FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Today's Early Bird Report includes Keanu Neal's thoughts on a new league rule as well as Jason Witten reportedly retiring from the NFL.
FALCONS HEADLINES FROM AROUND THE COUNTRY
*AJC: *Neal fine with NFL's new helmet-hitting rule
Over the offseason, the NFL implemented a new rule that will penalize a player 15 yards for leading with his helmet in a tackle; if the refs deem the infraction to be too sever, they can also eject a player for leading with his helmet.
In his first two seasons with the Falcons, Pro Bowl safety Keanu Neal has never been afraid to make the big hit on opposing players. Speaking with the media Wednesday, Neal discussed his thoughts on these rule changes.
"We do a good job here of keeping our head out of the tackle," Neal said. "We talk about Falcon-rolling, tackling behind the ball carrier, putting our head behind them instead of in front of him. There are things that we are working on here that are really going to counter-act that rule."
Since Dan Quinn's arrival, the Falcons have practice something commonly referred to as rugby-style tackling. Instead of placing their head across the ball-carrier's body, the players place their head behind a ball-carrier, strike with the shoulder, wrap up and roll the opponent to the ground.
"As a kid, you grow up learning to put your head across the ball," Neal said. "Bite the ball, get in front and then drive. But now, with the rule changes and everything, we are taught to keep our head out of the game. Now, our head is behind the ball carrier and we are rolling."
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BIGGEST NEWS FROM AROUND THE NFL
ESPN: Jason Witten retires, to join Monday Night Football
According to a report by ESPN's Todd Archer, longtime Cowboys tight end Jason Witten will retire from football and join Monday Night Football as an analyst.
Witten had reportedly been up in the air about his decision, leaning heavily on Cowboys owner Jerry Jones for advice prior to coming to a conclusion.
After 15 seasons, Witten leaves as the Cowboys' all-time leader in games played (239), consecutive games played (235), games started (229), catches (1,152) and receiving yards (12,448). Witten is also fourth all-time in catches among all NFL players, and he is second behind only Tony Gonzalez in receiving yards by a tight end.
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