Falcons Q&A: Arthur Blank pleased with offseason moves

100509 Flowery Branch - Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith, left, and team owner Arthur Blank, right, confer on the field during day 3 of the team's minicamp in Flowery Branch on Sunday, May 9, 2010.   Curtis Compton  ccompton@ajc.com

100509 Flowery Branch - Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith, left, and team owner Arthur Blank, right, confer on the field during day 3 of the team's minicamp in Flowery Branch on Sunday, May 9, 2010. Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

FLOWERY BRANCH – Falcons owner Arthur Blank, fresh from his wedding anniversary trip to Paris, took in the final practice of minicamp on Sunday.

Sporting a red Tommy Hilfiger sweater vest, black shirt and gray slacks, Blank, near the end of practice, talked about

100509 Flowery Branch - Atlanta Falcons team owner Arthur Blank checks out the arm brace of outside tackle # 72 Sam Baker during day 3 of minicamp in Flowery Branch on Sunday, May 9, 2010. Baker, drafted by the Falcons 21st overall in the first round of the 2008 NFL Draft, has been battling injuries.    Curtis Compton  ccompton@ajc.com

100509 Flowery Branch - Atlanta Falcons team owner Arthur Blank checks out the arm brace of outside tackle # 72 Sam Baker during day 3 of minicamp in Flowery Branch on Sunday, May 9, 2010. Baker, drafted by the Falcons 21st overall in the first round of the 2008 NFL Draft, has been battling injuries. Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

the team’s offseason moves, the draft, season ticket sales and the collective bargaining negotiations. Below is the Q & A.

Q: Are you pleased with how your offseason has played out?

A: It started with free agency. We’re excited to have Dunta Robinson here. He looks like a rookie the way he’s running around and is providing us speed, youth, experience and the leadership that we expected. We had another terrific draft. It’s great to have Spoon here, Corey (Peters) here, the other players we drafted and the college free agents.

I’m excited about where we are as an organization. Thomas and Smitty have worked hard for the third season together. They have put together an outstanding group of young men. Now we have to develop them over the next number of months. I look forward to playing our games in September and being here for training camp in July.  .  . I read the column that Matt (Ryan) did with your associate Mark Bradley. I think he’s right. We are all kind of shooting higher than we did last year. I’ve been pretty public that I was excited about back to back winning seasons, but now I’m excited about rings. We need to focus on our division. Win our division, then go on from there, get into the playoffs and go as deep as we can.

Q: You’ve meet Sean (Weatherspoon) on the pre-draft tour. What are you impressions now that you see him in a Falcons uniform?

A: He looks great. He’s enthusiastic to be here and we’re enthusiastic to have him. I think as you’ve heard from Thomas and Smitty that we had a number of scenarios develop over the three days of the draft and pretty much hit on all of the key positions and players that we were anxious to see in our uniform. We are excited they are here. They are all here and look like we expected them to look. You would be disappointed if they didn’t. We are in a good place.

Q: There seemed to be an emphasis on drafting guys who graduated from college and guys who did

Dunta Robinson was a calming influence in the secondary. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Dunta Robinson was a calming influence in the secondary. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

well academically. Was that the case?

A: Today’s game, as time goes on, is getting more and more sophisticated. Not just the size of the playbook, but the complexity of the playbook with the schemes, the number of coaches and the complexity of the way they are coaching today. The players’ ability to understand what’s in front of them and react within a quarter of a second. Frankly, to play in the NFL today you have to be smart. It’s not just being football smart. You have to be smart. We look for players that represent the organization well both on the field and off the field. That’s always been an important part of my philosophy and an important part about what this franchise is about. It’s about winning on the field and it’s about winning off the field as well. I’m proud of our players on both accounts.

Q: What’s ahead for the league in collective bargaining? Has it impacted the decisions that you might have made this offseason?

A: No, not really. We had a budget that we established. We had a plan and we worked our plan. We feel good about our investment in our players. I know both the union and the league are working hard on getting a deal done. I’m certainly optimistic that we’ll be playing football in 2011. It’s not going to happen automatically. It’s not going to be an easy process. But it’s a process that you have to go through. I think the union, the league and ownership are committed to

Tony Gonzalez hauling down a pass. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Tony Gonzalez hauling down a pass. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

doing that.

Q: It’s been a strange week in the economy?

A: We were over in Paris on our anniversary trip. We followed the whole situation over there in terms of what was happening in Greece. When you are in Europe you feel more closely to it. I think the book that Thomas Friedman wrote some years ago, “The world is flat” is true. What happens anywhere else in the world affects us. What happens here, including this oil spill off the coast, affects oil prices and everything throughout the world. This world is a community.

Q: Given the economy, how are your season ticket sales going coming off of those back to back winning seasons?

A: They have responded well. But having said that, we still have tickets to sell. . . We’re excited about where we are. We’ve lead the league in season ticket sales the last two years. This year we hope to be up there as well. We are doing well on the premium side, club seats and suites. There’s still some work there to do. Atlanta has always supported our team. They’ve been great. We’ve tried to do the right things for the franchise to earn the fans’ respect. I tell our players repeatedly that without our fans and sponsors, we’d have 22 young men playing sandlot football. That’s it. We are about our fans. We are about our sponsors. We are about the people who come to the games. We are about people who watch our games on TV and make sure that our ratings are high. That’s really important for the league and it’s important for us.

Q: How pleasing is it to have the players out volunteering in the community?

A: It’s great. With our players we had over 750 hours of player appearances this last year. We lead the NFL that way. We have over 200 appearances by our cheerleaders last year. We lead the league in that. Well, what does that mean. . .it means that they do care about the community. They understand that they are role models and that they need to perform that way. . . It’s a great credit to them that they do it during their limited time off.”

71 comments Add your comment

waynester

May 9th, 2010
2:53 pm

Fascinating….
I especially liked his responses to Q’s 3 and 7 about the type of individuals he’s using to build the franchise–they seem to mirror his own personal philosophy regarding accountability and generosity. Thank G-d we’ve got such a man running our beloved team.
P.S. Love the Thomas Friedman reference–Blank’s reading reccomendation list would make for another insightful article by itself! Mazel Tov, Artie and happy anniversary!

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headmofo

May 9th, 2010
3:12 pm

Mr. Blank is a class act, however, please note that Mr. Blank has made it clear that he is all about rings (End of Discussion).

He wants to put Atlanta on the Football map for years to come, not win two seasons and roll over.

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cdog

May 9th, 2010
4:11 pm

the falcons must find a dependable field goal kicker, a speed reciever to go with roddy white,a running back who can take it the distance and depenable punt and kick returner

falcon21

May 9th, 2010
4:19 pm

DOL, I have not posted but I have been keeping up with all your great info. Great job man, and thank you!!!

chris taylor

May 9th, 2010
4:26 pm

Blank is definately one of the best owners in the league. Didn’t know about our players & cheerleaders leading the league in volunteer hours. Thats an awesome stat that I feel doesn’t get enough attention. I believe in Karma & there doesn’t appear to be a team more deserving team of a ring than Atlanta. I am a roofing contractor who chooses to go miles past a Lowe’s just to buy materials at Home Depot. I guess I hope the more $ Home Depot makes the more he can spend on the Falcons. Support them whatever way I can.

Home School DropOut

May 9th, 2010
4:29 pm

I sure hope one of these ROOKIES can REPLACE that worthless Michael Jenkins.
That will be a start in the right direction.

chris taylor

May 9th, 2010
4:33 pm

Anyone know when regular season single game tickets go on sale? Would hate to miss Saints lose here on Monday Night Football on my birthday no less. Talk about the best gift ever…..Saints gettin molly whopped on national tv…..wouldn’t forget that ever.

Weezy

May 9th, 2010
4:37 pm

Enter your comments here

Weezy

May 9th, 2010
4:40 pm

I love Arthur Blank! Now…if only he could purchase the Braves!!

Greg

May 9th, 2010
4:41 pm

We’re all excited about the Falcons, and this is the time to be hopeful and optimistic. But I need to keep the following in mind: 1) we probably improved our team with Robinson and in the draft, a team which will be improved in any case if we can hold down the injuries and get our injured players from last year back—so we should certainly be better; 2) unfortunately, New Orleans improved its team, too, and they were playing at a different level than we were last year. Did we improve our team enough to be a the Saints’ level? That is the question. Jury’s out.

The Real Falcon

May 9th, 2010
4:51 pm

Have season tickets since 1985 so get off the bums and really support this team!

Hangman

May 9th, 2010
5:25 pm

don’t just backup Jenkins….replace him! He is nothing but a ME person. If he is in the spotlight or can be the hero, he can preform…..otherwise he can’t catch a cold without dropping the ball when he sneezed.

Hangman

May 9th, 2010
5:26 pm

Enter your comments here

1 steeler fan

May 9th, 2010
5:42 pm

HERE WE GO STEELERS HERE WE GO,WE WE WELCOME MATTY ICE AND THE ATL.FALCONS.I’VE BEEN SAYING THAT THE ATLANTA FALCON’S ARE GOING TO BE A SREIOUS THREAT THIS SEASON,AND GIVE US [STEELER'S]A GOOD GAME,BUT WE GOING TO GIVE THE FALCON’S [60MINS.]OF PHYSICAL FOOTBALL.I WANT ‘HARRY DOUGHLAS’TO HAVE A GOOD GAME [MR.BLANK] TAKE NOTICE ‘HARRY IS THE TRUTH,HE COACHED MY SON’S ADIDAS’S BASKETBALL TEAM,BEFORE HE LEFT TO GO TO LOU’VILLE AND MADE US ALL PROUD EACH YEAR.FALCON’S DALLAS AND THE REDSKINS WILL STAND IN YOUR WAY FOR THE 1ST. SUNDAY IN FEB.WE WILL BE THERE WILL YOU,1ST.GAME THE LAST GAME HOW ABOUT THAT.HERE WE GO STEELER’S HERE WE GO.

headmofo

May 9th, 2010
5:50 pm

I’m not defending Michael Jenkins but he is not as bad of a receiver as most may think. Unfortunately he had some really big drops and it really hurt us in a couple of games but so has Roddy White (remember the Saints game at home with Roddy wide open and dropped a TD 4 years ago). One thing is for sure Jenkins knows that he is being watched carefully by the organization. Look for him to take a step forward just as Roddy White did and be a better player for us.

I agree we do need solid place kicking. We actually dropped a few games because of the kicking game last year when we couldn’t split the up-rights. I think Weems did a nice job but I think they drafted the Corner from Oklahoma to challenge him this year for the punt return gig. I actually like Norwood when healthy doing the return chores. Norwood was a home run threat on kickoffs.

I am a little concerned about the pass rush.

bigstack

May 9th, 2010
6:02 pm

Football season can’t get here soon enough!

ryan

May 9th, 2010
6:43 pm

I think the Liberty group will sell the braves soon because there not making them any money. And i think the Falcons could sign a WR i know this is a streach but TO is steal out there maybe a one year deal.

The Grinch

May 9th, 2010
6:45 pm

The Hawks won 53 games and made it to the 2nd round of the playoffs; go to their boards now and you’ll see nothing but rage, dejection and betrayal. The Falcons go 9-7 and there’s nothing but love, confidence and adoration. Why? Because in Arthur Blank we have a tangible presence who loves the team, the fans, the city and will do what it takes to put together a winning product sooner or later and we know it. The Spirit are nameless, faceless, broke-down businessmen who don’t care about anything other than cutting costs and maximizing profits. Appearances DO matter.

Thank you, Mr. Blank.

MrHughes

May 9th, 2010
6:54 pm

The Grinch,

Couldn’t agree more.

Wray

May 9th, 2010
7:25 pm

I am a very big Falcon fan. We had corporate season tickets and personal season tickets. Right now, I will settle for being able to pay my mortgage on a regular basis. Hopefully I can watch from home this season.

Section134

May 9th, 2010
7:35 pm

Season ticket holder for life!!! Wish the rest of Atlanta would support them too!!

Thanks Mr. Blank….you are a great owner!!

thunderbull56

May 9th, 2010
7:40 pm

Please Mr Blank, buy the Braves also.You are a class act, who walks the walk.Commitment,consistency,determination.You have my respect and admiration.

tale of woe

May 9th, 2010
7:48 pm

He has turned into one of the better owners in the NFL. We draft/trade for quality guys and it translates into wins on and off the field. Kudos to Mr. Blank.

alanfalcon

May 9th, 2010
7:54 pm

Arthur Blank is a winner and so will the Falcons continue to be winners, from top to bottom. Looking forward to an exciteing and sucessful year.

Larry

May 9th, 2010
8:26 pm

Chris Taylor,

I actually find that Lowes is a superior line across the board and I would never pass one just because of a sports loyalty. Further, not only did Blank retire from Home Depot in 2000, with a little research you’ll fine that it was Bernie Marcus, co founder and CEO, who wast the leader in this relationship as the CFO, Arthur Blank, simply road his coat tails to great wealth.

Blank is a good guy, but still learning how to be a leader (he is not a leader but a follower by nature) and Bernie Marcus would have never handed the bank over to a Michael Vick nor would he have hired his next GM from a video conference as he did with Thomas Dimitroff after what happened with Jim Mora and Bobby Petrino.

Yes, Blank is a follower, naive, gullible and a bit of a playboy by divorcing his first wife to marry a women decades younger than him. And, like the Bill Clinton’s, all the Kennedy’s, the John Edwards and the Jessee Jackson’s, Blank is simply another flaming liberal who’d jump in the sack and produce a another “love child” with a willing, younger woman in a millisecond!

FALCONS/BRAVES FAN

May 9th, 2010
8:31 pm

MR. BLANK WILL BUY THE BRAVES AND SMITTY WILL PULL DOUBLE DUTY.
HEAD COACH OF FALCONS AND MANAGER OF THE BRAVES AND THE SAME
FOR THOMAS DIMITROFF AS GM FOR BOTH TEAMS…..GO ATLANTA…

King Arthur

May 9th, 2010
8:34 pm

lead the league in season ticket sales?? BWA HAHAHAHA….nice way of putting it!

johnny

May 9th, 2010
8:43 pm

Mr Blank says “We’ve lead the league in season ticket sales the last two years.”
I believe the Giants sell all their seats for the season. There are no single game tickets available for Giants’ games.

chris taylor

May 9th, 2010
8:47 pm

As I said before I am a roofing contractor and it’s not just sports loyalty why I pass Lowe’s but they carry Owens Corning which is a far more inferior product than GAF which Home Depot carries. Either way, I look at the accomplishments the team has achieved since his ownership as my guide. Yes we have had some hiccups [petrino/vick etc.] but some problems can be expected but there weren’t blatently obvious signs pointing to those 2 guys letting us down. As far as TD with the video conferance, his resume from NE got him hired…not a video phonecall….that just solidified it. You don’t know the intricasies of his first marriage…none of us do. If he wants to marry younger the 2nd time thats his business. Donald Trump has been married numerous times does that make him less of a business man? I like AB, so does everyone else in Atlanta. So as you say he rode someone’s coat tails…..so we will ride his….to the Super Bowl!

Falcons Fan

May 9th, 2010
8:50 pm

Get to Steppin Michael Jenkins with yo sorry butt! We got some real receivers in this camp. C’ya and don’t want to be ya. You too Norwood! Good job TD

Paddy

May 9th, 2010
8:51 pm

Larry….most of that is really uncalled for. Not much class shown in that diatribe.

Sid

May 9th, 2010
8:53 pm

Thank you for the laugh 1 steeler fan, it is obvious we have you very worried about being 0-1 after our season opener.

chris taylor

May 9th, 2010
9:03 pm

So lets see….we have a Steelers fan & numerous Saints fans that come on OUR blogs and try to piss in our wheaties….that’s how we know we’ve officially arrived as a presence to be reckoned with not over looked, the target on our backs.

JWDawg

May 9th, 2010
9:10 pm

Falcons should have drafted Myron Rolle if they want a “SMART” Player, good ethics, represents the team well. Myron is everything you can want, except maybe he is probably Smarter than most of the Coaches and Head Office. Poor Guy must be tough to be too smart for football!

Sid

May 9th, 2010
9:14 pm

Larry, you have quite an imagination and a large quantity of envy. Be careful, karma can be ugly.
Blank and Marcus left Handy Dan together, Marcus the CEO, Blank the CFO for 17 years before taking over the CEO reins. Philanthropy is as high on his list as his football team. He and his wife Stephanie have 6 kids and 2 grandchildren. A little info on that floosy wife you mentioned…………..

Stephanie Blank is a native of North Carolina. She grew up believing that education and community involvement are twin pathways to creating a just and more inclusive society. As an advocate for children, Blank serves as a board member of Camp Sunshine, a board member of The Emory University Board of Visitors, and an advisory board member of the Atlanta Outward Bound Center.

She has also served on the boards or committees of the Woodruff Arts Center, the Atlanta Symphony Center, the William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum in Atlanta, and was a member of the Tourism Task Force of the Governor’s Commission for A New Georgia. Currently, she serves as Chair of the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Foundation Board of Trustees and the Atlanta Falcons Women’s Association. She chaired the capital campaign for the Imagine It! Children’s Museum of Atlanta and is a co-founder of Mothers & Others for Clean Air.

Blank is a trustee of The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, which grants more than $1220 million to nonprofit organizations. Foundation and personal grants to nonprofit organizations total more than $220 million.

falcon

May 9th, 2010
9:37 pm

I like this franchise. Mr Blank has put a solid organization together. I’m proud to be a season ticket holder.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

May 9th, 2010
9:43 pm

Mr. Blank was very gracious to the media today.

Bobby, a fan from the womb to the grave

May 9th, 2010
10:04 pm

As always, a class act… both Mr. Blank & the team!

chris taylor

May 9th, 2010
10:09 pm

Myron Rolle no doubt is smart but we just football players too, not just “nerds” for lack of a better term. I like Rolle and hoped he would be a Falcon’s pick, but the more tape & film I saw on him just didn’t show enough there instinct/talent wise to warrant his selection. Wish him the best in his career in football but seeing him beaten regularly & make bad decisions on which way to roll coverage made me fell ok about us passing on him.

TCCB

May 9th, 2010
10:14 pm

TIME WILL TELL.
GO FALCONS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

chris taylor

May 9th, 2010
10:23 pm

I hope the Peters, Hawley, & Johnson picks pan out. Now that most of the other questions have been answered it’s going to be nice to be able to take some more weapons for Ryan in next years draft. Still kinda heart broken over not getting Brandon Graham.

Ben Dover

May 9th, 2010
10:29 pm

Hey Larry, your just another sexually frustrated Republican. Go Falcons.

Larry

May 9th, 2010
10:35 pm

Sid,

Nice list. This is called tax reduction and image marketing, very common for the wealthy that are in the national spotlight. All pro athletes are encourage to do this by their accountants and managers.

As for the Karma, no worries! I am too very active in charities and helping my family man, but I choose to do so anonymously coupled with being married to and sticking to my wife of now 20 years, not bolting form her and my children for a girl 20+ years my junior.

Again, I never said Blank was a bad person, but I’ll be darned if I can stomach you and others who have such a shallow, insecure existence that idolatry is triggered too easily and unwarranted. Blank is a business man trying to make money, so let’s not turn him into the next Billy Graham as a saint he most certainly is not! He’s a money guy who lacks the great leadership skills of a Bernie Marcus. And, again, a great leader would have never hired a Jim Mora, a Bobby Petrino, or failed to recognize that Michael Vick was as dumb as a box of rocks and pushed him around the Georgia Dome in a wheelchair.

I’ll give him a little credit for finally getting it closer to right by hiring Mike Smith, but I will not crown his majesty a great owner until we witness sustained competitiveness year after year. Blank is a meddler and likes to see himself on the camera, and, frankly, any person of his wealth that supports a “community activist” to be the President of the United States at such a dangerous time in our history just simply isn’t a man I bet the house on intelligent leadership. Yes, this is the type of man that would hire his next leader of the organization without meeting him in person.

Matt Taibbi

May 9th, 2010
11:11 pm

I had respect for Mr. Blank until he made a Thomas Friedman reference. Friedman’s book “The World is Flat” is one of the worst ever written. Here is a nice critique

http://www.nypress.com/article-11419-flathead.html.

As for the Falcons, we can be great or we can be average – just depends on injuries. GO BIRDS

BBFCFM

May 9th, 2010
11:15 pm

Larry,

I hate to break it to ya, but you are essentially spewing your biased opinion and have no factual evidence to back up your claims. Just like the rest of the blogging world, you act impulsively and try to push your opinion as fact. When in reality, you are just bitter for some reason and are singing the praises of Marcus- while simultaneously telling us what he would do if given the same situations Blank has been in. Clearly a move of someone trying to persuade others through sensationalism, rather than, say, ya know..truth.

You are entitled to your opinion- but it’s just that. No more no less, and certainly not the final word. Besides, anyone who would discredit what Blank has clearly done for this franchise, city, and community- simply for the sake of your bromance with Marcus- is ignorant, sad, and lame. You’re lame Larry. the Falcons don’t like you, and your keyboard is probably real sticky judging by your comments to Ben up there. You sick man, you.

Larry

May 9th, 2010
11:37 pm

BBFCFM,

Ask not what Mr. Blank has done for this city and community…ask what this city and community has done for Mr. Blank!

Get it, Goober?

Sticky Keyboard

DawgDad

May 10th, 2010
12:15 am

Look, the Friedman quote thing was kid of disappointing, but not at all surprising. But this is a sports thread. I have a lot of respect for what Mr. Blank has done for the Falcons. He brought in Vick and Mora and the team had some success going in that direction. When it fell apart he grasped the lessons learned and wasted no time righting the ship and building an organization that has this team solidly positioned for a sustained muti-year run. This is a team the players, coaches, organization, and fans can and should get excited about and view with great pride. They are setting high goals for themselves, working hard, and holding themselves accountable. Barring debilitating injuries it’s hard to see them not making the playoffs. Where they go from there will depend on a lot of things breaking right at the time, and just how talented the roster really is. It’s very hard to envision how we as Falcons fans could be in a better position.

Jeff

May 10th, 2010
1:20 am

Larry, Sid, chris, etc…. easy guys, cool it… calm down. Remember this IS a sports blog, so let’s blog about sports. Larry, for what it’s worth, I agree with you wholeheartedly about your political comments, BUT this is strictly focusing on Arthur Blank as a sports owner. I look at him the same way I looked at Ted Turner when he owned the Braves (in the 90s at least)… yes, I despise his politics and political affiliations BUT if, as an owner, he’s committed to the city, the team, and the fans, I can overlook that. If he’s driven to do his best to bring a championship to my home city that I love so much, I could care less if he’s communist.

Bottom line is this: as the Falcons owner, Mr. Blank has done some TREMENDOUS things and made some AMAZING strides. Case in point: 15 years ago, we were a perennial 5-11 team that occasionally went 10-6 and made the playoffs. We had a rope-belted Jethro as an owner who was as dumb as the day is long and who the rest of the league LOVED because he did a lot for the NFL but not a lot for the Falcons. We made, what, 6 playoff appearances in 30-plus years? Now, with Arthur Blank, we are a more stable, consistent team that will probably go 9-7 to 11-5 EVERY year and have a shot at the playoffs EVERY year. We draft smart (see Matt Ryan) as opposed to the Rankin Smith years (see Aundray Bruce). And aside from Vick, we have some good, solid community guys.

Ted Turner turned the Braves from a laughingstock to a champion. Arthur Blank has turned the Falcons from a joke (remember all those god-awful 3-13 years in the 80s) to a winner (see the playoff runs in 2002, 2004, 2008). The Falcons have gone 8-8 or better in five of the eight years he has owned the team, and aside from the 2007 debacle of Petrino-dogfighting-Joey-Harrington-as-a-starter, we’ve actually been pretty competitive every year.

Let’s look past Arthur Blank’s politics or business life and focus on his sports ownership: under his tenure, the Falcons (and the Georgia Force) have both grown, improved and shown consistency. As a fan, that’s about all I can ask from an owner.

Thank you, Mr. Blank, for your commitment to Atlanta, to character, to consistency, and to class. Good luck in continuing to build a winner, piece by piece. And to the fans, I challenge you: focus on making this a passionate city that loves the Falcons and intimidates other teams and opposing fans. Good luck to the Falcons and let’s kick a** in 2010!