Originally created 05/31/97

Players to begin Falcon's mini camp Monday

SUWANEE, Ga. - The Atlanta Falcons expect to have all of their draft picks and most of their veterans on hand for their third and final mini-camp next Monday through Wednesday.

Although passing camps are scheduled throughout June and early July, the full team won't be together again on the field until training camp begins July 16.

"Really, what we're going to try to do is show them what kind of commitment we expect between now and the time we go to camp," coach Dan Reeves said. "Instead of meeting twice a day, I'm going to try to show them the lifting and the running program and what our expectations are."

The Falcons could have a 40 percent roster turnover in 1997, with at least three new starters on offense and five on defense.

Newcomers likely to start are quarterback Chris Chandler, fullback Bob Christian, tight end Ed West, cornerbacks Ray Buchanan and Michael Booker, linebacker Mike Croel and safety Will White.

Additionally, defensive tackle Shannon Brown, a 1996 thirdround pick who missed all of last season with a knee injury, is penciled in as a starter.

Some developments to watch:

*Croel, a six-year veteran signed as a free agent last week, will be making his first appearance with the team. Reeves drafted him out of Nebraska with the No. 4 overall pick in 1991 while at Denver. But after a 10-sack rookie season, Croel has had only modest success with the Broncos, New York Giants and Baltimore Ravens.

Asked why Croel hasn't lived up to expectations, Reeves said, "It's hard to say. We used him (at Denver) as a blitzing outside linebacker (in a 3-4), and that's where he had his success. The other teams he's been with have been four-man line teams. He still has a lot of football skills. Being in a different system every year hasn't helped him, either."

Croel will probably slide into the starting outside linebacker spot played last year by Ron George, who is an unrestricted free agent and probably won't be re-signed. Reeves wanted to retain George, but thought his price was too high.

*The Falcons still have $3.5 million left under the salary cap and may still try to upgrade at receiver and safety.

The team is interested in receiver Michael Haynes, who was released by New Orleans this week for salary cap reasons. Haynes played in Atlanta from 1988 to 1993 and scored 11 and 10 touchdowns, respectively, in 1990 and '91.

"He had a great reputation when he left here, and they didn't feel like he was somebody they wanted to let go at the time," Reeves said of Haynes. "He has some size and speed, which we could use at the position."

At 6 feet, Haynes is 2 inches taller than projected starting receivers Bert Emanuel and Terance Mathis and backup Roell Preston.

*Offensive coordinator George Sefcik is expected to rejoin the team in late July after undergoing quadruple bypass surgery last week. Sefcik, 57, coaches the running backs and helps Reeves with the offense.

*Most of the Falcons' remaining unrestricted free agents probably won't be back. They include George, quarterbacks Bobby Hebert and Browning Nagle, linebacker Clay Matthews (will probably retire), receiver J.J. Birden, safety Louis Riddick, special teams ace Elbert Shelley, cornerback Nate Odomes and defensive tackle Moe Gardner.

Gardner still could be re-signed if his price comes down.


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