Opening Kickoff, Glanville-Style
In a team meeting at the Falcons' practice facility, coach Jerry Glanville is preaching. That's what it sounds like, anyway. "The good Lord gave you ability!" he yells. "The good Lord gave you intelligence! But the good Lord didn't give you courage! To be on the Atlanta Falcons' kickoff team, you gotta manufacture courage!"
Safety Tracey Eaton, a key wedge-breaker on the kickoff-coverage unit, soaks it in, because he believes so strongly in what Glanville's saying. "It is kind of a church revival atmosphere," Eaton says. "Jerry's the brain. Jerry's the head. We're the body."
Later, at practice, Glanville oversees the kickoff-coverage team as it runs through its paces. In shorts and T-shirts, these guys crash into each other at about three-quarter speed. "Attack block! Attack block!" Glanville yells. "Hit the wedge!...Knock somebody out!...This is us! This is what we're all about!" A beefy linebacker goes flying over a couple of blockers. Turning to an assistant coach, Glanville says, "I love it when they knock each other out."
Does this sound like Apocalypse Now, or what?
There's one more thing. Before each game, Glanville holds a helmet from the opposing team high in the air on the sideline, and Falcon special team players have to crowd around and slap it before taking the field for the opening kickoff.
The Falcons held opposing kick returners to the third-lowest average (16.6 yards) in the league last season. After two games in '91, they haven't had an opportunity to show their stuff—five of Atlanta's six kickoffs have not been returned. "I always hope we lose the toss, so we can kick off," says Glanville. "There's not one single play in the game that can set a tone for the game like that one."