CONVOY TO CHARLOTTE – Just emptying the notebook today before Sunday’s kickoff against the Panthers . . .
GET ON THE BUS: Fullback Ovie Mughelli is taking along his favorite pillow for the bus ride to Charlotte.
“I’ve got to have my pillow,” Mughelli said.
The Falcons are making provisions for the bigger players on the team for what should be a three hour and some change ride from Hall County.
“Coach said — and I don’t know how he’s going to work this — that we are going to have four seats each,” Mughelli said.
It’s been a while since most of the players have taken a bus trip.
“We flew is college,” Mughelli said. “This bus strip is going to be a throwback. I haven’t had a bus trip since high school.”
By taking the buses, the Falcons should cut their travel time in half. The three and half hour drive turns into a six to seven hour trip when they drive about an hour to the Airport, unload the buses, go through TSA security, fly to Charlotte, unload again and take buses to the hotel.
HELP SMITTY PAY THE FINE: The fans raising money to help Coach Smith pay his $15,000 fine have raised $1,999.14 through Friday afternoon. Here’s the link.
SMITH STILL A FORCE: Carolina wide receiver Steve Smith’s numbers are down dramatically. He only has 34 catches through eight games. He’s averaged 88 catches over the last four seasons.
With Jake Delhomme throwing interceptions by the bushel, the Panthers have reigned in their passing attack.
“We were definitely struggling in the passing game,” Carolina coach John Fox said. “I think in the last couple of weeks, that’s much better now. I’m not saying that we are a well oiled machine by any stretch, but we are definitely improving in that area and hopefully we’ll continue to improve.”
Falcons cornerback Chris Houston, who intercepted Delhomme late to preserve the 28-20 victory in Week Two, hasn’t noticed the change.
“They don’t do anything differently,” Houston said. “Steve Smith is still the go-to-receiver. Running game and Steve Smith. Running game and Steve Smith.”
Houston said don’t pay any attention to Smith’s numbers.
“But in the last game he scored,” Houston said. “He ran a sluggo (slant and go) on a seam. He put up points. He might not have the catches, but he can create explosive plays.”
WALKER SHINING: Defensive tackle Vance Walker, the former Georgia Tech standout, was pressed into duty over the last two games with Thomas Johnson out with a calf injury.
Walker, a seventh round draft pick, was cut then placed on the practice squad. He was moved up to the 53-man roster when first round pick Peria Jerry was lost for the season with a knee injury.
Walker has been stout on the field. He had three tackles and a blocked pass against New Orleans. He had five tackles
against the Redskins.
“He’s done well for us,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “We think he’ll continue to advance. It’s nice to see a young player step into a role so quickly.”
GONZALEZ ON LJ: Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez noticed as his former teammate Larry Johnson cleared waivers after being released by the Kansas City Chiefs.
“That’s the way it goes,” Gonzalez said. “Hopefully, he picks up the pieces and gets back on the train and finish his career off right.”
He doesn’t think Johnson would be a good fit for the Falcons.
“I don’t think we really need that,” Gonzalez said. “We’ve got a really good running back and some guys that are coming back and will be healthy.”
WHO’S THE STARTER: Left cornerback Tye Hill, who started the last two games, is listed as the starter on the team’s unofficial depth chart. Smith wouldn’t call him a starter earlier in the week. “It doesn’t matter as long as I get a chance to play,” Hill said.