FLOWERY BRANCH — There is an incentive bonus built into Jamaal Anderson’s contract that will pay him $5 million if he reaches 30 career sacks before the end of this season or 40 sacks before the end of 2010. Let’s go out on a limb here. That bonus is sitting under a tree in Never Never Land.
Went out to the Branch Wednesday ostensibly to chat with Falcons defensive end John Abraham for a column. But while there, I figured I’d check in with the other end, Anderson, who was the eighth overall draft pick in 2007 but obviously hasn’t played like it.
Anderson had two sacks last season. That’s two more than he had the year before. Now, you can understand the poor kid being traumatized by his first season in the NFL. The draft was followed by all matters concerning Michael Vick, which was followed by the realization that Bobby Petrino was a complete tool. So at least Anderson faded into the background of the Falcons’ nightmare.
“I think I was put in a situation almost no rookie ever has to face,” he said
But that was two years ago. Anderson knows his time is up. He was given a five-year, $30.9 million contract, with half that guaranteed. He won’t see year four of the deal if he doesn’t show something significant. It’s not known at this time whether the Falcons will use him at end in the base defense or pass situations, or move him inside to tackle. For his part, Anderson is expecting to start.
Here are a few of his other responses from Wednesday.
♦ On whether he’s aware of criticism: “Absolutely. But I can’t let it get to me. Some people, their careers jump off slower than others. That’s the one I’d like to do is ask for patience. But this year I do expect a lot of myself. I can’t let it distract me and the goals I’ve set for myself.”
♦ On having high expectations: “I do, and I know what I’m capable of doing. They’re counting on me and I’m counting on myself. But I’m trying not to put too much pressure on myself.”
♦ On training camp: “I think I’ve had the best camp since I’ve been here. I’ve heard a lot of positive comments from other players and coaches. I just want to continue to get better. I dedicated this off-season to having the best season I could have and I definitely see it paying off.”
♦ On his slow career start: “I didn’t think the learning curve would be as hard as it was. My rookie year was tough and last year seemed like another rookie year for me. But having the same coach and the same system this year has helped.”
Question: Do you expect much from Anderson this season? Honestly, my expectations are low. But I figure if he shows anything, it’s a bonus.