It's Redman, now

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FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. --- Chris Redman already pulled off the improbable, going from insurance salesman to starting NFL quarterback.

He's not going to just step aside quietly and let some hotshot rookie take his job.

While Matt Ryan is unquestionably the future of the Atlanta Falcons, Redman is living very much in the present. He has every intention of being out on the field for the first snap of the season Sept. 7.

"You're always competing, no matter where you're at," Redman said after a recent practice at training camp. "I'm just going out there and worrying about what I have to do. I'll try to win some games and see what happens."

At some point, the Falcons will have to turn to Ryan, who was drafted No. 3 overall with the idea of helping the franchise get over the Michael Vick debacle. Redman knows that as well as anyone, but his task is to put off the inevitable as long as possible.

Bring it on, rookie!

"I think it's awesome," Redman said. "I'm so excited. I get a chance to go against the best college quarterback in the nation. I get a chance to see where I'm at. I've been around a lot of great quarterbacks, and he's another great quarterback. For me, it's a lot of fun to be around those type of guys. I can help them and learn from them."

Certainly working in Redman's favor is the major rebuilding project going on in Atlanta, which will rely heavily on youth after Vick was sent to prison for dogfighting and several prominent veterans -- Alge Crumpler and Warrick Dunn among them -- were let go for financial reasons.

Whoever lines up at quarterback will have a rookie left tackle (Sam Baker) protecting his back side, not to mention a second-year player (Justin Blaylock) at left guard and, quite possibly, two other starters (right tackle Tyson Clabo and right guard Harvey Dahl) who weren't even drafted.

Do the Falcons really want to put an untested rookie -- especially a valuable investment such as Ryan, who received a six-year, $72 million contract -- on the field behind that sort of line?

Redman certainly wouldn't mind holding down the spot while Ryan develops from the sideline.

"I think I've earned my respect around here," he said. "As long as I do my part, I'll be OK."

Redman was certainly one of the few bright spots in a dismal 2007 season. After three years out of the league, he only got a chance because his former college coach, Bobby Petrino, had taken over in Atlanta. Redman not only made the team, he outlasted the coach -- Petrino bolted for Arkansas after only 13 games with the Falcons.

Over the final month, Redman threw for 298 yards in his first start against New Orleans, had a career-best 315-yard performance at Arizona and passed for four touchdowns, another career high, in the season finale against Seattle, earning the NFC Offensive Player of the Week award.

There was a dismal outing at Tampa Bay, where Redman completed four of 15 passes for 34 yards with two interceptions. Still, he completed 59.7 percent for 1,079 yards, with 10 touchdowns, five interceptions and a passer rating of 90.7.

No matter how it turns out, Redman is happy to be playing football rather than selling insurance. That's what he relied on to pay the bills during those three long years away from the NFL.


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