Originally created 09/17/99

Falcons sign players to secure future

SUWANEE, Ga. - The Falcons signed three of their free agents-to-be this week as the defending NFC champions slowly work to keep the foundation of their success.

Wide receiver Terance Mathis, defensive tackle Travis Hall and fullback Bob Christian each signed extensions this week. Earlier in training camp, All-Pro running back Jamal Anderson signed a five-year extension worth $32 million. He also got a $7 million signing bonus. Hall got the best deal of the three signed this week. He will make $52.5 million over the next seven years.

The team opened camp with 14 players who were scheduled to become free agents at the end of the season. Added with several cuts during the preseason, the team now has eight players who will become free agents, including defensive ends Lester Archambeau and Chuck Smith, linebacker Jessie Tuggle and offensive tackle Bob Whitfield.


All-Pro running back Jamal Anderson had some fun at the expense of Reeves during practice. He collapsed face-down during a running play and didn't move for almost a minute. Reeves finally rushed to his side and Anderson quickly jumped up and returned to the huddle. "I thought he knocked himself out," Reeves said. "I got to him, and he said, `I'll get up as soon as you leave.' He needs to work on his acting a little more." ... Wide receiver/kick returner Tim Dwight's status for Monday's game was elevated from doubtful to probable. Dwight strained a hamstring during pre-game warm-ups last Sunday. ... Defensive tackle Ben Huff (sprained foot), defensive back Michael Booker (thigh) and Chandler are officially listed as doubtful, meaning there's only a 25 percent chance any of them will play.


The Falcons will make three appearances on Monday Night Football this year. While it's considered an honor to play before a national audience, Atlanta has never fared well off their customary Sunday time slot. In 20 Monday night appearances, the Falcons are 5-15. More telling is the fact the team is 1-7 on the road on Monday nights. Two of Atlanta's three games on Monday night this year, including this Monday's game against Dallas, are away from the Georgia Dome. The other two Monday night games for Atlanta are at Pittsburgh on Oct. 25 and at home in the regular-season finale against San Francisco on Jan. 3. The Falcons will be trying to break an eight-game losing streak on Monday nights. During that stretch, Atlanta has lost by a combined score of 269-100.


When Atlanta and Dallas meet on Monday, it will be a reunion for two former Americus, Ga., residents. Atlanta coach Dan Reeves coached Dallas coach Chan Gailey in Little League baseball there and Gailey was an assistant to Reeves when the Falcons coach was in Denver.

"I think the pre-game will be interesting and somewhat fun," said Gailey, 47. "To be out there before the game and talk to him on the field and shake his hand, especially on Monday Night Football.

"But when the kickoff goes, until the last whistle -- it's going to be a war. Then after it's over, we'll shake hands and pick up where we left off."


Even before a decision on Tim Dwight's status for Monday night's game at Dallas, coach Dan Reeves activated Jammi German from the practice squad to beef up the receiving corps. Without German, the Falcons only carried four wide receivers -- Dwight, Mathis, Chris Calloway and Ronnie Harris. Dwight suffered another strained hamstring Sunday during pre-game warm-ups before the Minnesota game. To make room for German, defensive tackle Shawn Swayda was placed on waivers.


Reeves clearly was concerned with the lack of pressure on Minnesota quarterback Randall Cunningham last week, especially since Atlanta will be playing against Dallas, a team most consider to have the best offensive line in football.

"I think you're talking about an outstanding offensive line this week," Reeves said. "Troy (Aikman) will pick you apart if you don't (apply pressure). When you starting blitzing them, they are even more dangerous."

Last week, Aikman rallied Dallas from a 21-point second half deficit to win in overtime at Washington. Aikman threw for five touchdowns.


The Falcons still haven't decided where they will call home next year, but it's starting to look like the team may opt to renovate their current facility in Suwanee. After a deal fell through at Stone Mountain Park during the preseason, other communities have been slow to make a commitment that satisfies both parties. If the team decides to stay in Suwanee, there are only to options -- expand outward or tear down and start over. The current two-story structure can't be expanded by adding extra floors. Therefore, the only way to expand is to build into the west parking lot.

Reach Don Coble at doncoble@mindspring.com.


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