Originally posted on Fox Sports South  |  Last updated 5/25/12
The stadium playing field is shifting. The Falcons are closely watching as the Vikings and 49ers close in on new stadiums and the Steelers and Packers work on renovationsexpansions. The Falcons and the Georgia World Congress Center Authority have been in negotiations for about two years on a new stadium. The parties last month vacated their talks about an open-air stadium, which would have operated along with the Georgia Dome. The parties have turned their focus to a retractable-roof stadium, which would replace the Dome. However, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, in Atlanta for a meeting of the league's owners Tuesday, said he would advise the city to bid for another Super Bowl if a new stadium is built here. But he said that a new stadium wouldn't guarantee a return of the Super Bowl. "The issue that we always raise -- and this came up in Minnesota (where) they're building a closed-roof stadium, it appears, and have the same interest -- (is that) the reality of what's happening is it is becoming more and more competitive to host a Super Bowl," Goodell said. "But these stadiums are our stage, and they are one of the key components in hosting a Super Bowl, along with having, obviously, the infrastructure. So certainly, if (a new stadium) gets done (here), we'd encourage them to apply." Atlanta has hosted two Super Bowls, in 1994 and 2000, and failed in subsequent bids for the game, in part because of the ice storm that virtually shut down the city before the 2000 event and the bad publicity surrounding two murders in Buckhead and the arrest and trial of Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis. The NFL, though, often awards the Super Bowl to new stadiums. The most recent Super Bowl was played in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Goodell said the league's owners heard updates about four ongoing stadium construction projects -- new homes for the Vikings and 49ers and renovationsexpansions of the Steelers' and Packers' stadiums. The owners did not get an update on the Falcons' stadium efforts "because no action was required," Goodell said. But he has monitored the Atlanta stadium situation closely. "I've had some informal conversations with both (Falcons owner) Arthur (Blank) and (team president) Rich (McKay)," Goodell said. "It's like any of our stadium projects -- there's a process of working through (and) finding a solution that works in the community that will also work for the club. Those discussions seem to be going along in a way where there's good give-and-take." Blank said the Falcons are "making progress" toward a stadium deal. "We have a great relationship with the Congress Center, and we're getting support from the right kind of political leadership and the public," Blank said. "We're trying to please a lot of stakeholders -- the fans, the communities, our franchise." The Georgia Dome was completed in 1992. In addition to the two Super Bowls, the venue regularly hosts the SEC football championship game and the other major college events. "It's not an easy process, and it shouldn't be an easy process," Blank said. "There's a lot involved financially. There's a lot involved community-wise, politically, personally. ... It's a big project, so we need to do it correctly. It's not a matter of speed." NOTES, QUOTES Falcons' general manager Thomas Dimitroff and some fellow cycling enthusiasts from the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition rode about 40 miles from Buckhead to Flowery Branch on National Bike to Work Day. Dimitroff has been planning this ride since he arrived in 2008. Some of the riders were Atiba Mbiwan, Dan Thornton and ABC members and volunteers Tim Ho and Jeffrey Wisard, and ABC league cycling instructor Neil Walker. "I'd like to probably do this annually if we could," Dimitroff said. "This is one of those things where you get to ride to work, get the blood flowing. The Atlanta Bicycle Coalition is about fun. It's about fitness and about transportation. We are actually covering all three of those today." National Bike to Work Day was originated by the League of American Bicyclists in 1956 and is a part of National Bike Month, which is held every May. The Atlanta Bicycle Coalition supports the event in Atlanta and encourages people to commute to work using a bicycle. --The Falcons are still working on fifth-round defensive end Jonathan Massaquoi's rookie contract, but the numbers are in for all of the other draft choices. --Second-round pick Peter Konz signed a four-year deal worth 3.588 million, with a signing bonus of 1.049 million. A total of 1,603,010 of his deal is guaranteed. --Third-round pick Lamar Holmes signed a four-year deal worth 2.633 million, with a signing bonus of 533,600. --Fifth-round pick Bradie Ewing signed a four-year deal worth 2.28 million, with a signing bonus of 184,192. --Sixth-round pick Charles Mitchell signed a four-year contract worth 2.201 million, with a signing bonus of 101,672. --Seventh-round pick Travian Robertson signed a four-year contract worth 2.145 million, with a signing bonus of 45,896. All of the rookie deals have base salaries of 390,000, 480,000, 570,000 and 660,000. STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL Falcons must replace kickoff and punt returner Eric Weems, who signed with the Chicago Bears in free agency. The Falcons have two veteran punt returners on the roster in cornerback Dominique Franks and Harry Douglas. Douglas returned punts as a rookie. He returned 19 punts for 226 yards and scored one touchdown in 2008. He also had four kickoff returns for 46 yards. Franks showed some promise returning punts during the last exhibition season. He had just one return for no yards during the regular season. "The guy that we had here last year, Eric Weems did a real good job," Falcons coach Mike Smith said. "It's really going to come down to what they do on special teams because in that fourth and fifth spot, we need to have somebody who can play in all four of what we call our big four special teams. One player to turn some heads at the recent rookie minicamp was James Rodgers, the older brother of running back Jacquizz Rodgers. Rodgers amassed 2,124 yards and averaged 24.7 yards on kickoff returns in college. "He has return skills," Smith said. "Of course we lost our kickoff and punt returner. We have some guys on our roster that we feel comfortable with, but he is going to get an opportunity to fight for a roster spot and it will probably be based on his ability to return the football." QUOTE TO NOTE "Ray was a little bit hurt last year. He came in after knee surgery, he came into a new system, but I thought that last year he was still a pretty productive player on the run. He was one of our best guys effort-wise. He played hard all of the time. This year, his second year in the same system -- well most of the same system -- he's coming back and he should be fine this year. I expect him to do fine and get better." --Falcons defensive line coach Ray Hamilton on defensive end Ray Edwards
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