Friday, September 27, 2013
Highlighting Pats-Falcons connections
By Field Yates
Each week, we’ll use this space to pass along players, coaches and executives from the Patriots’ upcoming opponent who have a tie to the team or other unique ties to the area and organization.
Below are current members of the Falcons organization with a New England tie:
Players Cornerback Asante Samuel. Now on his third team, the veteran cornerback was a pivotal member of the Patriots secondary during their run to consecutive Super Bowl wins from 2003-2004. Known as one of the most reactive cornerbacks in the NFL during his career, Samuel still has a nose for the football, as he managed five picks for the Falcons last season.
Personnel staff General manager Thomas Dimitroff. The shot-caller in Atlanta has made a rather seamless transition from his role as the Patriots director of college scouting into his new title in Atlanta, taking over in 2008 and helping to quickly turn one of the league’s struggling franchises into a consistent playoff contender. Dimitroff has done so through quality drafting, sensible free-agent signings and bold trades, led by the decision to package multiple picks to move up in the draft and select star wide receiver Julio Jones.
Director of player personnel Lionel Vital. 2013 marks Vital’s first season as the director of player personnel for Atlanta after previously working as the assistant director to David Caldwell, now the Jaguars GM. Vital was the assistant director of college scouting for the Patriots from 2001-2004 after working as a national scout in 2000. He entered the NFL ranks in 1991 with the Browns where he was hired by Bill Belichick to the personnel staff.
Other connections Offensive line coach Pat Hill. Now in his second season in charge of the Falcons offensive line, Hill is a respected assistant around the league who also has a close relationship with Belichick. He served as the offensive line and tight ends coach for Belichick from 1992-1995 with the Browns and has maintained a strong relationship since that time. Two of Hill’s players from Fresno State, where he was the head coach from 1997-2011, are stalwarts along the Patriots offensive line: Logan Mankins and Ryan Wendell.