer in 2006. Palmer quieted those concerns with three touchdown passes en route to guiding Cincinnati to a 44-17 preseason win over the Green Bay Packers last year.

It was just another big day for Cincinnati playmakers as the Bengals scored 44 points the week before. This year the preseason hasn’t been as productive for the first-string offense. They’ve yet to score a touchdown in six possessions and Palmer says the deficiency shouldn’t be ignored.

“There’s importance in every play, every game, every quarter,” Palmer said. “You want to score (and) you want to move the chains. It’s a good chance for our starters to get more playing time and work on some of the execution issues we’ve been having and get better and get ourselves ready for that next Monday night game against Baltimore.”

No Dunn deal

Joey Harrington is the default starting quarterback since Michael Vick is trading his helmet and pads for an orange jumpsuit, but the Falcons have options at running back. Warrick Dunn has been the starter for the Falcons for the last five seasons but an impressive rookie campaign by Jerious Norwood made the feature back position a competition this year.

Dunn will start in his 2007 exhibition debut after fighting though back pain during training camp. The 32-year-old has proved to be a durable player despite his small frame over his 10-year career.

“Over the years I’ve learned to read defenses – I understand the game,” Dunn told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I don’t think a lot of people understand what defenses are doing or really understand the game overall. I do.”

Who starts in Week 3 of the preseason is normally a good indication of who will start come September, but don’t be surprised if Norwood wins the job down the road. Head coach Bobby Petrino favored bigger backs when he coached at Louisville (Michael Bush, Kolby Smith) and Norwood would fit that mold.

Norwood missed practices this week because of an illness but he’s expected to get some carries against Cincinnati.

From Ohio with love

Brash Cincinnati receiver Chad Johnson reportedly sent copies of his book, “Chad: I Can’t Be Stopped,” to every Atlanta defensive back in advance of Monday’s contest.

Last season Johnson had a battle of words with Falcons cornerback DeAngelo Hall leading up to the Week 8 matchup. The Pro-Bowl wideout promised two touchdown catches and a Bengal win but he was unable to deliver on either promise. The Falcons won the game 29-27.

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Monday's NFL starter report

Cincinnati Bengals at Atlanta Falcons (+3, 38)

Last week Carson Palmer and the first-string offense stayed on the field for a quarter and a half, but Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis says his regulars will get more game action this time around.

“Yeah, they’ll play more than they have in the past,” Lewis told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “We get a chance to stay in rhythm offensively and defensively.”

Right tackle Levi Jones and cornerback Johnathan Joseph are both expected to start and play in their first game this preseason.

As for the Falcons, coach Bobby Petrino says his top players (minus Michael Vick) will play into the third quarter. Running back Warrick Dunn, who’s battled a sore back throughout camp, will start against the Bengals.

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2007 NFL Preseason Notes


Cincinnati Bengals - QB Rotation: Carson Palmer, Doug Johnson, rookies Jeff Rowe and Jeff Smith.

Both teams will play their starters into the second half.

Marvin Lewis said he would coach Monday's game against the Falcons from the press box. Lewis underwent surgery on his left ankle this week to repair torn tendons. He suffered the injury in June.

The first-team offense, in six possessions, has not scored a touchdown.

Second-round draft pick RB Kenny Irons is out for the season with a torn ACL. Irons was expected to provide depth behind Rudi Johnson this year.

Offensive line changes: Gone are center Rich Braham and left guard Eric Steinbach from 2006. Eric Ghiaciuc takes over at center, while either Stacy Andrews or Andrew Whitworth will play left guard. 12-year right tackle Willie Anderson has not been practicing. The Bengals will benefit more if he doesn't have to take all the rigors of a normal training camp.

LT Levi Jones is rehabbing from offseason knee surgery. He practiced Thursday and the goal is for Jones to play Monday night in the third preseason game at Atlanta.

Depth on the defensive line is a concern.

Young linebackers: The Bengals' starting three linebackers are: Ahmad Brooks in the middle and Landon Johnson and Rashad Jeanty on the outside. Newcomer Lemar Marshall adds depth and experience to a youthful group. Only Ed Hartwell has played more than three previous seasons in the league.

WR Chad Johnson said he sent copies of his book, "Chad: I Can't Be Stopped," to each of the Atlanta defensive backs this week in advance of the game Monday night.

Atlanta Falcons - QB Rotation: Joey Harrington (first half), Chris Redman, Casey Bramlet.

The starters will play into the second half, Bobby Petrino said. This is the first home game for the new coach.

QB D.J. Shockley is lost for the season to a left knee injury.

RB Warrick Dunn's has been delayed in training camp while recovering from back surgery. Dunn will start in his preseason debut Monday night when the Falcons host the Cincinnati Bengals. He will get the majority of the snaps. RB Jerious Norwood will spell in the second half.

Bobby Petrino is the new head coach, coming over from Louisville.

A Petrino camp is a more business-like place, almost corporate. "He's all about football," owner Arthur Blank said of Petrino.

Petrino has not been hesitant to put his stamp on this team, either by promoting or demoting players, opening competition, moving players or by kicking them to the curb. The release of WR Fred Gibson three days into training camp sent a warning that there is no tolerance for not doing things the right way.

NFL clubs must trim their rosters to 75 players by Aug. 28. The final cutdown to 53 players is Sept. 1.

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It's only the preseason, but a momentous day for Falcons
August 26, 2007

ATLANTA (AP) -This is one of those landmark days, a dividing line that will forever define the history of the Atlanta Falcons.

Never mind that it's only the preseason.

On Monday morning, Michael Vick will walk into a federal courtroom in Richmond, Va., to plead guilty to gruesome dogfighting charges, which will almost certainly end his Falcons career and could prevent him from playing again in the NFL.

Shortly afterward, the team that built its entire persona around Vick is expected to lay out its plans for moving on without him. Then, to cap the day off, Atlanta fans will get their first look at the sobering reality of having No. 13 (Joey Harrington) at quarterback instead of No. 7.

How many will show up Monday night to cheer for their diminished team against the Cincinnati Bengals? How many will stay home in disgust? How many protesters will be picketing outside the Georgia Dome? How many Vick jerseys will be sprinkled among the crowd as a painful reminder of what once was and what might have been?

``We just want people to come out and support us and give us an opportunity to show them what we have,'' Falcons running back Warrick Dunn said. ``To me, if they are true Falcons fans, they are going to support us, no matter what happened off the field. Now everyone is concentrating on the guys who are here and getting better. Hopefully the fans are excited and will support the guys who will be playing.''

But it's impossible to put Vick in the rearview mirror so quickly.

He was a one-of-a-kind player, a strong-armed quarterback doubling as Barry Sanders, a cultural phenomenon who led the Falcons to a historic playoff win at Lambeau Field and took them to the cusp of the Super Bowl.

Vick wore the best-selling jersey in team history. Vick had a line of shoes bearing his name. Vick was largely the reason for 51 straight sellouts in a city that used to be known for empty seats.

Now, he's gone.

``We're keeping the focus,'' receiver Joe Horn insisted. ``We're professionals. We have a job to do for our families, first of all, and for the organization. We owe it to our families, ourselves and to this owner to win football games - and that's what we'll do.''

The details of the plea agreement came out on Friday, so at least the Falcons (1-1) won't be sitting around on the day of their first home preseason game, pondering the admitted crimes of their one-time teammate.

They already know he sponsored a dogfighting operation that crossed state lines. They already know he took part in the execution of underperforming dogs. They already know he put up the money for friends to gamble on the deadly brawls.

``There will be some reports and people will talk about it, but I think everyone here is focused on football,'' Dunn said. ``We can't control anything that happens that's not here.''

The team can control whether it goes after some $22 million in bonus money that Vick received as part of the $130 million contract he signed late in the 2004 season, the deal that was supposed to make him ``a Falcon for life,'' in the words of team owner Arthur Blank.

As soon as Vick formally enters his plea, look for Blank and general manager Rich McKay to reveal Atlanta's next move. It is expected to go something like this: Vick will never play again for the Falcons, but he won't be cut immediately for purely financial reasons.

Vick must remain on the roster while the team goes through the process of trying to recoup the bonus money. If the Falcons are successful on that front, it will lessen their future salary cap obligations. Anything left on the books can be spread out over the next two seasons if Atlanta waits until after the season to officially give Vick a pink slip.

On the field, Harrington will get an indication of how he'll be received by the fans of Atlanta. There could be boos from Vick's die-hard supporters. There could be cheers from those who are glad Vick's gone.

Harrington isn't concerned about the crowd reaction or trying to fill Vick's shoes. He's trying to bounce back from flops in two cities and show that he's capable of being a successful NFL quarterback.

It's still a work in progress. Through the first two preseason games, he's 10-of-16 for 119 yards, with no touchdowns and one interception.

``I'm not worried about any comparisons,'' Harrington said. ``I've said that from the beginning. I'm not trying to be someone else. I'm trying to be the best that I can be for this team.''

He may get a chance to shine against the Bengals (0-2), whose defense has struggled in the preseason after ranking last against the pass a year ago. Last week, New Orleans scored two touchdowns and a field goal on its first three possessions against the starting defense.

Meanwhile, Cincinnati's first-team offense has yet to score a touchdown in two exhibition games, though that's not much of a concern given the conservative nature of the play-calling. The Bengals are clearly saving their best shots for the regular season.

``Preseason is very boring for me,'' moaned receiver Chad Johnson, who even passed on a chance to fire some verbal shots at the Falcons' outspoken cornerback, DeAngelo Hall.

Johnson did weigh in on Vick's predicament, predicting the quarterback will someday return to the NFL, even if it's not with the Falcons.

``Come on. We know he'll be back playing,'' Johnson said. ``He's one of the greatest athletes to play the game. Ever. He'll be back.''

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What's the number on how many times we will hear the name Michael Vick during tonights game.


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With cuts ahead, backups are focus

'Bubble' players have two exhibition games to impress Bengals

ATLANTA - Players on the bubble of the Bengals' roster will have more than just tonight's game at Atlanta to show their wares.

Because the Bengals already have their roster to fewer than 80 players and are in position to make procedural personnel moves, most of their healthy players will get a last audition Friday night in the team's preseason finale at home against Indianapolis.

NFL teams are required to trim their rosters to a maximum of 75 players by 4 p.m. Tuesday.

Then teams must reach the 53-man roster by 4 p.m. Saturday. The cuts Saturday will be more difficult than any moves the Bengals must make by Tuesday.

The Bengals have 79 players on their roster as of today. They must make four roster moves by the Tuesday deadline.

Wide receiver Chris Henry, who will serve a league suspension for the first eight games for violating the NFL personal conduct policy, can't be among the Tuesday moves. He can continue to play and practice through Friday, and will occupy a roster spot until Saturday, when his suspension takes effect.

Roster exemptions for the NFL Europa players on the roster, defensive end Jimmy Verdon and offensive tackle Alan Reuber, expire at the Tuesday cutdown.

Linebacker David Pollack will not play this season as he continues to attempt to rehabilitate from a fractured vertebra. He could be placed on injured reserve as early as Tuesday. Tailback Chris Perry has not practiced and will start the season on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list, which will keep him out for the season's first six weeks and five games.

Most roster spots will be won and lost on special teams. A veteran who could be in his last week with the Bengals is fourth-year pro Keiwan Ratliff, who might lose his fourth cornerback job to rookie free agent T.J. Wright of Ohio University.

The Bengals appear ready to enter the season with seven linebackers, including newly acquired Lemar Marshall, signed to a one-year contract last week following his release by the Washington Redskins.

The questions and concerns surrounding the Bengals are all about what's happening on the field. That's in sharp contrast with the Falcons.

The Bengals arrived Sunday night in Atlanta, where the city's football fans are mourning quarterback Michael Vick's fall from grace.

Vick, suspended indefinitely on Friday by the NFL for violations of the personal conduct policy, will appear in federal court in Virginia today to enter his guilty plea on dog-fighting conspiracy charges.

"We're not part of the three-ring circus; we're just going to play football," Lewis said of the Bengals. "We have nothing to do with the things they have going on. It has nothing to do with us playing football. ... Yes it's good. Life is good."

Joey Harrington will start at quarterback for the Falcons and first- year head coach Bobby Petrino.

Lewis and his Bengals were in the center ring as recently as a year ago, during a spate of off-field incidents and arrests that made them the league's reigning bad boys.

There were other distractions, too. Could quarterback Carson Palmer return from a career-threatening knee injury?

This season, Palmer is healthy and poised for a career year. And though the Bengals will be without Henry for their first eight regular-season games, they at least know his fate. There is no gray area.

Palmer and the rest of the team's starters will play well into the second quarter, perhaps the entire first half, today in what widely is considered the dress rehearsal for the regular season. Don't look for Palmer and some other Bengals starters to play much, if at all, Friday against the Colts.

There were other positive signs for the Bengals in the past week.

Left tackle Levi Jones is making a steady return from knee rehabilitation and was expected to play against the Falcons.

Even the health of four-time Pro Bowl right tackle Willie Anderson is looking up. Out since the end of the 2006 season with an injured right heel, Anderson underwent a procedure two weeks ago and could be back on the practice field in time to play in the regular-season opener.

There are football issues, though, but they are nothing more than what many other NFL teams face this time of year.

The Bengals are looking for a tailback to replace rookie Kenny Irons, lost for the season to a knee injury in the first preseason game. Kenny Watson, Quincy Wilson and Curtis Brown will get carries.

The Bengals are benefiting from a safe draft of players who will help them. Rookie defensive backs Leon Hall (first round), Marvin White (fourth) and Chinedum Ndukwe (seventh) will have roles on defense and special teams. They will play a great deal tonight.

Hall is likely to open the season as the nickel back and key special teams cover man, especially as a gunner on the outside on punt coverage.

Lewis, coming off ankle surgery Wednesday, will coach the game from the press box at the Georgia Dome. Here's what he will see:

"Some of the guys who haven't had the opportunity to play will get their chance this week," he said. "We get the chance to stay in rhythm offensively and defensively. We want to win third-down conversions and play well on first downs."

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