Originally created 01/26/99

Falcons brush off 'Plane-Gate'



MIAMI -- The Atlanta Falcons insist that "Plane-Gate" won't be a distraction at their first Super Bowl.

Pro Bowl cornerback Ray Buchanan said Monday the players had discussed the complaints made a day earlier by receiver Terance Mathis, who didn't think it was appropriate for Pro Bowlers and 10-year veterans to depart the team's chartered jet before everyone else after landing in Miami.

"We squashed it," Buchanan said. "We're not going to let it affect us. Some guys were mumbling this, some guys were mumbling that. Some of it was petty. But it was just personal feelings."

Coach Dan Reeves set the departure pecking order, apparently in a sign of respect for the team's older players and top performers. Even Reeves and his coaching staff waited for those players to leave the plane.

But Mathis said, `We've come this far as a team, let's keep it as a team." The receiver did not attend Monday's news conference, which included five players.

Defensive end Chuck Smith said the situation was blown out of proportion.

"Oh, man, that's just some talk, talk," Smith said. "That's no big deal. Things like that, I think it was taken out of context. Everyone is asking about every aspect of what's going to happen."

Smith added, "I could care less who gets off the (plane) first. When you look at it, why not let those guys get off first? It doesn't matter to me. ... Terance made a statement and -- I don't know if you can say it was blown out of proportion -- but I waited my turn and it was all good for me. I got off the back of the (plane). I didn't get off the front."

The Falcons worked out for an hour at the University of Miami, getting adjusted to the field and facilities they will be using this week in preparation for Sunday's game.

Defensive end Lester Archambeau and tight end-fullback Brian Kozlowski did not practice because of lingering ankle sprains. Archambeau, listed as questionable, has not practiced since the NFC championship game on Jan. 17. Kozlowski, who moved from tight end to fullback when Bob Christian suffered a season-ending knee injury, was listed as probable by Reeves.

"Both of them wanted to practice, but with those ankle injuries we felt we needed to rest them another day," the coach said. "They should be able to practice Wednesday."

On Tuesday, the Falcons will take part in media day at Pro Player Stadium. All players and coaches are required to face more than 3,200 members of the media who are in Miami to cover the game.

Reeves, who apologized Sunday for stirring up his feud with Denver coach Mike Shanahan and quarterback John Elway, made it clear Monday he doesn't want to dissect the issue all week.

"Why did you bring it up?" he said, scolding a reporter who raised the issue again. "I'm trying to forget about it. The only thing that heals wounds is time. I don't want to scratch over them."