Falcons brave winter storm to practice for Packers
By: By Charles Odum, AP Sports Writer, Superior Telegram
ATLANTA — A winter storm that closed schools, government buildings and businesses in the Atlanta area couldn't stop the Atlanta Falcons from their first chance to prepare for the Green Bay Packers.
The storm dropped several inches of snow and ice Sunday night and Monday, shutting down much of north Georgia. It was a snow day for schools, but the Falcons had no time for a day off. They face Green Bay in a divisional-round playoff game Saturday night.
It was time to get going on the game-week schedule.
"Today, some people could have taken the day off and not showed up," said wide receiver Roddy White. "But our team is focused and ready to go. ... I'm just happy we could get everybody in and on the same page."
Coach Mike Smith said good teamwork made the practice possible. Players carpooled in vehicles best equipped for the conditions, and at least one player was rescued by a teammate as most of them made it to Monday's practice at the team's indoor facility in Flowery Branch.
"Our guys did a great job of carpooling and picking each other up," Smith said. "We had all but two. We actually tried to get two of them picked up but the roads were closed. They weren't letting anyone in."
Smith wouldn't identify the two missing players. But it was defensive end Kroy Biermann who used his truck to pull John Abraham's car out of the ditch on the way to the team's indoor facility north of Atlanta.
"They just laughed and joked about it," White said. "Biermann has one of the biggest trucks on the team, so he can get anybody out of the ditch."
Abraham posted a photo of the rescue on Twitter and wrote "to the rescue lol teamwork."
The Falcons have apartments on their practice facility property that players use in training camp. Smith said he did not believe it was necessary for them to use the apartments Monday night as a safeguard against more dangerous travel on Tuesday.
"The guys are going home," Smith said. "We're banking on it clearing up. The weathermen say it's going to move out. I think guys will make sure they carpool in with guys who have vehicles that are better suited for this type of weather."
The game Saturday night at the Georgia Dome will be a rematch of Atlanta's 20-17 win over the Packers in Atlanta on Nov. 28.
Matt Ryan competed a career-best 86 percent of his passes — 24 of 28 — for 198 yards and a touchdown against the Packers. Michael Turner had 110 yards rushing and a touchdown. The Falcons won on Matt Bryant's 47-yard field goal with 9 seconds remaining.
White said Turner is the key for Atlanta.
"If we can get the run game going, it can make it a whole lot easier," White said.
The Falcons are the No. 1 seed in the NFC for the first time since 1980, and were off last week as they watched Seattle beat New Orleans and Green Bay beat Philadelphia.
Smith said he was impressed as he watched Packers rookie James Starks run for 123 yards in the 21-16 win over Michael Vick and the Eagles.
"That's the thing I think will make them even more dangerous," Smith said. "With the way they're running the football, they have a chance to be even more multidimensional.
"They ran the ball probably as effectively as they've run it all season."