Sources: 0-2 Falcons huddle over Leftwich signing
The Falcons' shortcomings at quarterback, along the offensive line and in the kicking game have added up to what you might expect: two losses to start the NFL season.
Atlanta, though, is doing what it can to address some of these pressing issues.
Clayton: Lord Byron?
After two games, the Falcons' offense appears to be going nowhere with Joey Harrington. Byron Leftwich might be a more viable option, John Clayton writes in his Quick Hits. Blog
The Falcons' disappointing defeat in Jacksonville on Sunday has led to a push to sign quarterback Byron Leftwich, sources told ESPN's Chris Mortensen on Monday. And, for the second consecutive season, Atlanta has turned to venerable kicker Morten Andersen to remedy its placement woes.
Atlanta was planning to sign another quarterback this week or next, but Joey Harrington's performance in Sunday's 13-7 loss to Jacksonville may have added urgency to bringing in a more experienced player. Leftwich, cut by Jacksonville in a surprise preseason move, was the Jags' starter for most of the last four seasons.
Leftwich's agent confirmed that he worked out for the team on Tuesday.
Ankle and knee problems have prevented Leftwich, the seventh pick in the 2003 draft, from completing a full season. He missed 15 games the past two years before he was beaten out in the preseason by David Garrard for the Jaguars' starting job.
If Leftwich is signed, he will be the third quarterback behind Harrington and Chris Redman. Falcons coach Bobby Petrino wants to bring in a passer who can be developed in his system and ultimately compete for the job, while at the same time securing the depth behind Harrington.
Harrington has been sacked 13 times -- seven times in a 13-7 loss to Jacksonville -- in his first two starts for the Falcons, and coach Bobby Petrino said the offensive line shouldn't shoulder all of the blame for it.
Petrino said Monday that Harrington is holding the ball too long.
"I think right now Joey is playing a little bit conservative, a little bit not to throw the interception," Petrino said. "Therefore it is causing him to hold the ball. He just needs to open it up more with confidence and play to go win the game."
On the kicking end, the 47-year-old Andersen worked out for coaches and team officials Monday afternoon, nailing all 13 of his field goal attempts in the audition at the club's headquarters, and will replace a struggling Matt Prater, who was waived later in the day.
"They needed the Fix-It Man, and they called again," Andersen told ESPN.com's Len Pasquarelli by phone on Monday night. "I mean, you can't have seven- or eight-minute drives, miss a kick and come away with no points. And that's what was happening to them.
"I'm excited, ready to go. I made every kick, with a long [field goal] of 50 yards. So, I guess I can still kick my age, huh? And, at my age, that's not too bad."
The leading scorer in NFL history, Andersen will begin his 25th season in the league with 2,445 points. He is also the all-time league leader in field goals made with 540 conversions in 681 attempts, for a 79.3-percent success rate. Andersen has also made 825 of his 835 extra-point tries.
After being out of the league in 2005, Andersen signed with the Falcons last September. In 14 games, he made 20 of 23 field goal tries and all 27 extra-point attempts for 87 points. During the season, he passed Gary Anderson as the league's all-time leading scorer.
With the new coaching staff, and an emphasis on youth, the Falcons chose not to re-sign Andersen in the offseason. But because Andersen lives in suburban Atlanta, the team knew he was only a phone call away. And general manager Rich McKay also knew that Andersen, who works out nearly every day, would be in shape.
Still, the new coaches wanted to see Andersen for themselves, and he understood that.
"I might have a long NFL history, but I've got no history at all with Bobby Petrino or anyone on his staff," said Andersen, who signed a one-year contract, the financial details of which were not immediately available. "I mean, they don't know me, at all, right? But I know I can still kick at a high level, and to get back at this point in my career and have a chance to still do what I love ... well, what can I say, I'm absolutely thrilled."
Chris Mortensen covers the NFL for ESPN and Len Pasquarelli is an ESPN.com senior NFL writer. Information from The Associated Press also was used in this report.
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