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Football still plays on Jordan's mind

Former Falcons safety returns to Atlanta, but in Braves uniform.

By BOB PUTNAM

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 7, 1999


ORLANDO -- It was Jan. 30 and Brian Jordan was glued to the television set at home in Atlanta. The Falcons, the team he played with for three seasons, were in the Super Bowl. And while Jordan watched, he couldn't help but envision being on the field at Pro Player Stadium hunting down some unsuspecting receiver or running back and putting a hit on him.

"I miss the game," Jordan said. "I get that itch every once in a while to see what it's still like. I was hoping (Falcons coach) Dan Reeves would give me a call."

But as Jordan reminisced, his new Atlanta teammates -- the Braves -- quickly ended his thoughts of re-emerging as a two-sport star.

"Dan Reeves ain't gonna call you," the chorus bellowed from the Braves' spring training clubhouse in Orlando. "'Cause you can't do the Dirty Bird."

Fact is, Jordan, 31, knows his football days are over. But as he returns to the city where he once made headlines playing strong safety, he also knows football never will really leave him.

So these days, instead of crashing into ballcarriers, Jordan crashes into immovable objects such as outfield walls. Instead of diving to the turf for interceptions, he dives to take away doubles and triples.

"I play with a no-holds-barred, aggressive attitude," Jordan said. "It's a football mentality out there. I sacrifice my body. It's excitement. That's what I bring."

The Braves knew that when they signed him this winter. Jordan brought some pop to the lineup.

"Everyone talks about Brian and having a football attitude," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "I don't know about that. I just think he's a good player who plays hard. He can hit .300, steal bases and is an RBI guy. I've always liked his at-bats. He's hard to strike out and he has that knack to bring the runner in."

Batting in front of Mark McGwire last season, Jordan hit .316 and had 25 home runs, 17 stolen bases and 91 RBI with the Cardinals. He signed with the Braves mostly to be close to his family but also to be with a contender.

"I live in Atlanta and my kids go to school there, so it was a perfect fit," Jordan said. "It's a chance to be with them. They know that Daddy will be home. And I'm excited to come to a winning organization."

There were risks when the Braves rewarded Jordan a new contract. The aches and pains had taken their toll and Jordan had physical ailments in past seasons. But Jordan seemed to shake the major injury problems that haunted him, and he played in a career-high 150 games last season.

He credits his revival with a strong workout program implemented by track and field guru Bobby Kersee. Jordan spent the majority of last season training in Orlando and ran a 4.4, down from the 4.6 he ran when he was a Falcon.

Jordan continued the regimen this past off-season. He worked out four days a week with Kersee and Gail Devers at Emory University in Atlanta.

"I feel really good," Jordan said. "I stepped it up with the workouts. I now know how to keep my body in shape and I've been dedicating my time to stay fit."

Playing with reckless abandon, Jordan put on a Jordanesque performance last season. He'll continue to play the same way. But his efforts won't go beyond the diamond.

"I'm done and gone with football," Jordan said. "I'm sticking with baseball and I'm ready to play."

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