Falcons Hope to End Season Positively

Draft pick be damned. Falcons players and coaches, who are fully aware that they might not be with the team next season, are playing Sunday's regular season finale against Seattle to win, they said.

They will be aggressive on offense and defense and they will play frontline players as much as possible -- even if the Seahawks rest their starters. "We are playing to win," interim coach Emmitt Thomas said.

If the Falcons win, they will improve to 4-12 and avoid the franchise's worst record since 1996. With a loss, Atlanta would drop to 3-13, tie the mark of June Jones' 1996 team and be in line for the No. 2 overall pick in the 2008 draft.

While that may be a salve to fans who have suffered as much as players and coaches, the future of all who are employed by Arthur Blank is uncertain. Someone other than general manager Rich McKay will be deciding how that pick is used and someone other than Thomas will be coaching the team.

Team owner Arthur Blank will hire the next general manager and after taking two quick swings at Bill Cowher and Bill Parcells, he's pumped his brakes and appears to be on track to take his time with the process. Immediately after games end Sunday, Blank could begin calling teams to seek permission to speak with potential candidates. The new football chief will choose the coach and other football personnel.

Cornerback DeAngelo Hall said he couldn't control what Blank would do. He just does not want to be part of a team that has just three victories. Several of his teammates echoed the sentiment.

Thomas said that players and coaches would need to use this finale against Seattle to show the new football operations group and coaches how professional they are.

"They're writing a little mini-resume now," Thomas said.


--The Falcons game with Seattle will be blacked out locally after it failed to sell out before the NFL's 1 p.m. Thursday deadline. This is the second time this season that Atlanta failed to sell out the 70,000-seat Georgia Dome. The Falcons' Nov. 4 game against San Francisco was the first game since Dec. 23, 2001, that had not been sold out.

--With former DE Patrick Kerney, now with Seattle, making his first visit back to the Georgia Dome since he signed a six-year, $39.5 million free-agent deal with the Seahawks, Falcons players and coaches lamented his absence.

"We miss him," Thomas said. "He's had a hell of a year he's going to the Pro Bowl. Kerney is one of those guys when you looked at him you say, 'Where is he getting it from?' It was deep in his heart. He was a compassionate player, a tough player. I'm happy for him. I wish he was here."

--Rookie CB David Irons suffered a hamstring injury that could keep him out of action against Seattle. Irons has played little on defense, but he is Atlanta's top special teams player. He leads the Falcons with 13 special teams tackles.

--DB Antoine Harris is expected to return and play in nickel sets after missing the past three games with a strained knee.

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