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.
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?
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