WSB TV’s Zach Klein gave this video to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Just four days after being cleared to return to work from knee surgery, the Falcons released former Pro Bowl fullback Ovie Mughelli on Tuesday.
“I’m still kind of digesting it,” Mughelli said by phone on Tuesday. “It’s something that I knew was a possibility. It didn’t come too much as a surprise. It’s something that happens in every player’s career. I know that I’m still one of the best fullbacks out there. Right now, I just have to be patient and work with my agent to see what’s the next step that we’re going to take. ”
The Falcons recently selected fullback Bradie Ewing in the fifth round of the NFL draft.
Mughelli had a salary cap number of $3.7 million for 2012. The team will receive relief.
Mughelli was originally signed as an unrestricted free agent on March 2, 2007. He was signed to a six-year, $18 million contact with a $5 million signing bonus. It was the largest contact given to a fullback in NFL history at the time.
He appeared in 69 games in his five seasons with the Falcons, including 38 starts.
In 2011, Mughelli saw action in seven games and hauled in four receptions for 25 yards with two touchdowns before suffering a season-ending knee injury against the Detroit Lions on Oct. 23.
He was viewed as expendable in the new offense under coordinator Dirk Koetter, which will mostly utilize three receivers. A fullback will be utilized about 20 percent of the time.
Mughelli was not ready to rule out a return to the Falcons with a re-structured contract.
“It’s a possibility,” Mughelli said. “[Falcons general manager Thomas] Dimitroff and my agent are talking.”
Mughelli was recently cleared to return to work from the knee injury.
“Right now, I’m just about to head to work out,” Mughelli said. “I have to stay in top shape, top form. I was cleared to workout with the team on Friday. Practiced with the team on Monday and got cut today. I’m able to run, jump and catch. I can definitely help some team win whether if it’s the Falcons or somewhere else.”
A crushing lead-blocker, Mughelli paved the way for three 1,300-yard-plus seasons
for running back Michael Turner, including a 1,699-yard season in 2008.
“It was very special,” Mughelli said of his time with the Falcons. “I said that my time in Baltimore was very special when I was a youngster. But my time here in Atlanta was twice as special.
“I got the chance to play with a great like Tony Gonzalez. Get coached under Mike Smith and have some special relationships in my running back [meeting] room with Michael Turner, Jason Snelling and even Jacquizz [Rodgers]. It’s been a pleasure working with those guys and winning games. . . I definitely have some great memories from my time with the Falcons. I’m looking forward to making some new ones.”
The Falcons salary cap issues have been severe this offseason as they focused on re-signing their own players. They struck deals with defensive end John Abraham, safety Thomas DeCoud, wide receiver Harry Douglas, defensive end Kroy Biermann, center Todd McClure and quarterback Chris Redman. They also signed linebacker Lofa Tatupu and guard Vince Manuwai as free agents.
The team also placed the franchise tag on cornerback Brent Grimes, who’s set to make $10.281 million after signing his tender. They also traded a seventh round pick for cornerback Asante Samuel.
Because of their salary cap restraints, the Falcons were not able to re-sign middle linebacker Curtis Lofton, who signed a modest five-year, $27.5 million deal with the New
Orleans Saints. He was a four-year starter and the team’s leading tackler in each of the past three seasons.
The issue of the tight salary cap likely led the Falcons to select Ewing, who’s a good blocker and pass catcher. He was widely considered the best fullback in the draft.
Dimitroff did not want to address Mughelli’s status or the team’s financial situation after the conclusion of the draft.
“I don’t want to comment on financial situations and our cap situation publicly,” Dimitroff said. “That’s what we discuss back in our offices.”
To make all of their offseason moves, the Falcons have been scrambling. They’ve restructured the contracts of cornerback Dunta Robinson and left guard Justin Blalock in order to free up $2.99 million.
The Falcons could use the space provided by the release of Mughelli to fit in the rookie class and perhaps add a veteran salary-cap casualty.
–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog