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Falcons bolster secondary with Sanders, Hayden
FLOWERY BRANCH, GA. (AP) - Excuse Kelvin Hayden if his head is spinning a bit.
He’s buried himself in an unfamiliar playbook. He’s trying to become familiar with different terminology. He’s struggling to learn everyone’s name on his new team, including the coaches for the Atlanta Falcons.
The cornerback called up one of the assistants a couple of times over the weekend, going over calls and formations. Now, if only he could remember who was on the other end of the line.
“It’s a challenge,” Hayden said Monday, standing in front of a locker that was identified as his by a handwritten placard. “I’m still learning the coaches’ names.”
Hayden is one of two experienced defensive backs signed last week by the Falcons to bolster their thin secondary, another step toward building a team that can make a run at the Super Bowl. In the very next locker was safety James Sanders, who landed in Atlanta under similar circumstances.
Hayden starred in the Colts' Super Bowl win in 2007, clinching the victory with his return of an interception for a touchdown. Sanders started 49 games for the Patriots and is coming off a season in which he set career highs with three interceptions and six passes defended.
Given their resumes, both could eventually challenge for extensive playing time, maybe even a starting job. The current starters look forward to getting pushed by the newcomers.
“They are two proven players in this league,” safety Thomas DeCoud said. “Competition always breeds success. It will make us better as a team and as individuals.”
First, Hayden and Sanders have to learn the ropes with a new organization. They only signed with the Falcons in time to watch the final preseason game from the sideline. They practiced for the first time Monday, a dreary day in the Atlanta area as the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee made their way northward.
“Of course, I want to get out there and play,” said the 27-year-old Sanders, who got a locker right beside Hayden and had lunch with him before practice. “But right now, my focus is on learning the playbook and this team. Without that, there’s no way I can even be on the field.”
Sanders was quickly scooped up by the Falcons after being cut by the Patriots. The 28-year-old Hayden took a little longer to find a new job, having missed the final four games last season with a neck injury that reportedly scared off some teams.
Hayden said he’s fully recovered from the latest in a series of injuries that have kept him from playing a full season since 2007.
“My neck is fine,” he said. “I feeling good and ready to go.”
By Tammy Bruce
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