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New Special Teams Cast Arrives


There was a lot of humor running around in the Falcons locker room today and the source was the team's new long snapper and field goal kicker. Of course, there is nothing funny about someone with the career accomplishments and stand-up character of Jason Elam losing his job and the same goes for Bryan Pittman.

But new long snapper, Joe Zelenka who played for Jacksonville from 2001-2008, showed himself to be something of a character. Zelenka was asked what he had been doing before he signed.

"Oh, I was just getting ready to put up Christmas lights... I was going to be Clark Griswold. Forty-thousand twinkle lights. Some are twinkle and some are not. I don't understand how that all works... Other than that, I've been working out for some teams."


And this when asked how he was staying ready:

"I have two 3-year-old kids, twins, so I chase them around a lot. I lift them, that's my workout program. I do a lot of child-lifting in my house, which is fun. So that's kind of my workout regimen is to chase them. They're very active. So that's pretty much it. The mental side of it, it pretty much never leaves you you're always ready to play as a pro."

Then there was this coming from Tony Gonzalez "Tony Gonzalez (tight end)") when he was asked if kickers are football players:

"[Sigh]. They're specialists. No, they're not football players. They're not going out there and hitting anybody. At least you don't want them to. But you've got to give them respect. The game is always in their hands, it seems, like in close games. I respect the [heck] out of them."

And there was this from new kicker Matt Bryant when asked about the difference between kicking at an outdoor stadium as opposed to in a dome:

"There's no wind."


But on a more serious side, Bryant talked about what it was like being out of the NFL. Last season, he made 84.2 percent of his kicks (38 of 49) while with Tampa Bay. For his career, he has made 82.1. Elam made 63.2 percent of his kicks this season.

"It was tough," said Bryant, who played in the UFL until its season ended last week. "I probably never should've been out of the league. But that's just how it goes sometimes. That's all right. Stay focused and wait for that next shot and make the best for it."

Falcons Head Coach Mike Smith said the decision to cut Elam was "very difficult" and that it was "strictly a football decision." He noted that his staff was familiar with Bryant from playing against him last year and that Bryant's workout was "very impressive." Asked about Zelenka's being a character, Smith laughed and said Zelenka "has quite a personality." He pointed out that Zelenka was one of the league's longest-tenured long snappers.

Zelenka, serious for a moment, spoke about the suddenness of the changes in his life.

"It's awesome and it can only happen in America," he said. "And it's an adventure and I'm on it. And I love every single second of it.... I can't wait to play on Sunday. As you're sitting out, you realize how much you love the game. And just the game of it. Not all the other stuff that goes along with it. Just the actual playing side of it and you miss that, it's tough."


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