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News - The Vick Era dawns

Plus, Tech sells out and the Braves start to get tough



What can be said about an NFL game in which the most effective quarterback is Tommy Maddox?

That it was a preseason game, for one thing. That it came against mostly third-stringers. That Chris Chandler long ago had engineered the game's first score and taken his pre-ordained seat on the bench without being injured.

On second thought, it's a good bet that most of the 44,275 fans at the Georgia Dome Friday night were hoping for a Chandler sprain, strain or mild concussion. After standing in ticket-window lines so long that half the crowd didn't make it to their seats until the second quarter, they wanted to see Michael Vick, not Chandler. Not even former Dogs QB Eric Zeier would do.

The paying customers weren't the only ones wondering how Vick would do in his first NFL game, however meaningless. "I wanted to get off the field," said running back Jamal Anderson, "so I could just watch him. He didn't roll out that much; he was kind of toying with them. He's going to be exciting." (Part of Anderson's excitement was no doubt due to the fact that, thanks to the settlement of the Gold Club case earlier that day, he was not going to have to take the witness stand.)

Vick didn't set his feet on the first play, which caused him to lollipop the ball out of bounds. But after that, his decision-making was pretty good.

"When I came over to the sideline," Vick said, "I realized what I did wrong. That's what this position is all about. You have to learn from your mistakes. That's how you become a great player. Next week, I won't make the same mistakes."

Such as? "I jumped offsides when he didn't do the cadence right," deadpanned offensive tackle Bob Whitfield. "Other than that, he did a great job."

"That's the thing about Michael," said head coach Dan Reeves. "He will make some errors, but he won't repeat them. You can see he's not there yet, but it's exciting to see what he can do."

And the booing when he handed off instead of running or passing? "Man, I don't worry about that," Vick said, laughing. "The fans want to see some exciting plays. They've got to understand that every play is not going to be a big play."

The coaches' preseason college football rankings are out. Georgia Tech is No. 13. Georgia is nowhere to be seen. Heading into football season, the Dogs lead the Jackets only on the rap sheet. (And to think that Michael Vick gave up all this intrigue for $62 million.)

But let's not think about that. Let's think about the fact that Tech has sold all 22,000 available season ticket packages for the first time since 1985. To what do we owe this surprising development? The unexpected performance of QB George Godsey? The conviction that this is the year Tech beats Florida State? Or the desire of fans for first dibs on seats next season after the renovation of Bobby Dodd Stadium?

Interestingly, due to the miracle of accounting at this august institution of higher learning, it is still possible, despite the sell out, to buy four-game ticket packages for home games against The Citadel (Sept. 1), Maryland (Oct. 11), NC State (Oct. 20) and North Carolina (Nov. 1).

Enjoy the hoopla while you can, Techies. Once the strength-of-schedule component in the BCS rankings kicks in and the aforementioned cream puffs are factored, the Jackets will be lucky to be ranked anywhere by anyone.

Brian Jordan has been an oddity since he joined the Braves, the only position player with a football mentality. Of course, he was a football player. Now, mercifully, Jordan has help in the gung-ho department: Mark DeRosa, Marcus Giles and Ken Caminiti. Scrappers, fighters, capable of repeatedly charging into walls, they give the Braves an intensity and physical toughness that tweaks the team's corporate veneer.

Braves bats (read Andruw Jones, Javy Lopez, outfielders besides Jordan) have been so anemic that a lot of fire-lighting will be required to win the pennant and World Series, if not the division. That requires more outgoing personalities.

It's no coincidence that those personalities are connected to the Braves' hottest hitters. That finally includes Caminiti, who's waking up at the plate now that he's getting the hang of playing first base. Now, if only he doesn't have to run.

Hot shots: What's hot in Atlanta sports
I wouldn't want to be -- the Yankees' team physician if Ugueth Urbina pitches the Red Sox to the World Series in October.

Isn't there anybody in the Braves bullpen -- who can strike out left-handed hitters? Oh, right. There's Kerry Ligtenberg. But Bobby Cox won't use him, for reasons unknown.

Is it a coincidence -- that the Cubs have replaced that lovable losers persona with a go-for-it attitude now that Don Baylor is their manager?

Sound familiar? -- The San Francisco Giants are raving about how the presence of Andres Galarraga has transformed their clubhouse. Meanwhile, back at Turner Field, Javy Lopez and Andruw Jones remain rudderless.

Memo to Tony Stewart -- Shut up and drive.





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