Archive for July, 2011

Falcons’ Dimitroff can do without NFL’s CBA mess

Thomas Dimitroff would rather be working on Falcons roster than going to NFL meetings. (AP photo)

Thomas Dimitroff would rather be fixing Falcons roster than going to NFL meetings. (AP photo)

Thomas Dimitroff was driving to a scheduled NFL meeting the other day,  then decided it would be better for his mental and physical well-being if he went for a bike ride instead.

“I made it all the way to the Camp Creek Parkway exit,” the Falcons’ general manager said. “Then I sort of made a U-turn and went back home to Buckhead.”

Dimitroff didn’t actually miss the meeting, which was canceled. This was Thursday afternoon. NFL owners were scheduled to vote on a proposed collective bargaining agreement with the players at an airport hotel. The league’s general managers were scheduled to meet shortly thereafter at a different hotel to go over new CBA rules. But as owners kept delaying their vote for no apparent reason — oh look, here comes the dinner buffet! –  Dimitroff decided he didn’t feel like sitting in a hotel to wait them out.

So the cycling enthusiast/snowboarder/general rare …

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Braves have chance to deal for Carlos Beltran? Do it now

The Braves have a chance to acquire a difference-maker in Carlos Beltran. (AP photo)

If the Braves don't swing a trade for Carlos Beltran, he could end up in San Francisco or Philadelphia. (AP photo)

Before you shoot down the idea of the Braves trading a top pitching prospect like Mike Minor to rent Carlos Beltran for two months, consider this: He could be the difference in the them winning the National League East Division. And the pennant. And the World Series.

Beltran, who’s in the final year of his contract with the New York Mets, has been connected to seemingly every playoff contender in baseball’s rumor mill. But ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that there are only five legitimate pursuers right now: The Braves, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Boston and Texas. He pegs the Braves as the favorites.

There’s also a school of thought that Beltran, who has a no-trade clause, prefers to be traded to a National League team. In other words, if the Braves don’t get Beltran, one of their two biggest competitors –  the Phillies or Giants — just might.

Beltran obviously …

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NFL lockout nears end but this is no time to celebrate

Here are three guys not worried about their next paycheck: Arthur Blank, Jerry Jones and Roger Goodell. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Arthur Blank, Jerry Jones, Roger Goodell aren't worried about their next paycheck. (Curtis Compton)

Please, no celebrating. The commissioner, the owners, the NFL’s chief counsel — they all spent way too much time patting each other on the back Thursday night. We heard things like “incredible effort” and “good for the game” and, this gem from Carolina owner Jerry Richardson, “This is a journey that began in May of 2008. …”

Journey? I think the Israelites spent less time wandering through the desert.

Please, no congratulations, no balloon or tearful embraces. The NFL owners finally gave approval to a new collective bargaining agreement with the players. Assuming the players union votes to recertify and then ratifies the new agreement — and they’ll lose the benefit of the doubt from 99 percent of the free world if they don’t — the NFL lockout finally will be over.

So it only will have taken 38 months to reach a new deal. In the process, they damaged their product (at least in the …

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LIVE from NFL meetings: Arthur Blank expects deal today

Here's Blank doing a mass interview in the hotel lobby before veering off for a private audience with the AJC. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Here's Falcons owner Arthur Blank doing a mass interview in the hotel lobby before veering off for a private audience with the AJC. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

(UPDATED: 10:15 p.m.)

Welcome to the double-secret location (Airport Gateway Marriott, 2020 Convention Center Concourse, Atlanta, Ga., 30337, where the codeword “media” gets you free wifi) for these high-level NFL meetings.

I’m hunkered down in the work room, where there is coffee and muffins. If you stop by and say hello, I’ll try to sneak you one.

Here’s the important update: Darryl Ledbetter and I just spoke with Falcons owner Arthur Blank, who said he expects these months of absurdity to end today — my words, not his — and a deal to get finalized.

When I asked Blank, just before he walked into the 10 a.m. owners meeting, if he expected a deal for a CBA to be completed, he said, “Yes, I think so. I’d be disappointed, like 330 million people in America, if we didn’t get it done today. There’s been wonderful communication …

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Potential new Hawks’ owner can only be good news

That's a Thrashers' logo behind Michael Gearon and Bruce Levenson. They killed the team.

That's a Thrashers' logo behind Michael Gearon and Bruce Levenson. They killed the team.

There is nothing good about the fact Atlanta has lost its NHL team. There is nothing good about an NBA lockout. But here is one absolute positive that may come out of this summer: The Atlanta Spirit appears close to relative extinction.

According to our Chris Vivlamore and Tim Tucker, a potential buyer has emerged to purchase a majority interest in the Hawks and Philips Arena operating rights. Other potential buyers surfaced in the past several months for all or  specific parts of the three Spirit properties (including the Thrashers, who’ve since been sold and moved to Winnipeg). But there seems to be a greater degree of probability this time.

The potential purchasing process is said to be “moving fast,” according to Vivlamore and Tucker, who quote  people familiar with the talks saying the would-be buyer is “pushing very, very hard.”

A deal wouldn’t necessarily mean that Spirit partners …

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Paul Johnson slams NCAA for Georgia Tech’s probation

Paul Johnson questions the NCAA's actions during its investigation at Georgia Tech. (Johnny Crawford/AJC)

Paul Johnson wasn't happy during Tech's probation news conference. He's still fuming. (Johnny Crawford/AJC)

Paul Johnson doesn’t cheat. Doesn’t like cheaters. Calls the suggestion that he would cheat “almost insulting.”

“I’m sure I cheated in board games,” the Georgia Tech coach said. “And when I played, yeah, you’d do stuff. Move the ball forward. Move it back. Kick it. Maybe grab a guy where you’re not supposed to. But heck, everybody does that.”

But not as a coach. It’s why Johnson took a verbal 2-by-4 to the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions. He says he did nothing wrong. He says the punishment slapped on Georgia Tech’s football program, including the forfeiture of the 2009 ACC championship, is wrong. He wants the school to appeal. That decision hasn’t been made yet, but the trophy has been removed from a case in the Edge Athletics Center and is sitting in an office closet.

At the very least, Johnson wants it known that the Yellow Jackets gained no competitive advantage …

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Countdown: Tech stashes ACC trophy; Ohio State’s stiff ‘I’

A new logo, via Sesame Street (with pal Elmo).

A new logo, via Sesame Street (with pal Elmo).

Vampires can be accused of a lot of things. Cheating is not one of them. There was that one three-legged race during the family picnic of the Underworld Optimists Club when I bit Vinnie, but most while most people thought I was cheating to win the race, really, I was just thirsty. Where was I? Oh yeah. Cheaters. Hate ‘em. Really hate ‘em in college. Seems safe to conclude that Georgia Tech wasn’t really cheating, even through the NCAA chose to hit them upside the fangs with a 2-by-4. But barring some unforeseen victorious appeal, the Yellow Jackets will have to mail back their ACC championship trophy. Which reminds The Count. Where is that trophy right now? Hmmm. We count down . . .

10. Yes, I’m here to claim my coat and … whoa!

The trophy reads, "Football Champions 2009," but you have to find the closet to know that.

The trophy reads, "Football Champions 2009," but you have to find the right closet to know that.

You'll get this trophy when you pry it from Paul Johnson's cold dead hands.

You'll get this trophy when you pry it from Paul Johnson's cold dead hands.

So I went to Tech Monday to …

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Georgia’s RB legacy takes another hit with suspension

Carlton Thomas is the latest Georgia running back to find trouble. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

Carlton Thomas is the latest Georgia running back to find trouble. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

Back on the Left Coast, USC was referred to as “Tailback U” for its rich history of running backs. Among them: Marcus Allen, Mike Garrett, Charles White,  Anthony Davis, Ricky Bell, Reggie Bush and a certain alleged double murderer.

Georgia’s history may or may not be equal to that, but with the likes of Herschel Walker, Garrison Hearst, Charley Trippi, Frank Sinkwich, Rodney Hampton, Robert Edwards and Knowshon Moreno, it has an argument.

So what happened?

The Bulldogs just lost their third running back of the offseason. At least for one game. Junior Carlton Thomas, who only last week spoke of taking on a leadership role with the team, has been suspended for one game for unspecified violation of team rules during spring football, according to our Chip Towers. That’s one less body available for the season opener against Boise State.

Thomas’  suspension follows Caleb King being declared …

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Dealing Lowe is risky but it may be Braves’ best option

The Braves mob (and douse) Freddie Freeman after the rookie's game-winning hit Sunday. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

The Braves mob (and douse) Freddie Freeman after his game-winning hit. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Alex Gonzalez brought the handfuls of dirt. Peter Moylan brought the cups of water. Everybody else just pounded Freddie Freeman into a celebratory submission and Baptism following his first career game-winning hit Sunday.

A win over the Washington Nationals normally wouldn’t seem like a cause for such a celebration, but these haven’t come easy. The Braves had to scramble and rally twice to beat a Nationals team that generally has been a punching bag since 2005  (459-607)  but insists on punching back against Atlanta (the all-time series would’ve been tied at 59-59 with a different result Sunday).

But if you’re the Braves, this game was a good sign. They somehow turned an ugly sequence of events — including an improbable poor start by Jair Jurrjens — into a win. They trailed 6-2 before a five-run fifth, punctuated by Brian McCann’s three-run homer. They trailed 8-7 before the .226 …

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LIVE: Braves need to win ‘gimme’ series vs. Nationals

This photo of a male fan in a wedding dress seemed more interesting than any other photo from Saturday's loss to Washington. He was arrested. (Hyosub Shin/AJC)

This photo of a male fan in a wedding dress was more interesting than anything else from the Braves' loss to Washington on Saturday. He was arrested. (Hyosub Shin/AJC)

The Braves’ franchise reached the 10,0000-win mark the other night. If they had played better against the Washington Nationals, that achievement would’ve be reached a while ago.

As has been stated several times before, particularly by Chipper Jones, one key to the Braves winning the National League East Division this year is how they play against the teams they should beat. Washington is at the top of that list. The Braves are only 59-58 all-time against the Nationals, including 4-4 this season after Saturday’s 5-2 loss.

Since the franchise relocated from Montreal in 2005, the Nats’ overall record is only 459-606 (.431).  But in the season series against the Braves, they’ve gone 9-10, 8-10, 7-11, 12-6, 8-10, 10-8 and 4-4.

“We have to take advantage of nights like last night,” Jones said in the clubhouse before …

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