Fresh start excites Abraham, Edwards
John Abraham usually doesn’t mind publicly critiquing his
teammates on the Atlanta Falcons’ defensive line.
Abraham made an exception last year. while Ray Edwards battled
injuries during their first season as teammates, Abraham kept
Edwards is healthy and Abraham is talking.
”I think he was ready last year, but a lot of times your
physical being can slow you down,” Abraham said Monday. ”I think
mentally he is prepared and everyone else is mentally prepared to
have a good year.”
Now that Edwards is no longer bothered by a stiff knee, he and
Abraham believe they can become one of the NFL’s most feared pair
of defensive ends.
That was their plan last year after the NFL lockout ended and
Atlanta signed Edwards to a five-year, free-agent contract with $11
Unfortunately for Edwards, arthroscopic knee surgery hindered
his burst from the line of scrimmage, and opponents essentially
needed just one blocker to keep him away from the quarterback.
But with the season opener at Kansas City 13 days away, Edwards
has no health concerns. If he and Abraham stay healthy, Edwards
sees no reason why the Falcons can’t boast their first pair of
bookend pass rushers since Patrick Kerney and Brady Smith helped
Atlanta advance to the NFC title game in 2004.
”Absolutely,” Edwards said. ”We’re always trying to outdo
each other and outwork each other because at the end it’s going to
show on the game-day tape. That’s our plan with the whole front
four – who can do what and who can do their job the best.”
Falcons coach Mike Smith said Edwards endured more pain than
people knew about.
”It was a tough year for Ray last year in terms of injuries,”
Smith said. ”Some of them not well publicized, but he fought
through a lot. He showed a lot of resiliency.”
With the schemes designed by new defensive coordinator Mike
Nolan, the Falcons (No. 13 in the AP Pro 32) plan to use a variety
of pressures and blitz packages to keep opponents guessing.
Abraham, the NFL’s active career leader in sacks with 112, is
excited. He thought Atlanta was too predictable under former
coordinator Brian VanGorder.
”I don’t think I’ll be zeroed in on as much this year,”
Abraham said. ”They’re going to have to play football and they’re
going to have to look for more than just me. Our interior guys are
coming in there. We’ve got corners and linebackers and safeties
coming up. It’s going to be more of an 11-guy thing compared to one
After earning his fourth Pro Bowl invitation in 2010, Abraham
struggled for long stretches of last season. He had two sacks in
the opening loss at Chicago and 3.5 in a Week 15 home blowout
victory over Jacksonville.
Abraham managed just four sacks in 13 other games. He also
missed a home loss to Green Bay with a hip injury.
When the season ended, Abraham filed for free agency. He talked
with Tennessee and Denver before deciding to return to the Falcons
for a three-year contract worth $16.72 million.
Though he ranks second on the franchise list with 58.5 career
sacks, Abraham believes his seven-year run with Atlanta has been
spotty because the Falcons have yet to win a playoff game since he
arrived in a trade with the New York Jets in 2006.
”It will be topped off the best if we go where I want to go,”
the 34-year-old Abraham said. ”That was my main reason for
staying, trying to do something good. The best option for me was to
stay here. If something real good happened, I would feel kind of
bad about it.”
Edwards still feels partly responsible that Atlanta ranked just
25th in sacks per passing attempt last year. Despite starting all
16 games, he finished with 3.5 sacks, his lowest total since his
rookie season of 2006 with Minnesota.
Edwards, 27, had 16.5 sacks in 30 games for the Vikings in
”It was very frustrating not being able to perform at the top
of my abilities,” Edwards said. ”I couldn’t go out there and do
my job as well as I know I can, and I was putting a lot of pressure
on myself with the new contract and things of that nature. Now I’m
just going back to having fun and being me.”
Online: http://bigstory.ap.org/NFL-Pro32 and
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