FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. - Rod Coleman always seems to attract plenty of attention. On the field, that's a good thing. Off the field, he would prefer to be a little more anonymous.
Coleman is one of the cornerstones of the Atlanta Falcons' defense, a 285-pound tackle who usually requires two or three blockers to keep him occupied.
"He's a huge difference to us," coach Jim Mora said, comparing Coleman to Warren Sapp. "Hopefully, if he plays the way he did last year ... he'll get the credit he deserves nationally."
Away from football, Coleman needs to do a better job staying out of the news.
He missed three games last season for knee and shoulder injuries suffered in a late-night car wreck. Coleman said he swerved to avoid hitting a deer and flipped his luxury SUV, though he and the team were suspiciously vague about the details.
Coleman was not charged. A sheriff's officer said the player had been drinking but passed a series of field sobriety tests and did not appear drunk.
In July, Coleman was arrested for misdemeanor disorderly conduct during another late-night traffic incident. This time, he was riding in an SUV that was pulled over for speeding, and police said he turned irate during a dispute over the vehicle's insurance.
Coleman said he is frustrated that fans want him to act like a normal guy, but rush to judgment when trouble happens.
Defensive line coach Bill Johnson isn't sure if the incident will harm Coleman's reputation.
"He's not arguing the fact that he was wrong," Johnson said. "This was just a bad decision. It's one of those things where you wish he'd count to 10 before he opened his mouth."
Despite missing those three games, he still managed to make 11 sacks last season, second only to Minnesota's Kevin Williams among interior linemen.
Coleman's impact is best epitomized by these numbers: The Falcons had 47 sacks in the 13 games he played, only one during his three-game absence.
"There was a dramatic difference when he was in there and when he wasn't in there," Mora said. "What impressed us the most last year was how he played the run."
Atlanta's Rod Coleman is looking to make up for a dismal off-season by helping the Falcons reach the playoffs in consecutive years for the first time in team history.
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