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Falcons Notebook

By DARRELL FRY, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 6, 2002

Team feels it's headed in right direction

Team feels it's headed in right direction

The Falcons concede there are lots of question marks about their team. Like is quarterback Michael Vick ready to lead the team? And will Warrick Dunn become the every-down back they think he can be?

Still, the Falcons think they are headed in the right direction, especially after owner Arthur Blank bought the team in February and injected a winning attitude.

"I can tell you personally that I will not rest until I have an opportunity to wear a Super Bowl ring on behalf of everybody in Atlanta and everybody in the state of Georgia," Blank said. "That is an important goal of mine. I can tell you that I will not rest until that takes place."

Vick, the Falcons believe, is going to be a star in this league, whether it's this year or next. And the team, which has foundered since its Super Bowl appearance during the "Dirty Bird" era in 1998, is one of the teams to watch this season.

"I told the players I think there are a lot of good football players in the room. There are a lot of people with the right kind of attitude," coach Dan Reeves said. "I think it's a great time to be an Atlanta Falcons fan, an Atlanta Falcons football player, or to be part of the Atlanta Falcons organization because I think everything is on the way up. It's just going to get better."

SO HARD TO LET GO: Dunn is very much with the Falcons now. He loves the city. He has bonded with the team. And he is developing ties to his new community.

But make no mistake, the Tampa Bay area will always be a part of him.

Since turning down offers to stay with the Bucs this offseason, Dunn has kept ties to the area. He still has a home and several close friends in Tampa. In fact, he said he still might spend his offseasons here.

"I haven't given up on Tampa yet. There are probably some people who'll say they ran me out of town, but I'm going to miss Tampa," he said. "You know, I've been a Floridian for nine years (four at Florida State and five with the Bucs), so this is a little bit of a change. But change is good sometimes. I've built a lot of friendships (in Tampa), and I just can't all of a sudden let them go because I've moved. I'll be back. I'll definitely be back."

JUST FOR LAUGHS: To say that linebackers Sam Rogers and Will Overstreet are playing their natural positions is an understatement. You see, Rogers plays the "Sam," or strongside, linebacker position and Overstreet plays the "Will," or weakside, position.

The "Mike" linebacker position, in the middle, however, is played by Keith Brooking, who apparently has no plans to change his name.

BRING IT ON: It remains to be seen how ready Vick is to be the starter, but the Falcons love his attitude. Vick knows all eyes will be focused on him this season and he isn't running from the challenge. Instead, he's embracing it with both arms.

He talks like a veteran instead of a second-year player. He clearly understands his role and responsibilities, and knows that the team's success will largely depend on him.

"I've got to go out and set the tone now. This is my football team now and I've got to go in and set the tone and tell the guys to move the football and show them what we're capable of doing, like being productive and keeping the defense off the field," Vick said. "And it starts with me. I'm the leader, the general and the captain of the ship. That's the way I look at it."

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