Cover 9@9: What’s the Falcons’ anthem position?

Options: Stand, kneel and get team fined or stay in the tunnel 

1. The anthem plan: The Falcons, an active team in the community, had limited protest for social and racial injustice last season. Varied displays of protest during the national anthem was and remains an issue facing the NFL.

Only two Falcons players knelt during the national anthem last season and did so in response to President Donald Trump calling NFL players “sons of bitches” in a tweet. Dontari Poe and Grady Jarrett took a knee in Detroit in response to the president and not for the social and racial injustices that Colin Kaepernick knelt for and which started the national movement. Kaepernick remains out of the league. 

The NFL passed a policy to that requires players to stand for the anthem at the recent owners meetings in Atlanta and that puts a new twist on the matter. 

The Falcons, who bill themselves as the Brotherhood, try to do everything together. For the most part last season, they stood and linked arms during the anthem although about eight or nine players remained off to the side at attention, but not linked with the rest of the team.

The Falcons don’t believe standing for the anthem will be an issue. 

“We have done a good job here from (owner Arthur) Blank and (president) Rich McKay all the way down to the (head coach) Dan (Quinn) and the players,” defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel said. “We have a lot of social injustice things that we are doing around the city.”

The Falcons get players involved in the community immediately.

The 2018 rookie class visited the Veterans Empowerment Organization of Georgia (VEO) last Wednesday. Homeless veterans were paired with Falcons rookies to work on different projects around the campus. 

VEO is a non-profit program that gives unconditional support to under-served veterans while providing a holistic 360-degree approach to assist homeless veterans on their path to self-sufficiency. 

“Getting people involved and that’s how you are proactive other than anything else,” Manuel said. “It’s not about taking a knee or about anything else. It’s about these guys wanting to change the community and understand that it takes time.”

After playing Buffalo last season, the Falcons had an open team discussion on possibly bridging the divide between racial and social injustice. They also discussed how some in the public believe that kneeling during the national anthem is an affront to the nation’s flag and its military.

The team along with Blank, met with an expert on the matter, Andrew MacIntosh, national director of leadership and education programs for the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE).

“Let people see that we are just not faces behind the helmet, that we are people that actually care,” Manuel said about the team’s community involvement. 

The players have been challenged to get involved in social and racial injustice issues. 

“What are you doing differently to make a change?,” Manuel said. “What are you doing during your down time when you have four months off? What are you doing?”

But now that the league had made standing a policy that calls for teams to be fined for not standing, this issue will not likely be that simple.

The NFLPA was not consulted and believes the policy is being unilaterally imposed. Here’s the Union statement:

“The NFL chose to not consult the union in the development of this new "policy." NFL players have shown their patriotism through their social activism, their community service, in support of our military and law enforcement and yes, through their protests to raise awareness about the issues they care about.

“The vote by NFL club CEOs today contradicts the statements made to our player leadership by Commissioner Roger Goodell and the Chairman of the NFL's Management Council John Mara about the principles, values and patriotism of our League.

“Our union will review the new "policy" and challenge any aspect of it that is inconsistent with the collective bargaining agreement.”

Players don’t have to stand. They can kneel and have the team take the fine or they can stay in the locker room or tunnel. 

2. Ridley watch: With Matt Ryan’s contract completed, Falcons first-round pick Calvin Ridley contract is the last offseason business to complete.

3. Dimitroff and Rodgers: Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff discussed fitness, the Falcons and Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers during an appearance on Andrew Brandt’s The Business of Sports podcast.

I get tired driving 100 miles, but apparently Dimitroff does “Century Rides” where he rides a bicycle 100 miles.

I need nap after just writing that. 

4. On the rookies: Manuel was asked if any of the rookies have jumped out to him yet. (It’s a bit early and they haven’t even put on pads, but who’s judging.) That didn’t stop Manuel from giving a good non-answer answer. “I wouldn’t just say one,” Manuel said. “There’s a combination. All of these guys came in from the first meeting, these guys have been hungry. I’m not just giving you the playbook version of my answer. These guys have been hungry. They have been consistent. Guys coming by your office before they should, sometimes walking with their breakfast in their hands just ... to see the coach. Guys that are taking being a professional serious.”

5. Mallory passes: Bill Mallory, the winningest coach in Indiana University history, died peacefully Friday, according to the school. Mallory, 82,  who also was a head coach at Colorado and led them to the Orange Bowl, is the father of Doug Mallory, the Falcons’ defensive backs coach. He had brain surgery after a fall Tuesday and did not recover. 

6. Ryan to speak: Quarterback Matt Ryan is set to address the media along with head coach Dan Quinn later today. The Organized Team Activity (OTA) session will be open to the media.

7. Jones spoke to TMZ: Wide receiver Julio Jones spoke to TMZ in Hollywood late last week and said that he doesn’t have any issues with the Falcons and that the media was fishing for stories in the wake of social media scrub down and the fluctuation in the wide receiver market.

8. OTA schedule: The Falcons will hold OTA sessions today, Thursday and Friday. They will hold their final sessions next Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. The Falcons mandatory mini-camp will be held June 12-14. 

9. Depth chart: Here’s a look at the Falcons’ depth chart. 

OFFENSE 

WR 11 Julio Jones, 18, Calvin Ridley, 14 Justin Hardy, 16 Reggie Davis, 86 Lamar Jordan

LT 70 Jake Matthews, 68 Austin Pasztor, 76 Daniel Brunskill

LG 67 Andy Levitre, 63 Ben Garland, 64 Sean Harlow, 75 Jamil Douglas 

C 51 Alex Mack, 63 Ben Garland, 61 J.C. Hassenauer

RG 65 Brandon Fusco, 71 Wes Schweitzer, 62 Salesi Uhatafe

RT 73 Ryan Schraeder, 74 Ty Sambrailo, 77 Matt Gono

TE 81 Austin Hooper, 82 Logan Paulsen, 85 Eric Saubert, 89 Alex Gray, 80 Troy Mangen, 48 Jack Roh 

WR 12 Mohamed Sanu, 17 Marvin Hall, 83 Russell Gage, 15 Christian Blake, 19 Dontez Byrd, 7 Devin Gray 

QB 2 Matt Ryan, 8 Matt Schaub, 9 Grayson Garrett, 6 Kurt Benkert

RB 24 Devonta Freeman, 26 Tevin Coleman, 25 Ito Smith, 32 Justin Crawford, 35 Malik Williams

FB 40 Daniel Marx, 43 Luke McNitt, 41 Demario Richard 

DEFENSE 

DE 98 Takk McKinley, 50 Brooks Reed, 79 Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, 96 Mackendy Cheridor

DT 99 Terrell McClain, 94 Deadrin Senat, 93 Garrison Smith, 

DT 97 Grady Jarrett, 95 Jack Crawford, 92 Justin Zimmer, 99 Jon Cunningham

DE 44 Vic Beasley, 90 Derrick Shelby, 55 J’Terius Jones 

WLB 42 Duke Riley, 54 Foyesade Oluokun

MLB 45 Deion Jones, 52 Emmanuel Ellerbe, 53 Emmanuel Smith 

SLB 59 De’Vondre Campbell, 56 Anthony Winbush, 49 Richard Jarvis

CB 23 Robert Alford, 20 Isaiah Oliver, 28 Justin Bethel, 33 Blidi Wreh-Wilson, 39 Deante Burton 

CB 21 Desmond Trufant, 34 Brian Poole, 35 Leon McFadden, 43 Chris Lammons

NB 34 Brian Poole, 27 Damontae Kazee, 42 Tyson Graham, 30 Joseph Putu 

FS 37 Ricardo Allen, 27 Damontae Kazee, 38 Marcelis Branch, 41 Jason Hall

SS 22 Keanu Neal, 36 Kemal Ishmael, 41 Quincy Mauger, 35 Secdrick Cooper 

SPECIALISTS  

K 3 Matt Bryant, 1 David Marvin 

KO 5 Matt Bosher

P 5 Matt Bosher

KR 14 Justin Hardy, 17 Marvin Hall, 30 Ito Smith

PR 14 Justin Hardy, 16 Reggie Davis

LS 47 Josh Harris

H 5 Matt Bosher 

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About the Author

D. Orlando Ledbetter
D. Orlando Ledbetter
D. Orlando Ledbetter is the Atlanta Falcons Beat Writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was one of the lead writers in the notorious Michael Vick...
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