By Michael Cunningham
FLOWERY BRANCH–The inflammatory comments by Carolina defensive end Greg Hardy got the attention of the Falcons. His quotes were a topic of conversation during team meetings this morning.
But the tone among the Falcons seemed to be more amused than angry or offended.
“What else is he going to say at this point? They haven’t won that many games,” Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez said. “And you know they are going to compete. They always compete. That’s part of the fun. That’s why we play the game. We have got to go out there and see if we can prove him wrong.”
Hardy said the Panthers are better than the Falcons even though Carolina is 3-9 to Atlanta’s 11-1 and lost 30-28 at the Georgia Dome on Sept. 30. Hardy declared himself “not a fan” of the Falcons and promised “a long day” in Sunday’s rematch in Charlotte.
“They’ve got to say something,” Falcons wide receiver Roddy White said while grinning. “They are fighting. They are holding on. They are in a different position than we are. They are trying to save the rest of their season and we are trying to prepare ourselves for this playoff run. Whatever you say to get yourself going or motivate yourself on Sunday, then you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.”
Added White: “Those guys played well against us last time so I can’t really talk about him and what he said. They had seven sacks so you might not want to get those guys all riled up. Just let ‘em sleep.”
The Panthers also took issue with Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan yelling, “Get the (bleep) off my field!” in their direction while walking to the locker room after Matt Bryant kicked a 40-yard field goal for the victory in September. Television cameras caught Ryan’s outburst.
“He’s a fiery guy,” White said. “He’s a competitor and he wants to win. And, just speaking in general, I didn’t have a problem with what he said. It is our field. So get off it; you just lost. It’s that simple.
“Those guys, they have been close to beating us the last couple years and felt they should have won. They’ve got a chip on their shoulders. We feel like we are a better football team than them. The war of words comes out. Y’all just happened to catch [Ryan] saying that. I don’t think he was expecting y’all to hear that message.”
The Falcons also got into a verbal back-and-forth this season with the Saints, another division rival.
Gonzalez said it’s all just a part of football.
“I like it,” Gonzalez said. “It makes you ready. All that can do is get the other team ready to go. If we had any lack of focus, that’s only going to help us focus more and be ready. Because they are coming to play, so we better be ready.”
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