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Anderson seeks fresh start

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FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. --- Jamaal Anderson is willing to talk about his expectations for 2008.

Ask him what happened in his rookie season, and the Atlanta Falcons' defensive end changes the subject.

"It's a new year, and I'm not trying to think about it," Anderson said Monday. "We've got a lot of people bringing it up, but it's a new year."

Atlanta drafted Anderson No. 8 overall after his junior season at Arkansas. In his final college season, Anderson led the Southeastern Conference and was third in the nation with 13.5 sacks.

He started all 16 games during the Falcons' dismal 4-12 finish but had no sacks.

New Falcons coach Mike Smith did Anderson a favor by hiring Ray "Sugar Bear" Hamilton as defensive line coach. Hamilton, who started 110 consecutive games and racked up 54 career sacks with New England from 1973-81, used his experience as a player and an assistant coach to restore Anderson's confidence.

Anderson worked last year under Kevin Wolthausen, a position coach with no NFL experience.

"I learned a lot more in (organized team activities) than I learned all last year," Anderson said. "Coach Hamilton, he played in the league, and he's coached in the league for (18 years). Having him here is making all the difference in the world."

Anderson's problems were less glaring given how quickly the season unfolded for the Falcons.

On the defensive line, right end John Abraham, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, faced constant double-teams and sometimes had three opponents blocking him on the same play.

After taking charge of the team in January, Smith made it an immediate priority to tell Anderson to forget about 2007 and work to make this season the turning point of his career.

"I know Jamaal has been frustrated, but we don't want him feeling stressed (over) the production he had last year," Smith said.

Smith believes the 6-foot-6, 280-pound left end is making the most of his chances.

"I think the thing that you want is to make sure that you're able to do with your defensive linemen and big, strong guys like Jamaal is that he is getting up into the quarterback's face and forcing him to go somewhere else." Smith said. "That's important, and the sacks will come."


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