CHARLOTTE –After driving from Atlanta to Charlotte for the night Friday, then to Durham for the Georgia Tech game Saturday morning, then back to Charlotte for today’s Falcons’ game, I’m happy to say I know where I am. Suppose that puts me ahead of Bruce Springsteen, who clearly has jumped off one too many speakers and greeted a crowd in Auburn Hills, Mich., Saturday night with,”Hello, Ohio!” Oh, Bruce.
Anyway, Springsteen clearly is not the only lost and confused soul here on earth. Question: What was Ray Anderson thinking?
I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this because we’re a few days past the decision and I know you would much rather focus on today’s Falcons-Carolina game. But I never weighed in after Anderson, a former Falcons’ executive who now dispenses fines for the NFL, slapped Falcons coach Mike Smith
with a $15,000 fine and, more specifically, chose not to fine DeAngelo Hall anything for last week’s sideline scrum.
I can tell you this much: 1) The Falcons, all the way up to owner Arthur Blank, were stunned and furious about the decision; 2) You’re never going to hear them say that.
Privately, they’re still seething, but publicly they’ll tell you’ve moved on. They also know that in a credibility contest, Mike Smith vs. DeAngelo Hall is not a contest.
Smith’s hero status with his players and Falcons’ fans probably is even greater now than it was before. And you have to like the fact that somebody has set up an “Official Coach Smith Fine Charity” fund with PayPal.
“The only thing I will say is Mike Smith is truly an ambassador for this football league,” general manager Thomas Dimitroff said this morning. “He’s highly regarded, highly respected, and not just within this organization but across the league. He’s someone for the entire fan base to be proud of. He’s going to stick up for his football team.”
OK, off the soapbox and onto today’s game. Carolina (3-5) lost last week to New Orleans. But the team has played much better since an 0-3 start. Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams is averaging 5.2 yards per carry and is among NFL leaders with 768 yards and seven touchdowns in eight games. And despite what you may have heard earlier in the week about Williams possibly being sidelined with a knee injury, he is not on Carolina’s inactive list.
The Falcons’ inactive list includes two significant absences: left tackle Sam Baker (left ankle) and running back Jerious Norwood (right hip flexor). This will be Norwood’s fourth straight game out. Will Svitek, a free agent pick up from Kansas City, will make his first start at left tackle.
Matt Ryan has to step up his game today. The Panthers’ defense likely will load up to try to stop running back Michael Turner, so Ryan should have opportunities. Obviously, pass protection, which has been an issue, also is key.
The Falcons need to win today because they have a difficult stretch of games coming up: at New York Giants, Tampa Bay (OK, that one’s easy), Philadelphia and New Orleans.
That’s all I’ve got for now. I’m going to grab some coffee and I’ll be right back.