<
>

Petrino says Vick will shoulder Falcons' offense

MIAMI -- Taking a different approach than his predecessor, Atlanta Falcons coach Bobby Petrino will let Michael Vick take a more active role in running the offense.

That includes allowing Vick to call audibles.

Under previous coach Jim Mora, Vick basically had to go with whatever play was called by offensive coordinator Greg Knapp, even if it looked doomed when the quarterback got to the line and studied the defensive alignment.

Vick's only options were changing the protection scheme and calling which side of the field to run the play.

Things will be different under Petrino, who was lured away from Louisville after Mora was fired.

"We're going to put it all on him," the new coach said Friday while making the rounds at the Super Bowl media center. "It's new to him, but he's excited about the challenge. I think that's the way you train a quarterback."

Petrino said Vick "really believes in himself to get it done."

Mora was let go after the Falcons finished 7-9 and failed to make the playoffs for the second year in a row. The team reached the NFC Championship Game during the 2004 season, but fell apart in the second half of the last two seasons.

Two weeks ago, Vick came under scrutiny after officers seized a water bottle from him at Miami International Airport. Police said it smelled of marijuana and had a secret compartment, but lab tests found no evidence of drugs.

The Falcons initially came down hard on Vick, with general manager Rich McKay proclaiming that his star player had "let a lot of people down." Since Vick was cleared, the team has dismissed trade rumors and reiterated he will be the No. 1 quarterback.

"It was a little interesting, I guess," Petrino said. "But the situation got resolved and we put it behind us."

Petrino was in Miami at the urging of owner Arthur Blank, who thought it would be good for the new coach to do some networking with the pros after spending most of his career in the college ranks.

"Arthur had to talk me into it a little bit," said Petrino, who will fly back to Atlanta on Sunday morning. "I thought I had a lot to do, but he went through my wife and kids to get it done. They're down here, too, and having a great time."

Petrino has studied extensive film on Vick's passing style and talked with the quarterback about what he "needs to do to get better and what the people around him need to do to get better."

To that end, Petrino acknowledged the need for changing the philosophy of the offensive line, which favored smaller, quicker players and relied on zone blocking schemes under Mora. While the Falcons led the league in rushing the last three years, they struggled to give Vick adequate protection when he dropped back to pass.

A major overhaul is impossible, Petrino said, but the new staff will encourage its linemen to get bigger and stronger.

"One of the things we're finding is that it takes all the guys on offense doing their job at the highest level for a play to work," he said. "We've got to make sure we give Mike the time and space to make his throws. We've got to make sure the receivers are exactly where they need to be. You've got to be able to do both things to throw the ball downfield."

Petrino said he has full confidence that Vick can become a more well-rounded quarterback. Last season, he became the first QB in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards but ranked near the bottom of the league's passer ratings.

"He can make all the throws you need to make in this league," Petrino insisted.