Archive for December, 2011

Braves’ reportedly offered Jurrjens, Prado for Orioles’ Jones

Jair Jurrjens had a 1.87 ERA in the first half last season before injuries. (Hyosub Shin/AJC)

Braves pitcher Jair Jurrjens had a 1.87 ERA in the first half last year before injuries ended his season again. (Hyosub Shin/AJC)

(UPDATED: 2 p.m.)

The Braves have made it clear — by their lack of denial, as well as logic and circumstances — that they are open to trading pitcher Jair Jurrjens and outfielder-infielder Martin Prado. But are/were they really willing to trade both . . . for one player?

According to the Baltimore Sun, the Braves offered Jurrjens, Prado and a prospect to the Orioles for center fielder Adam Jones, but Baltimore declined the proposal.

Jones is good — a .280 hitter

Adam Jones batted .280 with 25 homers last season for Baltimore.

Adam Jones batted .280 with 25 homers last season for Baltimore.

and Gold Glove winner who is still young (26) and not yet making outrageous money ($3.25 million last season). He also hit a career-high 25 homers last season. But the reported offer of both a front-line pitcher and a versatile starting position player — plus a prospect — seems like a lot.

For what it’s worth, the Braves don’t …

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Ray Edwards finally coming around for Falcons

Ray Edwards had this sack of Cam Newton two weeks ago but has only 3.5 this season. (AP photo)

Ray Edwards had this sack of Cam Newton two weeks ago but has only 3.5 this season. (AP photo)

FLOWERY BRANCH – The first time Ray Edwards made big news as a Falcon came when the team announced he would not play in the team’s first exhibition game because of what coach Mike Smith somewhat comically referred to as “a minor procedure.”

That “minor procedure” turned out to be slightly worse than an ear-wax removal. It was knee surgery – disclosed to the public two weeks after the Falcons’ signed him as a free agent. The injury limited Edwards in offseason workouts. It kept him sidelined for the first two preseason games. Most importantly, it generally rendered him as a nothing-special player in a season when he was supposed to be a something-special difference-maker for a team trying to win a playoff game.

“Yeah, it bothered me, because I know how hard I train and how hard I play, and I was not getting the numbers I wanted to get,” Edwards said Tuesday.

We can …

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Poll time: Who’s your preference as Falcons’ opponent?

Tony Romo and Matt Ryan could be headed for a playoff match-up. (AP photo)

Tony Romo and Matt Ryan could be headed for a playoff match-up. (AP photo)

A year ago, with two games left in the season, we asked a simple question: Which team would you rather see the Falcons face in their first game of the NFL playoffs – Green Bay or New Orleans? About 1,500 votes later, the Packers were a landslide pick by a two-to-one margin.

Oops.

So here we are again. The Falcons will not be the NFC’s No. 1 seed this year. Assuming they make the playoffs, they probably will be the No. 5 seed (wild card team with the best record). That would match them against the No. 4 seed (division winner with the fourth-best record), which will be the East Division champion.

Here are the current playoff standings in the NFC:

1. Green Bay (13-1, North). Bye.

2. New Orleans (11-3, South). Bye.

3.  San Francisco (10-3, West).

4. Dallas (8-6, East).

5. Atlanta (9-5, wildcard-1).

6. Detroit (9-5, wildcard-2).

Currently out: Seattle (7-7, wild card), Chicago (7-7, wild card), N.Y. …

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Falcons still have chance to hit their stride at right time

Could Sean Weatherspoon and the Falcons be flying high going into the playoffs? (Jason Getz/AJC)

Could Sean Weatherspoon and Falcons be flying high going into playoffs? (Jason Getz/AJC)

At this point of the season a year ago, the Falcons had won eight straight games, were 12-2 and tied with New England for the NFL’s best record, had beaten New Orleans, Baltimore and Green Bay and generally looked like anything but a team that could lose its first playoff game by 27 points — which, of course, they did.

There’s an obvious byproduct to having a season suddenly going down like Pompeii. People stop assuming what comes next.

Which brings us to the 2011 Falcons. More people probably project them as a first-round playoff exit than a Super Bowl contender. But maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Athletes feed off external doubt, and the “Green Bay did it, so can we” thing is slowly evolving into this group’s rallying cry. (The Packers entered the playoffs last year as a NFC’s sixth seed and proceeded to obliterate all in their path, beginning with the Falcons.)

“All of …

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Harvey Updyke goes fundraising on Facebook (seriously)

These T-shirts will soon be available (what a stocking stuffer!).

These T-shirts make a great stocking stuffer!.

Every once in a while there’s a story that you just wish would go away, except that something insanely stupid but funny keeps happening, and you think, “OK, let’s keep this around for entertainment value.”

I give you: Harvey Updyke.

We have seen stories of Updyke being on the run after the Auburn tree poisoning and living in his car. We have seen Updyke go on (and off) Twitter (and I got a personal confirmation from his son, Bear!). And, of course, we’ve seen Updyke keep going back on radio and TV to somewhat state his case, against the advice of his attorney, Glennon

This is from Updyke's new Facebook page.

This is from Updyke's new Facebook page.

Threatt, to the point that Threatt, quit.

Now this: Harvey Updyke is fundraising on Facebook.

There’s a new “Roll Damn Tide” Facebook page which is not to be confused with the “Free Harvey Updyke” Facebook page – that reportedly has been set up by his daughter to raise money for Updyke’s legal expenses.

It seems that since

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Mike Smith’s health is story again, whether he likes it or not (UPDATED)

Mike Smith may undergo more tests, accoring to report. (AP photo)

Mike Smith may undergo more tests, accoring to report. (AP photo)

(UPDATED: 10:30 a.m.)

Mike Smith hates being the story.

There have been several times when I’ve spoken to him about how well the Falcons were playing, and he would respond, “This story is about the players.” Last week when we sat for a 30-minute chat about the team’s seeming lack of focus this season and how he was dealing with it, he asked just before I walked out of his office, “You’re not writing this column about me, are you?”

But it’s game night tonight against Jacksonville and Mike Smith is the story. Last Sunday night, he was taken off the team’s plane at a Charlotte airport because of chest pains (which he and team officials have since tried to play down). Now there is a report from former AJC comrade Len Pasquarelli of The Sports Xchange that Smith, after suffering from “persistent chest-related discomfort,” likely will undergo precautionary tests as early as Friday.

UPDATE: The Falcons have confirmed …

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Does Malzahn to Arkansas State mean Auburn imploding?

Gus Malzahn's departure to Arkansas State has led to speculation of a rift with Gene Chizik. (AP photo)

Gus Malzahn's departure to Arkansas State feeds speculation of rift with Gene Chizik. (AP photo)

Is the party over at Auburn?

The Tigers’ drop from unbeaten BCS champions to 7-5 (4-4 in the SEC) this season wasn’t a great surprise, given the loss of Cam Newton. The recent departure of defensive coordinator Ted Roof to Central Florida for the same job was a little surprising. But with Gus Malzahn’s reported decision to leave his $1.3 million job as Auburn’s offensive coordinator to become head coach of a Sun Belt Conference team, Arkansas State, for $850,000, you have to begin to wonder what’s going on down on The Plains.

Here’s the non-conspiratorial explanation of Malzahn’s decision: After turning down the Vanderbilt head coaching job last season, he realized his stock had dropped this season. He was desperate to get a head coaching position, thought he had the Kansas job locked up until Charlie Weis sold himself to the Jayhawks and suddenly was ready to take almost …

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Can this really be a new Josh Smith for Hawks?

Josh Smith has dropped 25 pounds and is down to 225, the lightest since he was drafted. (AP photo)

Josh Smith shed 25 pounds and is down to 225, the lightest he has been since being drafted.

When the playoffs ended last season, Josh Smith was ready to say goodbye to Atlanta. The excitement he felt by the Hawks’ postseason success (beating Orlando, throwing a scare into Chicago) was tempered by the anger of once again being the lightning rod for criticism, seemingly every time something went wrong.

The extreme ups and downs of his career with the Hawks had worn on him, just as it had worn on so many who watched him. As Smith put it, “When you’ve been in one place for a while, it crosses your mind: Maybe I want to get lost. Punch the GPS a few times.

“I’ve been here a long time. I’ve never lashed out at the organization. All I ask for sometimes is, when I raise my hand, maybe somebody can help me up, so I’m not always the person who’s trying to [defend me from criticism]. It would be nice if somebody else said, ‘This guy’s a pretty good player.’”

Smith …

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Falcons can only hope second-half turnaround is good sign

Roddy White jumps into the arms of Julio Jones after Jones' 17-yard touchdown gave the Falcons a lead over Carolina. (AP photo)

Roddy White jumps into the arms of Julio Jones after Jones' 17-yard touchdown gave the Falcons a lead over Carolina. (AP photo)

CHARLOTTE – Confused? You’ve got company.

After three hours of witnessing a spinning compass Sunday, even Falcons players weren’t about to make any grand declarations about the next few weeks of the NFL season.

“It’s a win,” Todd McClure said later. “I don’t know what else to say.”

Welcome to Team Whiffleball.

Fortunately, style points don’t matter in the NFL, otherwise the Falcons would be off to the Music City Bowl. For one half against Carolina, they played as poorly as they have in four years under coach Mike Smith and trailed 23-7. They followed that up with one half of relative domination, scoring 24 unanswered points, winning 31-23.

Tight end Tony Gonzalez’ neat summary of the turnaround: “We jus said, ‘It’s amnesia time.’”

Which is probably what Sybil said during transitions.

A flop-flip is at least better than a …

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LIVE: Falcons try to get back on track (again) at Carolina

Can a Panther be that tough with a wreath around his neck?

Can a Panther be that tough with a wreath around his neck?

CHARLOTTE — Good morning. I wrote this blog while listening to Darryl Ledbetter defend his University of Cincinnati goons. Don’t be fooled by the bow tie.

Drove up to Charlotte last night and stayed in a hotel that turned out to be the Carolina Panthers team hotel. Discovered that this morning when I was on the elevator with one of the players. Didn’t recognize him, but I know it wasn’t Cam Newton. And no, I didn’t trip him.

It’s cold here. My car temperature gauge said 38 degrees. So maybe the weather will wake up the Falcons. Wrote a column in today’s AJC with coach Mike Smith, whom I spent about 30 minutes with the other day. He acknowledged the Falcons’ inconsistencies and conceded that his players’ focus isn’t where it needs to be.

At 7-5, the Falcons are still in a good position to make the playoffs. (They’re currently the sixth seed in the NFC and would play at New Orleans if the playoffs started today.) But …

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