Up from the depths
For some Falcons, the trip to Miami was a long, hard one
Posted: Thursday January 28, 1999 09:51 AM
MIAMI (CNN/SI) -- How far they've come, these Atlanta Falcons. What depths they hit.
Who would ever thought they'd make it this far?
"When you play 10, 11 years in the NFL and you never have a chance to be successful, you ask yourself, 'Will I ever have that chance?'" said linebacker Jessie Tuggle, in his 12th year with the Falcons and in his first Super Bowl. "Sometimes, you have to pay the price. And when you pay the price, it's always sweeter."
Tuggle has become the poster child of sentimentality in this Super Bowl, and with good reason. No one on the Falcons has put in more time and effort than he has, and now he's finally rewarded as the team makes its first trip to the Super Bowl in the franchise's 33-year history. His lowest point came, he said, in the 1996 season, when the Falcons went 3-13 after making the playoffs the season before.
But there are others who have put in time, effort and money and stuck with the Falcons, too -- even when they didn't want to.
Defensive end Chuck Smith, in his seventh year with the team, even told his agent to get him the heck out of Atlanta at one time.
"Yeah, man, I can't lie," he said, recalling the conversation. "I was young. I kind of jumped the gun. It was my second year in the league, and things just weren't going right."
Luckily for Smith, former general manager Ken Herock outright refused to listen to any talks of trade. And, later, when coaches wanted to cut Smith after a nasty episode in 1996 that got him suspended for a game, Herock stepped in again.
Smith was suspended for his comments after a game against the Rams in which the Falcons gave up more than 600 yards, a moment he calls the low point of his career.
"I said 'Until we become defensive-minded, we'll always be losers,'" he said. "And you know what? In Atlanta, I thought they were going to throw me a parade. I really believe that. And that's what we have now."
Even Jamal Anderson, the Pro Bowl running back in his fifth season with the team, has taken his lumps from a franchise that used to be pass-happy with the "run-and-shoot" offense.
Of his lowest point as a Falcon:
"I can't lie to you. It was Draft Day," Anderson said. "People asked me why I was crying on Draft Day, and it was like 'Because the Atlanta Falcons drafted me.'"
How far they've come.
Today's Obscure Statistic : According to the Associated Press, 80 percent of those people holding Super Bowl tickets are in executive, management, professional or sales positions. Some 27 percent own their own companies. About 25 percent are corporate officers, and 22 percent are members of somebody's board of directors. The AP didn't break it down, but we figure that makes about 2 percent of Super Bowl ticket holders who actually know anything about the game.
A Sign the Super Bowl is Getting Out of Hand : KMGH-TV in Denver was using Broncos defensive end Alfred Williams as a roving reporter the other day. Now it's not only ex-jocks who are broadcasters. It's current jocks playing in the game that week, too.
Quote of the Day : "It's all fun again. Everything is different. The sun comes up when you want it to. The milk is fresh and cold. Your cereal tastes better. The gas is always in the car. I don't remember filling up my gas tank all year. My shoes never get dirty now. I've been wearing the same pair of white shoes all year, and they haven't gotten dirty yet. That's what happens when you win. You can wear the same pair of drawers all week and you'll never smell." -- offensive tackle Bob Whitfield.
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