Originally created 03/09/02

Hearst's agent talking contract with Atlanta



FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Garrison Hearst might end his football career in his home state.

The free agent running back, who left Georgia after his junior year of 1992, is negotiating a contract with the Atlanta Falcons, agent Pat Dye Jr. said Friday.

Hearst, The Associated Press NFL Comeback Player of the Year and the second-leading rusher in Bulldog history, interviewed with the Falcons on Thursday.

Dye insisted that Hearst, who lives in nearby Alpharetta and grew up in Lincolnton, doesn't rank the Falcons over the two other teams on his list - the San Francisco 49ers and Cleveland Browns. Hearst was canceling a visit to Miami, which traded Friday for New Orleans' Ricky Williams.

After speaking with Atlanta's acting general manager, Harold Richardson, on Friday, Dye said the contract talks were in the initial stages.

"I think our timetable for this is to heat up sometime next week," Dye said.

On Wednesday, the Falcons signed former Seattle right tackle Todd Weiner to a five-year, $17.5 million contract, and they gave former Buffalo free safety Keion Carpeter a one-year, $450,000 deal. Lance Schulters, a free agent strong safety from San Francisco, will visit with Atlanta on Sunday.

Hearst, 31, spent several hours with coach Dan Reeves and toured the Falcons' headquarters before undergoing a physical exam and an MRI that gave negative results on his left ankle. He had dinner Thursday night with new owner Arthur Blank.

In a playoff game on Jan. 9, 1999, Hearst broke the ankle on the first play from scrimmage. The injury worsened after surgery as poor blood flow caused several bones to deteriorate in his foot. He missed all the 1999 and 2000 seasons.

Two subsequent surgeries helped Hearst's circulation to improve, and an arthroscopic procedure early last year finally helped him return.

Hearst last year accounted for 1,553 yards - 1,206 rushing - as he helped the 49ers return to the playoffs after a two-year absence. The last time San Francisco played in the postseason, Hearst set a club single-season record with 1,549 yards rushing.

Atlanta last week told running back Jamal Anderson he could return in 2002 with a $3 million pay cut. Anderson is coming off reconstructive knee surgery for the second time in the last three years.

Hearst, who starred at Lincoln County High before going to Georgia, ran for 3,232 career yards in Athens. Only Herschel Walker, with 5,259, had more.