FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) -Quarterback Chris Redman might be the only Atlanta Falcons player who supports Bobby Petrino.
A day after many of his teammates called the former coach ``a coward'' for his abrupt resignation, Redman stood by the man who helped him return to the NFL.
``I appreciated everything he did,'' Redman said Thursday. ``Do I agree with the way he left? No, not really, but he left us a note in our locker saying he was doing what was best for him and his family to go ahead and resign. If he feels that way, I wish him the best of luck.''
Redman went more than 3 1/2 seasons without taking a snap in a regular-season game, but his long wait ended when he completed his only attempt last month at Carolina.
Now he is preparing to start his second straight game for the Falcons (3-10), who visit Tampa Bay (8-5) this weekend.
``It's definitely going to be a challenge, but our guys will be ready to play,'' Redman said. ``We're professionals and we want to put a product on the field that our fans will enjoy watching.''
Petrino's quick departure to Arkansas, after just 13 games with Atlanta, infuriated many players who cited poor communication skills as the coach's worst liability.
It was clear Petrino made an exception with Redman, who first played under him at Louisville in 1998. On the few occasions reporters saw Petrino walk through the locker room, Redman was usually the only player he stopped to speak with.
Even so, Redman had not talked to Petrino as of Thursday.
``I'm sure he's busy, but I'll talk to him down the road,'' Redman said. ``He gave me a great opportunity here, and I think I've earned it. I don't think it was just given to me and I appreciate that.''
During their one season together at Louisville, Petrino was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach when Redman helped the Cardinals finish 7-5, a six-win improvement over the previous season.
Petrino left the following year to take the coordinator's job at Jacksonville, but he stayed in touch with Redman, who was drafted by Baltimore in the third round of 2000 and went 3-3 over a 10-game stint that ended with back surgery in '03.
Redman spent part of the 2005 offseason with New England and Tennessee. But he had returned to sell insurance in his hometown of Louisville when Petrino offered him a chance to compete with Joey Harrington for the No. 2 spot behind Michael Vick.
After the NFL suspended Vick indefinitely for his role in federal dogfighting crimes, Harrington and Byron Leftwich took turns as starters, but the Falcons went just 3-9 before Redman earned his chance.
Despite a 34-14 loss last Monday to New Orleans, Redman has retained the job. Interim Falcons coach Emmitt Thomas never hesitated given Redman's 91.8 passer rating this year and 479 yards, four touchdowns and two interception in 65 attempts.
``We thought he played well Monday night,'' Thomas said. ``Against Tampa, he'll get the ball out of his hands real quick. He has command of the system.''
Redman will rely heavily on Roddy White, who needs 5 yards to become the Falcons' first receiver since Terence Mathis in 1999 to have a 1,000-yard season.
Both White and rookie wideout Laurent Robinson confirmed that Petrino's brother, Paul Petrino, contacted them on Tuesday night.
``He gave me a call and he was wishing me the best of luck and that it was great working with you,'' Robinson said. ``He said that if I ever needed anything to call him. I felt very comfortable with him. I'll probably keep in touch.''
General manager Rich McKay briefly praised Paul Petrino on Wednesday for his influence in helping former first-round pick White improve dramatically. McKay indicated that Paul Petrino was offered a chance to work the final three games, but the receivers coach thought his presence would cause more disruption.
Redman hopes to return in 2008 with the Falcons, but if their new coach isn't interested, he believes another team will give him a chance to stay in the NFL.
``Definitely. I'm going to play until they throw me out of here, so I'm excited,'' Redman said. ``I've always thought that like I'm coming into my prime. I never really got there and hopefully I'll have a chance to establish that again.''

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