Stephen Nicholas in limbo during labor strife

Here, Stephen Nicholas (54) is flying over the top of the pile of Falcons as they stop the 49ers' Frank Gore (21) in the first quarter. Johnny Crawford / jcrawford@ajc.com

Here, Stephen Nicholas (54) is flying over the top of the pile of Falcons as they stop the 49ers' Frank Gore (21) in the first quarter. Johnny Crawford / jcrawford@ajc.com

CUMMING – Falcons linebacker Stephen Nicholas has had a busy offseason.

Nicholas is watching the labor situation closely because he’s directly affected. His future with the Falcons will likely turn on the status of four-year players under a new collective bargaining agreement.

He had to make a decision on whether to sign a tender the Falcons made. He elected not to sign it and has switched agents. He wants a long-term deal and doesn’t want to play under a one-year tender if possible.

We caught up with Nicholas, who’s started 25 games over the last two seasons and has played in 65 games over his career, at the team’s ad-hoc offseason strength and conditioning program.

Falcons linebacker Stephen Nicholas (54) discusses the importance of keeping fit with kids. (By PHIL SKINNER / PSKINNER@AJC.COM

Falcons linebacker Stephen Nicholas (54) discusses the importance of keeping fit with kids. (By PHIL SKINNER / PSKINNER@AJC.COM

Q: How’s the offseason been going?

A: It’s been good on the training tip. As far as the lockout and some uncertainties, it’s a little crazy right now.

Q: How are dealing with being at the end of your contract?

A: Basically, Atlanta sent a tender out during that time when people were receiving tenders. But with not knowing if it is going to be  four years or five years to be a free agent, it’s still up in the air. It’s just kind of crazy that free agency didn’t happen. We’ll see what happens.

Q: What did they tender you at? Did you accept it? Or just decided to let it play out?

A: I didn’t accept it. I did receive it in the mail. I didn’t do anything. During that time, nothing was set in stone.

Q: Why did you switch agents?

A: I did. I just felt that was a good way to go for me. They do good work. It was just a different path to go. My old agency did good work too, but for me, I just thought it was a different path to go down.

Q: How does this play out for you? Do you want to return to the Falcons?

A: I definitely want to come back. But why not see what’s out there. That’s what anybody would do, test the market. But unfortunately, we have a lockout going on. I’m pretty sure Atlanta respects that.

Q: Can you reflect on your four years with the Falcons?

A: Great seasons and good things. The defense has been improving each year. We are trying to get better. The guys here are great guys to play ball with. Every year has been a better year on the defensive side of the ball.

Q: Your rookie year (2007), you had to think that the NFL was pretty crazy?

A: I had a good welcoming to the NFL. A lot went on my rookie year from the Michael Vick situation, everything, with the coaches and the coaching. Everything was just crazy. To go through something like that, for a rookie, that was a serious year.

Q: How has the ad-hoc offseason program been going for you?

Pierre Thomas flips into the endzone on the Falcons.  (MATT BUSH/HATTIESBURG AMERICAN)

Pierre Thomas flips into the endzone on the Falcons. (MATT BUSH/HATTIESBURG AMERICAN)

A: This is a great situation. Jim (Launer) is definitely getting guys stronger and keeping us in shape. The camaraderie is still definitely there. We are just doing what we can to get better and stay healthy.

Q: How have you dealt with the Green Bay loss?

A: You’re only as good as your last game and I’m ready to play another game. The better team that day won. I’m just ready to play another game and get back in the mix of things, start playing some ball.

Q: Have you been in touch with the rest of your linebacker mates?

A: Of course just working out here. I’ve talked to Spoon a couple of times. He’s definitely on Twitter. I talk to Mike [Peterson] when I’m down in Jacksonville. I talk to Curtis [Lofton] all of the time.

–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog

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40 comments Add your comment

Falcons Will Win

May 12th, 2011
6:24 am

Sounds like he only wants a big FA deal to come back to the Falcons, I guess he doesn’t remember what the team did for him and his family when his child was sick, typical.

Larry

May 12th, 2011
6:34 am

Falcons Will Win,

Don’t recall…what happened?

robert

May 12th, 2011
6:42 am

@falcons will win. yeah the average life span of an nfl players career is 3 years. if a player, specialy one with a kid with medical problems, has the chance to go with a team that can offer more to do the same job you take it. what you say does not make sense. these players dont come in as falcons fans, they come in as employees to do a job

Larry

May 12th, 2011
6:47 am

robert,

Look up a couple of terms: gratitude and loyalty

The Real Falcon

May 12th, 2011
6:50 am

According to DLed he’s on the depth chart for 2011, right?

nash

May 12th, 2011
6:51 am

well I guess that is why the Falcon drafted Dent they must see something going on under the table. Besides he was drafted to play the middle but got moved to the outside and, still can’t maintain in pass coverage

DC Dirty Bird

May 12th, 2011
7:05 am

@Larry and Falcons Will Win, are you serious? So you’re saying that he should have signed the ONE year tender just because AB helped him get treatment for his child. Its not like he turned down an extension, he just didn’t sign the tender such that he could get a long term deal. Gratitude and loyalty work both ways. Didn’t hear a peep out of him when he lost his starting job to Spoon and then he played his back out for us when he came in. What loyalty has he been shown other than the low tender he was offered?

Nik

May 12th, 2011
8:48 am

WHat are you doing out in Cumming, DLed? That’s where I live!

tjhook

May 12th, 2011
8:49 am

I hope Nicholas stays but I am for him taking care of his business. If he leaves, I will remember his solid and underrated play and miss his performances.

badger58

May 12th, 2011
9:23 am

“I definitely want to come back. But why not see what’s out there.”

Well, maybe because they bent over backwards to make sure you could take care of your son? That might be a good reason. Really disappointed to hear him say that. I wanted him to stay, now I don’t know that I care.

GT GRAD

May 12th, 2011
9:40 am

Nicholas is a solid back-up and a very good special teams player; however, he has not shown or proved thus far that he can be consitentley effective as a starter…….he is adequate in all areas, but he needs to improve (shed blocks, make tackles, be in the correct position and improve his pass coverage) if he thinks he deserves starter money.

I also think Dent was drafted to replave Nicholas as the third starter (fairly obvious assumption).

Dan

May 12th, 2011
9:50 am

There have been rumors of Nicholas going to Detroit but really who wants to move one’s family to Detroit? One has weigh all the options especially when one’s family is involved?

Hey any trade rumors about Jamal Anderson and Glenn Dorsey or how many really think the Mario Williams at LB in Texas really going to work? Hey I know a team that needs a DE?

Charlene

May 12th, 2011
9:52 am

You cannot think that this guy will get millions as a backup? He has no speed and he cannot drop back I coverage.. The falcons need to linebackers hat have speed and can cover in the zone until this team get this done they will never win a playoff game

season ticket holder

May 12th, 2011
9:53 am

second generation season ticket holder here going back to the early 70s. Though I like the concept Falcons Will Win and Larry speak of I think it is unreasonable to expect anyone to accept a “home team discount” in pro sports or any other line of work. If an alternate offer is only marginally better it might make more sense to accept less and stay with the current team/job. However, I think it is insane for anyone to not consider other offers be it a pro athlete or anyone posting on this board with a job. If an opportunity arises to improve your and your families situation why would you not take it? Gratitude and loyalty to an employer are not sufficient answers for screwing over your family’s future.

Charlene

May 12th, 2011
10:00 am

The falcons need active linebackers that can cover the middle of the field. This was the problem when they went to the Supebowl and this is still the problem today….. Linebackers with speed, zone coverage, run stoppers, and quickness

Charlene

May 12th, 2011
10:04 am

This guy will not get paid starter money for a backup job with the falcons. I do know he will sign with the falcons because no one will pay him a starter salary for a backup job in the NFL.. He needs to get real..He cannot cover in zone at all and he has no speed

joe white

May 12th, 2011
11:08 am

I dont know why people getting mad at this man for exploring other job openings available, if he can get more money and still be a good player i am for that. I like stephen but if he leaves he still has my blessings, i do hope we can sign him back for another contract.Good player

Rikus

May 12th, 2011
11:09 am

Anybody else think Charlene sounds like a broken record?

Seattle Falcons Fan

May 12th, 2011
11:12 am

Dent was brought in so we can save money to resign our oline and bring in a free agent or two. Same with the punter.

Seattle Falcons Fan

May 12th, 2011
11:16 am

I do think we bring back Peterson though. He is a valuable leader above all else.

DLed- so I take it by his comments he is not practicing with the rest of the team?

Lets Be Real

May 12th, 2011
11:47 am

I am a family friend of Stephen and his family and HONESTLY know FIRST HAND that Aurther Blank, Falcons staff or team mates did NOTHING to help him or his family out during their time of need. They waited in the hospital for 4 MONTHS and took care of all the bills associated with it just like anyone else in the situation would of did. They are just victims of a ESPN writer who wanted to break the news first and in the process created a story FULL OF LIES and over exaggerated events to make the Falcons seem as if they helped him in his time of need. I don’t remember seeing anyone from the Falcons visit his wife while in Atlanta or Boston, and its protocol for hospitals to air lift a child when in critical condition, not call the falcons owner wife to get the OK. Stephen paid for his own flights ON A COMMERCIAL PLANE to see his wife and child after a game and had to be back in time for their next practice. He works his butt off everyday at work to create his own job stability. So readers and Falcons fans don’t be fooled to believing everything you see or hear in the news. Stephen is owed his right for free agency and doesn’t owe anything to anybody except GOD for seeing him throug his situation and coming out on top. I wish Stephen and his wife good luck in their future and his NFL career. I personally hope he goes to a team were he is WANTED and APPRECIATED by the fans. I hope others who know Stephen and read this will chime in bc I have had enough of this “STORY” about his son and there is no truth in it except that his son and family were actually in the situation and I COMMEND them for letting the story continue and have people believing it without correcting them.
GO STEPHEN NICHOLAS .. YOU DO HAVE SUPPORTERS IN ATLANTA!!!!!

Robinit

May 12th, 2011
12:00 pm

Real Falcon–Funny Stuff. Seattle Falcon–Also, we save a roster spot or two with an All-in-one kicker.

I personally don’t feel like Nicholas will be able to improve on his pass coverage abilities. To me, either you have the hips, swivel and coordination for it or you don’t. He doesn’t quite get it done. I don’t know if its his leaping ability or focus, but he is always just short of making a play.

Robinit

May 12th, 2011
12:06 pm

Funny, I scrolled up and finally noticed the picture on the top of the page and it makes my point EXACTLY!

BirdDirty

May 12th, 2011
12:11 pm

Lets Be Real,

Well said. People need to shut their mouths if they don’t know what they are talking about. This man has a wife and a sick child to care for. He should be looking for the best deal.

Casey

May 12th, 2011
12:21 pm

Nicholas is a solid contributor but I agree with Robinit – he lacked the big play capability. If the Falcons make a decent offer and he accepts – then great! But I wouldn’t break the bank for him. Best of luck on whatever he decides. Go Falcons!

Mike Jay

May 12th, 2011
12:35 pm

Ugly vibes in this thread. I thought he was our best LB down the stretch. He was all over the field making plays. Think he finished third on the team in tackles. There is no loyalty without guaranteed contracts in the NFL. Silly to expect that from players when owners will cut them i na heartbeat. I hope he stays but he needs to do what’s right for him.

D Money

May 12th, 2011
12:44 pm

Nicholas is a strong side linebacker that they have playing weakside. He should really be taking over Peterson’s spot with Spoon on the other side. Dent can back up all three positions. I hope we sign him back as a starter. That guy plays his butt off. And then you have these idiots on here talking about he should stay because of what the organization did for him…please. If anybody sensible gets offered more money for the job they currently perform and love to do with another company, I’m sure you’ll take it. We already see how the owners are messing up the season. We would have had free agency by now if they agreed to split that last 1 billion 50/50 with the players. There are 32 owners (not sure what to call GreenBay) and close to 2000 players. Who do you think will see a larger piece of the pie?

cwltank

May 12th, 2011
12:52 pm

Can’t blame the guy for trying to get paid. He is a good player but by drafting Dent states the Falcons are prepared to move on.

Chattanooga Chuck

May 12th, 2011
1:04 pm

A player has only so many years to make big money. I don’t resent Stephen Nicholas for looking out for what’s best for his family. I hope something can be worked out with the Falcons.

FSII

May 12th, 2011
1:59 pm

Thank you for the player updates. I need my fix.

Joe tess Fish House

May 12th, 2011
2:18 pm

I dont see the Flacons wining but maybe 4 games this year.

Post-it

May 12th, 2011
2:19 pm

He got help for his kid at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta – an obvious choice given where he’s living right now. How exactly did the Falcons help out with that? And I’m sure he paid for it through his own health insurance. I love the team, but can’t blame a guy for looking out for his family’s best interest. Especially given the labor situation right now.

Charlene

May 12th, 2011
2:20 pm

My record might be broken but Atlanta will never be a elite team without active linbacker play… I have been a fan for twenty years and I have seen it all with the falcons. Linebackers will be the only means to help to create a pass rush.. Go back and watch the Saint game.. this was why Brees kept getting away and making the throws…This is a business and people in Atlanta cry and cry for a winner but your have no clue what it takes too be a winner. The trade was a great trade but your found fault in taking a risk …. Wow how dumb so I am a broken record and TD will be the man after this season and GM of the year again.

eM

May 12th, 2011
2:45 pm

Lets Be Real

May 12th, 2011
11:47 am

Ok……Nicholas is not that good and if he leaves this team will not miss a beat. My prayers to his child and hopes he stays healthy thoughout the rest of his life. However, Nicholas is not worth waiting around for.If he thinks he can get more money and be a starter on another team, then by all means…….SEE YA!!!

Charlene

May 12th, 2011
2:57 pm

Thank You eM… you are right on.. This is not about his family and I wish them the best. This is a business and he is not that good of a player Atlanta. The falcons must stop being so loyal because these players are not too them. Arthur Blank is a great owner and a great person. This man has done and still is doing the best for Atlanta. Mr. Blank put more money in Atlanta than the fan spent on tickets. Atlanta should have a superbowl but making the best business decisions will be key too getting the first ring. Good luck SN and I wish you the best man

Dukester

May 12th, 2011
3:56 pm

@Lets be real Thanks so much for you post. It rings so true. There is nothing wrong with you not like the guy as a linebacker. Also there is nothing wrong with him trying to get a long term deal. The problem comes in when these clowns start saying what “Nicholas should do to show some loyalty” LOL Are you kidding me?? Just as the Falcons dont owe him jack!! They have a business meeting either come to agreement or not. I see why the world is the way it is with some of the thought processes that go around on these blogs.

Magic/Falcons

May 12th, 2011
6:47 pm

The truth of the matter is, the Falcons ain’t do jack for the family. I personally know this. When Spoon went down, Nicholas stepped in and handled his business. I like his energy. Hopefully we can resign him. Everybody loves Coy Wire, but I did not see him starting over Nicholas. If Spoon goes down again, I would rather have an experienced LB playing that know the system than a rookie. Let’s be real people, we are trying to win a championship.

BIGBEN42

May 12th, 2011
8:57 pm

NICHOLAS, Can step in and play both strong-side and weakside. Injury’s are going to happen.Nicholas know’s the system.Nicholas doesn’t take plays off.If he leave’s here he WILL start wherever he goes. Hope only the best for him and his family. CHARLENE—is a broken record

D. Orlando Ledbetter

May 12th, 2011
9:40 pm

NIk — That’s where some the Falcons are holding their strength and conditioning program.

Dan — I haven’t heard any of those trade rumors. But Pioli and Dimitroff have done business before. (Tony G trade.)

Seattle Falcons Fan — He is working out with the team.

slim

May 15th, 2011
9:58 am

Rikus shut the h up she watches the game