NFC South: Glenn Dorsey
|Kevin Terrell/Getty Images|
|With the calm presence of Matt Ryan behind center, it's easy for Falcons fans and ownership to forget about Mike Vick.|
I don't have one of those fancy digital tape recorders that times things, but I just listened to Ryan's answer again and the clock in my head says it's right around 15 seconds, definitely less than 20.
Ryan uttered something about Vick being a good football player and wished him well in his quest to the NFL.
That was all. End of topic. This all came on the first day of the Atlanta Falcons' minicamp less than two weeks ago. Funny, but it might have taken Ryan even less time to answer the question last season.
In the time it took for Ryan's first NFL pass to go for a touchdown, the Falcons started putting Vick behind them forever. It's an amazing recovery, really, when you consider how quickly it's unfolded.
When Vick was first implicated for his involvement in dog fighting in 2007, it brought a franchise down. When Vick went to jail a few months later and coach Bobby Petrino quit late in his first season, it seemed like it would take the Falcons a decade or so to recover from the fiascos.
|AP Photo/Steve Helber|
|With a new quarterback in place, the Falcons won't have to worry about bringing back Michael Vick if he is reinstated by the comissioner.|
That's largely because the Falcons, and their fans, aren't talking about Vick. That's because they've moved so far, so fast beyond the guy that used to be the face of their franchise.
Give credit to general manager Thomas Dimitroff for quickly building a capable roster. Give credit to coach Mike Smith for instantly changing the culture of the team. Give credit to owner Arthur Blank for learning from mistakes.
But you want to know the real story behind Atlanta's turnaround? The Falcons got lucky. They hit the jackpot when they used the third overall pick to draft Ryan last year.
Yeah, there were people throughout the league who thought the Boston College quarterback had the potential to be good. But this kid's not just good. He's special, in many ways, and he was right from the start.
People talk a lot about the "it'' factor with quarterbacks, but nobody's ever real clear on what "it'' means -- until you see Ryan.
The guy's as smooth as a 50-year-old corporate lawyer and he's walking around in the body of a quarterback who turned 24 on Sunday. Take this scene from the scouting combine a couple months before Ryan was drafted.
I was standing around him in a group interview and he was getting hit with questions about possibly stepping into Vick's old job in Atlanta. At the end of the interview, a reporter I know, who has a great sense of humor but not always the tact to go with it, asked Ryan if he "had any pit bulls."
Ryan didn't laugh out loud, but he got the joke. With just a slight glimmer in his eye, he said "no."
Or take the night before the 2008 draft when all the top prospects were gathered in New York. At the time, the Falcons were leaning toward selecting Ryan, but LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey still was a possibility.
Dimitroff, doing his homework right up until the end, called a Falcons employee in New York who was attending a function with the draft picks. Dimitroff said something like, "Who's the calmest guy in the room?'' The team employee quickly said it was Ryan and nobody else was even close.
That wasn't the deciding factor, but it was further proof that Ryan was what the Falcons were looking for. They already knew he had the tools to be a good quarterback, but they were looking for more than that.
They'd been through hell with Vick, although his talents were enormous. But Atlanta needed a quarterback who would do and say all the right things all the time.
They got all that and they got a quarterback who, by the middle of his rookie season, was looking an awful lot like Peyton Manning running the no-huddle offense.
The Falcons have distanced themselves from Vick as completely as they can. Blank has said he'll try to help get Vick back into the league, but made it clear it won't be with the Falcons. Dimitroff has come out and let it be known that the Falcons gladly would trade Vick's rights before he's even been reinstated by commissioner Roger Goodell.
Teams aren't lining up to trade for Vick and there's a very good chance the Falcons simply will release him if he is reinstated.
Would the Falcons have welcomed Vick back if they hadn't landed Ryan or he hadn't been so good? Who knows? It's moot.
Maybe the Falcons would have taken Vick back and told the world they would give the quarterback a chance to learn from his mistakes and earn redemption.
But there's no need to bother with all that when, in the meantime, you find another quarterback who doesn't have to learn from his mistakes -- because he doesn't make any.
Forget all those rumors about the Falcons making a trade with the Chiefs for Glenn Dorsey. Atlanta got the defensive tackle it wanted all along.
The Falcons stayed at No. 24 and selected Mississippi's Peria Jerry and -- at least in the short term -- they might be the winners of this draft for the NFC South. The Saints and Bucs both could have used Peria.
They both passed. The Saints took defensive back Malcolm Jenkins and the Bucs took quarterback Josh Freeman. Both of those guys fill needs for those teams. But neither is guaranteed to be a starter on opening day.
Jenkins might end up starting from day one and, at the very least, he'll be a contributor from the start. Freeman may or may not open the season as a starter.
There's no doubt Jerry will be starting next to Jonathan Babineaux on opening day. There's almost no doubt Peria would have started for the Saints or Bucs right away.
We'll grade this draft in a few years. But, as of right now, the Falcons are the only NFC South with an absolute certain immediate starter.
Here's the plan for the day:
I'm scheduled to help ESPNEWS with its "On the Clock'' series for the NFC South in the 11 a.m. hour. I'm scheduled to give an overview on the Panthers at 11. We'll talk Falcons at 11:15, Bucs at 11:30 and Saints at 11:45.
That will be done over the phone from home and I'll be monitoring any potential developments throughout the day. I'll be working out of One Buc Place during the draft. My plan is to get out there around 3:30 p.m. and work there through the end of the second round tonight. I'll be back at One Buc Place on Sunday.
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
Just a quick mailbag to address some of the notes that are coming in rapidly on the eve of the draft.
William in Atlanta writes: Have you heard anything about a trade sending Glenn Dorsey from Kansas City to Atlanta?
Pat Yasinskas: Lots of Atlanta fans are asking this. Nothing to report on this at the moment. I know the rumors are out there. Dorsey was drafted fifth overall last year, but may no longer fit in Kansas City's defensive scheme. I know the Falcons liked him a lot last year and considered drafting him instead of quarterback Matt Ryan. It would be pretty amazing if they could bring in Dorsey now. I think the challenge here could be the price tag -- both in trade compensation and in terms of the salary cap. You have to think the Chiefs would want something like a top 10 pick for Dorsey. The Falcons don't have that to offer. If they could get him for the No. 24 pick, you'd have to view that as a steal. But the other issue would be taking on Dorsey's contract. They'd have to pay top five money to Dorsey and Ryan. Stay tuned. A lot of things can happen between now and Saturday evening. Scott Pioli and Thomas Dimitroff worked together for the Patriots and they put together the Tony Gonzalez deal on Thursday. I'm sure they know how to reach one another.
Jon in Rock Hill, SC writes: Just a question that keeps repeating casually in mind. Peppers wants out of Carolina... bad! Anquan Boldin wants out of Arizona! Any rumbles? Any chance Peppers would take the trade to leave, even though it would mean not going to an ideal team right away?
Pat Yasinskas: Anything is possible as the draft gets closer and I still say the Peppers situation isn't over even though the Panthers are doing their best to clear the way for him staying. But I don't see the Boldin scenario. Carolina's already got a No. 1 receiver in Steve Smith and I don't see them trading for another guy who wants to be paid like a No. 1 receiver. If the Panthers give up Peppers for anything, I think it will be for draft picks, including one in the first round.
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
NEW ORLEANS -- A quick trip around the division before I head over to the Superdome for the game between the Vikings and Saints.
This should come as no surprise: coach Jon Gruden doesn't know who his starting quarterback will be Sunday against Carolina. Part of that is due to the health of Brian Griese, who injured his elbow and shoulder at Denver. Part of it is because Griese has had some problems with interceptions and former Jeff Garcia appears to be healthy again and out of Gruden's dog house. My money's on Garcia getting the start against the Panthers.
In his press conference Monday, coach John Fox said what he usually says (not very much) in his Monday press conferences. But he did sing the praises of tackle Frank Omiyale, who got his first NFL start in place of the injured Jordan Gross.
Jeff Shultz details how calm quarterback Matt Ryan was during his first game at Lambeau Field. Five weeks into, I think you can go ahead and say the Falcons made the right call in drafting Ryan over defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey.