Atlanta Falcons Blog

Atlanta Falcons blog by D. Orlando Ledbetter, the pro football and Atlanta Falcons reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

COVER 9@9: NFL has had a domestic violence problem for decades


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FLOWERY BRANCH – In the wake of the Ray Rice situation, it appears that the NFL is being forced to take domestic violence more seriously.

What took so long?

It has been a problem for the league as far back as the 1960s with Jim Brown’s incidents. Here’s an old column from Jon Saraceno, formerly of USA Today, on the matter back in 2002.

Brown may have been the greatest player of the modern era, but he had a lot of domestic violence issues.

What if there was TMZ back then? Twitter? Would have all of Brown’s incidents been presumably swept under the rug?

Fast forward to the 1990s and you have the Lawrence Phillips case.

Despite pleading no contest to a domestic violence charge, the St. Louis Rams drafted him with the sixth overall pick in 1996.

The NFL and domestic violence are at another crossroads now.

“The Ray Rice case is certainly a crisis situation for the NFL as it continues to try to court female fans,” says Deb Davis, coordinator of Ball State’s public relations program and faculty adviser to it student-managed public relations organization. “The league is just weeks away from donning pink gloves, shoes and sweatbands for its breast cancer awareness program. Yet the lack of true investigation into this case sends a contradictory message to both genders regarding how serious the NFL regards women’s issues.”

Davis believes that the NFL — fearing another public backlash — had no choice but to suspend Rice after a new video surfaced of his alleged assault on his wife.

Rice was cut by the Baltimore Ravens on Monday and quickly suspended indefinitely by the NFL after

security camera footage was released that appeared to show the running back striking his then fiancée in February.

“The NFL made a classic mistake, which often leads to a crisis such as this,” Davis says. “They dealt with what was known in the public, not what was or should have been known. According to Peter King, a Sports Illustrated reporter, investigators knew about the existence of the sickening video since July.  It was bound to surface sooner or later. It’s the times we live in. Ignoring it earlier allowed the situation to quickly escalate.”

The NFL has not handled this situation well.

“The league has already back pedaled once," Davis said. "In August, it increased its penalties for domestic violence as a result of the strong sentiment about the first video. It now has a much bigger job on its hands, to restore the faith of both men and women alike, that criminal actions, such as this, won’t be tolerated.”

The Falcons have tried to steer clear of players with major off-the-field issues, especially players with domestic violence in their past.

After the 2008 season former starting linebacker Michael Boley was not re-signed after he was charged with battery following an altercation with his wife. Gwinnett County police arrested Boley, 25, at his Dacula home after his wife, Chantelle, told authorities he ``became physical'' with her.

He was signed by the New York Giants to a five-year, $25 million deal.

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2. ON CINCINNATI’S OFFENSE: Cincinnati offensive coordinator Hue Jackson was a member of Bobby Petrino’s coaching staff with the Falcons in 2007 and was considered for the interim position after Petrino bolted

for Arkansas.

He flashed a lot of exotic looks in the Bengals season-opening win over the Baltimore Ravens. The Falcons’ defense, which had some problems with getting into formation against the Saints, will have to be on point against the Bengals.

“Your goal offensively would be to always keep the other team off balance as much as you can and get them to have to keep turning the page and turning the page,” Bengal coach Marvin Lewis told the Cincinnati media on Monday. “As long as there are things that we’ve been doing, and things that we’ve been working in practice, our execution level continuing should be higher with that.

“We have to keep getting better at it. Some of it is the first time we’ve put it out there on tape, where we could really critique it against an opponent other than our own defense, which sometimes presents different looks, so it was good.”

3. BUSTING LOOSE: Falcons returner Devin Hester will have limited opportunities for returns in the Georgia Dome because indoors kickers can boot the ball out of the end zone and can get good hang time on punts.

The Falcons are hoping that he’ll get more opportunities on the road when he plays outdoors.

Cincinnati’s Paul Brown Stadium is outdoors, but the Bengals did a great job of containing Baltimore’s Jacoby Jones last week.

“He’s a dangerous returner,” Lewis said. “He’s such a strong runner. Because of the wind, it kind of knocked a couple of balls down. He caught a couple of those kickoffs on the move and that’s not good.”

He had four kickoff returns for 109 yards with a long of 47 yards.

“Other than the one time (the 47-yarder), we were able to get him on the ground,” Lewis said. “Guys did a nice job of covering. Margus Hunt had a nice play down there.”

Jones had two punt returns for 2 yards and made two fair catches.

“We did a nice job on the punts, the few that he had a chance to return,” Lewis said. “That was a good thing.

The Bengals have a dangerous punt returner in Adam Jones of Westlake High. He had a return of 45 yards.

“Getting Adam going was good,” Lewis said. “Adam, having the ability to do that for us will help us throughout the year.”

4. FORGOTTEN FOUR: A documentary titled the “Forgotten Four: The Integration of Pro Football,” narrated by Jeffrey Wright, will air at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 23 on premium entertainment network EPIX.

The 60-minute documentary, narrated by Tony Award winner Jeffrey Wright and produced by 52-time Emmy award winner Ross Greenburg, tells the little-known story of four African-American men – Kenny Washington, Woody Strode, Marion Motley and Bill Willis – who broke the color barrier in pro football in 1946, one year before Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey were credited with integrating Major League Baseball.

The Falcons have held a private screening for their players.

The hardships and triumphs of the Forgotten Four are told through the recollections of their families and those who have researched these remarkable pioneers.

Those interviewed for the documentary include Forgotten Four family members Tony Motley (Marion Motley's grandson), Cincinnati Bengals owner Mike Brown (Paul Brown's son), Clem and William Willis, Jr. (Bill Willis' sons), Karin L. Cohen (Kenny Washington's daughter) and Kalai Strode (Woody Strode's son).

An all-star lineup of football legends also share their insights, including: Don Shula (Hall of Fame coach who also played for the Cleveland Browns), Bob Gain, Sherman Howard, Jim Hardy (Los Angeles Rams) and George Taliaferro (Indiana University).

Participating writers/historians include Joe Horrigan (Pro Football Hall of Fame), Lonnie G. Bunch (National Museum of African American History and Culture), Khalil Gibran Muhammad (Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture), Jarrett Bell (USA Today) and Brad Pye, Jr. (Los Angeles Sentinel).

Donovan McNabb, former star NFL quarterback with the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins, served as creative consultant for the film.

5. FASHION CORNER: Falcons safety William Moore was clean after the game on Sunday.

That outfit is a 10!!!!

Now, I couldn’t pull off the pants, but that’s how the young folks are doing it.

Rolling like a Boss!

6. RUSHING ATTACK: Quarterback Matt Ryan and the offensive line received from helped from a rushing attack that was powered by a four-member committee of Steven Jackson, Jacquizz Rodgers, Antone Smith and Devonta Freeman. The backs rushed for 108 yards on 22 carries and kept the Saints’ attack-oriented defense off balance.

Ryan had a relatively clean pocket and was able to operate at high level. When things started to break down, he slipped away and went on the move and continue to make plays.

Part of the reason for the Falcons downfall last season to 4-12 was their lack of a rushing attack. The Falcons averaged 77.9 yards per game, which was last in the league.

“We did a very good job in getting the running backs an opportunity to touch the football,” Falcons head coach Mike Smith said. “Steven Jackson was very efficient in his first action.

"It was great to see Steven back out there. But we do have three other running backs that deserve the opportunity to touch the football.”

7. MOST ACTIVE PASS RUSHER: Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said that Jonathan Babineaux was the team's "most active" pass rusher against the Saints.

"Our production has to pick up on the (defensive) line," Nolan said. "We didn't have a lot of production."

8. NOLAN ON A.J. GREEN: "He’s a similar player to Juilo (Jones) here. Not the same, but a similar guy. For one, he’s kind of a Avatar guy like in the movie. He’s just bigger than everybody, taller and just a step above athletically. That’s the biggest thing. He’s got outstanding skills and he’s got very good hands. He has outstanding hands. He’s a big target that can do just about all of the things that you could ask of him."

9.OFFICIAL DEPTH CHART: Here’s the official depth chart released by the Falcons for their road game against the Cincinnati Bengals at 1 p.m. Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium.

Falcons cornerback Robert McClain, after his big interception against the Saints, was listed as the No. 1 nickel back. Last week, Josh Wilson was listed as the No. 1 nickel back.

OFFENSE

WR 84 Roddy White, 83 Harry Douglas, 14 Eric Weems

LT 70 Jake Matthews, 73 Ryan Schraeder

LG 63 Justin Blalock, 62 James Stone

C 61 Joe Hawley, 66 Peter Konz

RG 75 Jon Asamoah, 68 Gabe Carimi

RT 76 Lamar Holmes, 68 Gabe Carimi

TE 80 Levine Toilolo, 86 Bear Pascoe

WR 11 Julio Jones, 17 Devin Hester, 15 Courtney Roby

QB 2 Matt Ryan, 13 TJ Yates, 12 Sean Renfree

RB 39 Steven Jackson, 32 Jacquizz Rodgers, 35 Antone Smith, 24 Devonta Freeman

FB 42 Patrick DiMarco

DEFENSE

DE 71 Kroy Biermann, 50 Osi Umenyiora, 90 Stansly Maponga

DT 99 Tyson Jackson, 77 Ra’Shede Hageman, 98 Cliff Matthews

DT 96 Paul Soliai, 91 Corey Peters

DE 95 Jonathan Babineaux, 94 Jonathan Massaquoi, 93 Malliciah Goodman, 54 Tyler Starr

LB 55 Paul Worrilow, 52 Nate Stupar

LB 59 Joplo Bartu, 53 Prince Shembo

CB 23 Robert Alford, 28 Javier Arenas

CB 27 Robert McClain, 26 Josh Wilson, 28 Javier Arenas

S 25 William Moore, 36 Kemal Ishmael

S 20 Dwight Lowery, 41 Dezmen Southward

CB 21 Desmond Trufant, 28 Javier Arenas

SPECIALISTS

K 3 Matt Bryant

KO 5 Matt Bosher

P 5 Matt Bosher

KR 17 Devin Hester, 14 Eric Weems

PR 17 Devin Hester, 14 Eric Weems

LS 47 Josh Harris

H 5 5 Matt Bosher

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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Ryan carries Falcons to thrilling 37-34 victory over the Saints

Kicker Matt Bryant is the Ice Man II

McClain lays claim to nickel back spot, picks off Brees

Jake Matthews suffers ankle injury, does not return

Falcons quotes after 37-34 win over the Saints

Ryan breaks Bartkowski's mark for most TD passes in franchise history


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About the Author

D. Orlando Ledbetter is the Atlanta Falcons beat writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.