Falcons say no to Bengals’ ‘Hard Knocks’ mics during preseason opener tonight

Official NFL team logos; 1 col.; 46.5 mm

Official NFL team logos; 1 col.; 46.5 mm

ATLANTA — The Falcons, who have turned down opportunities to be on HBO’s “Hard Knocks” show in the past, will not have any players wearing microphones when the network films the Cincinnati Bengals during both teams’ preseason opener tonight in the Georgia Dome.

“We’ve talked about the sanctity of certain things that are run,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said on Sunday. “I know that we’ve had that conversation. I don’t think there will be anything out there that wouldn’t be shown any other week. This show is about the Cincinnati Bengals and they are here this week to play and work against us.”

Some of the Falcons’ business and marketing executives would like to be on the show. Falcons owner Arthur Blank has talked about building a national following for the franchise and being on the show would rise the team’s profile nationally.

Falcons buy downtown church, pave way for new stadium

ATLANTA — City officials have reached a $19.5 million deal on behalf of the Atlanta Falcons to buy Friendship Baptist Church, one of two churches key to the new Falcons stadium being built on the preferred “south site,” Mayor Kasim Reed said.

The church must ratify the agreement with its congregation, said Reed, who then called upon the Georgia World Congress Center to re-open talks with Mt. Vernon Baptist Church. His announcement comes days after the GWCCA said it walked away from negotiations with Mt. Vernon after the church rejected a $6.2 million offer. Documents later revealed the state and church were $14 million apart in asking price.

“I think I’ve done enough in this process to ask that they try harder. Because that’s what folks ask me to do, right?” he said.

Mt. Vernon is arguably the more crucial piece to the south site location as it sits on the proposed property. Reed has long been a proponent of the south location off Northside and Martin Luther King drives due to its proximity to two MARTA stations.

Reed did not say whether the city has identified private funds, such as additional dollars from Falcons owner Arthur Blank, that could help secure Mt. Vernon. But he said he’s asked former mayor Ambassador Andrew Young to mediate talks between the church and state officials should they resume.

A spirited Reed also said he has long been a supporter of a new stadium, despite public sentiment and has suffered political consequences for it, noting he’s “taken as many scars and hits and bruises as anybody in this stadium process.”

He said the Falcons should support his efforts for the stadium to be built on the south location but stopped short of calling them to fund any portion of the Mt. Vernon deal.

“For two years my commitment to the Falcons organization has been unwavering,” he said. “I believe in mutual respect.”

The mayor suggested the city has leverage in securing the south site, noting the $30 million stadium community benefits plan must be reached and approved by himself and the Atlanta City Council before any bonds will be issued for stadium construction.

The Atlanta Falcons quickly issued a statement applauding the deal the mayor struck on their behalf.

“We commend the mayor, city officials and the congregation of Friendship Baptist Church for all of their hard work in reaching a tentative agreement for the acquisition of the church property,” read the statement. “This is certainly a positive development for the south site; however, other significant issues and requirements remain unresolved on that site.”

But some of the football operations folks did not wish to grant the access to HBO that’s required to film the award-winning documentary. The way players are cut is normally some of the most riveting scenes.

“We do so much no-huddle and things like that and they do so much broadcasting and miking people up that I don’t think that’s good for us,” wide receiver Roddy White said. “I don’t want everybody to know the plays that we are running and how things are coming a long. We can stay away from Hard Knocks.”

Smith has been on the show twice while he was an assistant with Baltimore and Jacksonville.

EX-UGA STAR GREEN OUT FOR OPENER: Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green will not play in the team’s exhibition opener because of a bruised left knee.

The team is being cautious with Green, who has not practiced since July 25. Green will not make the trip to Atlanta, according to the Bengals website.

The Bengals flew to Atlanta a few days before the game to practice with the Falcons on Monday and Tuesday in Flowery Branch.

Bengals wide receivers Andrew Hawkins (ankle sprain) and Marvin Jones (undisclosed injury) are also injured. The team signed wide receiver Jheranie Boyd on Thursday.

Gallarda released: The Falcons signed tight end Tim Biere after reaching an injury-settlement with tight end Tommy Gallarda, who suffered a shoulder injury.

Gallarda played in nine games as a reserve tight end and on special teams last season.

He was the second player released because of injury in training camp. The Falcons also released cornerback Saeed Lee, who suffered a knee injury that required surgery.

“It was very similar to the (shoulder injury) he had in November last year that caused him to go on (injured reserve),” Smith said. “It was a tough break for Tommy. He was a guy who’s worked very hard for us.”

Biere, 6-foot-4 and 260 pounds, was originally signed by Kansas City as an undrafted rookie free agent from Kansas in 2012.

Light workout: The Falcons didn’t practice in pads over the weekend.

“They worked hard on Friday night,” Smith said. “There was some contact and we’ve got some guys who are not necessarily on the injury report, but they are bumped and bruised up. We wanted to let them ease back into it because tomorrow will be a padded practice that will go upwards of two hours and 20 minutes.”

Russell shining: It wasn’t an official game or even an exhibition but Donald Russell, a rookie from Georgia State, shined under the lights during the Falcons’ live scrimmage in Gainesville on Friday night.

“It was a great experience,” Russell said. “I’ve enjoying it a lot. Being from Georgia State here at home, there’s not a better feeling. I’m glad the coaches gave me an opportunity and I’m trying to rise to expectations.”

Russell showed good vision and acceleration on an 11-yard reception on a screen play. On the next snap Russell had what was unofficially the longest run of the session when he reversed field and scampered for 12 yards.

“It basically was a stretch run, nothing there,” Russell said. “You are not just here just to run designed plays. If nothing is there, you have to try to make a play. That’s what I did.” Everything was closed up so I tried to make another way.”

Linebackers playing well: After the scrimmage, Falcons coaches and football executives had their first chance to rate players who are vying for roster spots and increased roles in live game conditions.

“We are having open competition at a number of positions, linebacker being one of them, secondary and the offensive line,” Smith said. “Those are probably the three areas where we are not set in terms of what our roster is going to look like when we get to our 53-man roster.”

Undrafted rookie linebacker Joplo Bartu continue to impress the coaches.