FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The Falcons were back at work on Monday preparing for an important Thursday night divisional showdown against the New Orleans Saints, a matchup that has long been one of the best rivalries in the NFL. With the short week comes a new set of challenges that both teams must face, but that doesn't lessen the magnitude of the upcoming game.
Today's Early Bird Report includes the end of Michael Vick's long absence from the Falcons' headquarters as well as some news on Marshon Lattimore's status.
FALCONS HEADLINES FROM AROUND THE COUNTRY
*Sports Illustrated: *Michael Vick, back at the scene of his prime
For a pregame segment on "FOX NFL Sunday" before the Falcons game against the Vikings, former star quarterback Michael Vick made his first trip back to Flowery Branch for the first time in over 10 years. Vick spoke with Peter King of *Sports Illustrated's *MMQB about his return back to the Falcons' headquarters.
"I would say my relationship with the team is good — it's great," Vick told King. "Everyone has moved on. I had great times in Atlanta. They've got a great team now. It was great to be back and relive the great moments I had there. I never want to forget about the things that happened; I want to learn from them, and I have."
*AJC: *Wreh-Wilson held up well in place of Trufant
Starting cornerback Desmond Trufant was cleared to return to practice this week, but it's only fair to give praise to the player who manned his position against the Vikings: Blidi Wreh-Wilson. The AJC's D. Orlando Ledbetter detailed how the secondary fared without two of its starters, and highlighted Wreh-Wilson as a bright spot in the loss.
"Those guys stepped up," Robert Alford told Ledbetter of his fellow defensive backs. "Those guys that were behind us, they've been with us since training camp. They were prepared. It was not surprising to see those guys that play behind us step up and do their part."
Here are some more stories on the Falcons, as they prepare for a short week:
- ESPN: With quick turnaround, Falcons have to get back on track
- *USA TODAY: *Week 13 overreactions
- CBS Sports: Sorting the Sunday pile, Week 13
NEWS ON THE FALCONS' OPPONENT: New Orleans Saints
*The Times-Picayune: *Saints dealing with 'tough turnaround' of short week
Like the Falcons, the Saints have to prepare for an important NFC South showdown in roughly half of the time they usually have. Both teams must overcome the physical and mental toll of playing on a short week, but the Falcons got a little bit of a head start as they ended their game against the Vikings just before the Saints kicked off against the Panthers. Herbie Teope of *The Times-Picayune *spoke with a few of the Saints' coaches about the difficulty of playing on a short week.
"You're not going to have nearly the amount of practice reps that you would normally have," Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen told Teope. "You're not going to have nearly the amount of time to watch the video that you would normally have, and really the practice reps that you do get are going to be very limited as to the speed in which they're being run because we just played a game yesterday.
"Wednesday, we'll be on our last practice of the week ready to go play Thursday, when normally that's really when the week begins for these guys. It's a tough turnaround."
*The Times-Picayune: *Saints hopeful Marshon Lattimore 'ready to go' vs. Falcons
During his conversation with the Saints' defensive coordinator, Teope asked Allen about the status of rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore. The first-round pick missed New Orleans' game against Carolina due to an ankle injury, but Allen is hopeful Lattimore will be ready to go on Thursday night.
"I know his mindset has been the last couple of weeks to get himself ready to play, and hopefully he'll be at full strength when we go out there and play these guys Thursday," Allen told Teope.
Here is more news on the Falcons' Thursday night opponent:
BIGGEST NEWS FROM AROUND THE NFC SOUTH
*The Charlotte Observer: *Panthers were careful with key players Sunday
Hoping to keep them fresh down the stretch, the Panthers played it cautious with some of their key players against the Saints, according to Joseph Person of *The Charlotte Observer. *Tight End Greg Olsen did not play on Sunday as he still recovers after aggravating his foot against the Jets, and linebacker Thomas Davis only played limited snaps because of a hamstring issue.
"It's tough when you play on turf, that artificial surface. It's tough on the body. It's tough on the feet, the ankles, the knees, the joints," Rivera told Person. "We'll see. Hopefully we can pick a couple of those guys back up and we'll go from there."
*Tampa Bay Times: *The job riding on Jameis Winston's performance
In his return from injury, starting quarterback Jameis Winston couldn't do enough to help the Buccaneers escape a loss against the Green Bay Packers in overtime. Martin Fennelly of the *Tampa Bay Times *wonders if he can do enough to save head coach Dirk Koetter's job.
"Make Jameis better. That's why the Glazers hired Koetter," Fennelly writes. "He was the quarterback whisperer in Lovie Smith's final season, and he was so good at it he made Smith expendable. Koetter was the guy to get the most of Winston, tender-loving care, tough love, all that. It was a Belichick-Brady sort of arrangement."
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