Harrington in spotlight as Falcons' replacement for Vick Print
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Saturday, 25 August 2007 11:35
NFL Headline News

 FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) -While many now wonder if Michael Vick will have a second chance in the NFL, Joey Harrington is determined to make the most of his third opportunity.
Friday's decision by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to suspend Vick indefinitely following Vick's plea agreement on dogfighting charges makes official what already was obvious: The Atlanta Falcons are left with Harrington as their starting quarterback.
Harrington already has lost starting jobs in Detroit and Miami. His introduction to home fans for his newest team comes Monday night when the Falcons play the Cincinnati Bengals in a preseason game in the Georgia Dome.
Vick's plea agreement and subsequent suspension only increases the intensity of the spotlight that will follow Harrington.
So far, Harrington said he couldn't be happier.
``I feel fantastic,'' he said after Friday's practice. ``This is as good as I've felt in a long time.''
What about his new receivers, a much-criticized group in the Vick era?
``Terrific,'' Harrington said. ``This is the best group of receivers I've worked with. Great workers. Extremely talented. We've got a great mix of youth and experience, of guys in the slot and guys who can get open outside. I'm excited to get out there and play a full game with them.''
Falcons coach Bobby Petrino said Harrington and most of the starters - including receivers Joe Horn and Michael Jenkins - will play at least the first half and possibly the third quarter.
Harrington's backup, Chris Redman, last appeared in a game in 2003. Redman was supposed to compete with D.J. Shockley for the backup job, but Shockley suffered a season-ending knee injury last week. The No. 3 quarterback is Casey Bramlet, the former Wyoming starter whose professional claim to fame is winning MVP honors for the Hamburg Sea Devils this year in NFL Europa's World Bowl.
The Falcons are shopping for more backup help at the position, but Harrington will remain the starter.
``Joey is a professional,'' Horn said. ``Joey has been in this league for a long time and he knows how to play the game. He has a great opportunity in coach Petrino's offense to make it happen.''
Harrington was the third overall pick in the 2002 draft, one year after Vick was the top pick. The 28-year-old started 11 games for Miami last year following four rocky seasons in Detroit.
Harrington's career numbers may scare Falcons fans.
He's only 23-43 as a starter. He counts his 2006 season with the Dolphins as a positive experience, but he was benched late in the season and finished with three more interceptions than touchdown passes.
This could be Harrington's last chance to open a season as a starter, but Horn said he considers that normal in the NFL.
``This could be a make or break year for a lot of guys,'' Horn said. ``Joey Harrington can do well in this offense. He's doing a great job now stepping in and doing his part.''
Harrington didn't figure to be starting in Atlanta when he signed with the team in April.
But that was before Vick, in a plea agreement released Friday, acknowledged he was part of the ``collective efforts'' to kill six to eight dogs that did not perform well in testing sessions. The agreement is expected to be filed in federal court on Monday.
Vick's downfall threatens to cast a shadow over Harrington and the Falcons' season. Players worry whether fans - many of whom have been wearing Vick's No. 7 jerseys to games - will embrace the team without the quarterback who had been the face of the franchise.
The players know they'll be watched closely, and none more closely than Harrington.
No quarterback can run like Vick, but the challenge for Harrington will be to move the offense through the air.
Harrington might win a comparison of passing stats. Even when he was benched last season, he completed 57.5 percent of his passes; Vick completed only 52.6 percent of his passes last year and his best mark was 56.4 percent in 2004.
``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. I'm not worried about trying to be someone else.''
 

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