FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The post-Katrina version of Joe Horn
is more confident than brash.
No need to plant a cell phone in a Georgia Dome goalpost and
preen for the television cameras.
"I didn't come here to be flashy, I didn't come here to stand
in front of the cameras," Horn said after signing a four-year, $19
million contract with the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday. "I came
here to lead by example."
Horn earned four invitations to the NFL's annual all-star game
as a Saint. He sees no reason why Jenkins, the 29th overall draft
pick of 2004, and White, picked No. 27 in 2005, should set low
expectations for their careers.
"I'm going to call them cats and talk to them," Horn said. "I
want to get some words across to them and let them know where my
heart is first. I want them to know -- 'I'm not here to shine on
you, man. I came here to help. I came here to be a part of
something new, something that's going to take off to the next
Horn plans to help quarterback Michael Vick settle down and make
the most of his talent. Horn wants to smooth the transition of new
Falcons coach Bobby Petrino, who promises to put the football in
the hands of Atlanta playmakers Alge Crumpler, Warrick Dunn -- and
Appearing on The SportsBash, John Clayton, discusses Atlanta's need for a team leader like Joe Horn and sees him having a great impact on the development of Michael Vick. Listen
Two months after turning 35 and suffering a groin injury that
sidelined him for both playoff games and six overall during New
Orleans' magical 2006 season, Horn promises the Falcons will not
regret giving him $7.5 million in guaranteed bonuses.
"Mike is the leader of this football team," Horn said of Vick,
who endured an embarrassing incident with airport security in Miami
on Jan. 17. "I know that, but I'm going to let him know that I'm
here to help him. He's been here. He knows what it takes to win."
The Falcons lost six of eight to miss the playoffs in 2005. Last
year, they blew a 5-2 start and finished 7-9. Vick, who seemed to
take over games at will in 2002 and '04, lost confidence in the
offense that former coordinator Greg Knapp failed to implement
"I'm going to bring some of my professionalism to Mike, and I
know he will take it inside," Horn said. "I'm not going to push
myself or make someone do things just because I'm here. No, I want
to be a brother to these guys and when I say something I want them
to say, 'You know, I trust Joe.' "
Atlanta led the NFL in rushing the last three seasons, but the
Falcons finished last with only 148 yards passing per game. Petrino
plans to add more three- and four-receiver sets, making receiver
one of the offseason areas of emphasis.
Under previous coach Jim Mora, few players ever spoke up. Vick,
much like Jenkins, White and even Dunn, are quiet. So was Ashley
Lelie, who spent last season with the Falcons before signing with
San Francisco on Monday.
Horn has no problem using his voice to take control.
"You know, he's kind of quiet so he's probably going to talk a
lot," Petrino said with a sarcastic smile. "But I really believe
that attitude is half the battle."
Petrino, who wants Vick to distribute the ball early and often,
believes Horn will only help.
"I don't think there's any question that when you sees Joe's
personality that he's going to be a tremendous leader," Petrino
said. "Our offense is all about getting the ball in the hands of
Helping New Orleans recover from the devastating hurricane of
2005 changed Horn forever. The storm, which displaced the Saints
from the Superdome for the entire season, taught Horn leadership
skills he previously didn't understand.
He's come a long way from the cocky wideout who paid a $30,000
fine to the NFL after hiding a cell phone in a Superdome goalpost
to gain attention in 2003.
"Unless you were there and unless you went through Katrina and
talked to people who went through it and lost family," Horn said,
"I don't care who you bring in. You will not sit back in your
chair and think you know what it was like. No, you won't. It was
hard, but for that city, those people didn't even know New Orleans
was coming back."
The Saints were NFC South champions before winning for just the
second time in the playoffs and advancing to the conference title
game two months ago. Chicago beat New Orleans for the NFC crown.
Horn believes Marques Colston, a seventh-round draft choice last
year, and wideouts Devery Henderson, Donte' Stallworth and Terrance
Copper benefited from his leadership in recent years. Using the
same approach in Atlanta might improve the productivity of Jenkins
"I want to teach them some drills they haven't seen before,"
Horn said. "I want to be a veteran on the football field, so that
when Mike throws them a nice dagger route or a line ball, that they
can concentrate while the DB is hanging off of them so they can
catch the football."