Backups to play lead role in last preseason game

ATLANTA - The Atlanta Falcons' first home preseason game this week was overshadowed by Michael Vick's guilty plea.

Nothing so dramatic would be required to upstage the team's final preseason game.

Atlanta's starters may not even make an appearance tonight when the Falcons play the Baltimore Ravens at the Georgia Dome. Baltimore coach Brian Billick, meanwhile, is talking up the game only as good travel practice for his team.

It's no surprise some argue NFL teams don't need as many as four preseason games.

The Falcons and their new quarterback, Joey Harrington, gave home fans reason for confidence in the post-Vick era when Harrington passed for two touchdowns in a 24-19 win over Cincinnati Monday night.

Vick, who had been the face of the franchise, pleaded guilty to a federal dogfighting charge and was suspended indefinitely by commissioner Roger Goodell. Vick will be sentenced on Dec. 10.

Coach Bobby Petrino gave the team Tuesday off and in Wednesday's practice had his starters focus on their Sept. 9 first regular season game at Minnesota. He then announced the starters, who played into the third quarter against the Bengals, probably would not play against Baltimore.

'That's a quick turnaround from Monday to Friday,' Petrino said.

That leaves Chris Redman and Casey Bramlet as the Falcons' quarterbacks against the Ravens. Bramlet, the MVP for the Hamburg Sea Devils in this year NFL Europa World Bowl, will be trying to convince the team it doesn't need to shop for another quarterback following Vick's exit and D.J. Shockley's season-ending knee injury.

Even Redman needs to show he can handle the backup job.

'It's a big game for a lot of guys on the team,' said Redman, who directed a 63-yard touchdown drive on his first possession against the Bengals.

'I think anytime you play quarterback you're going to feel pressure,' he said. 'The pressure is on. You don't have to put any added pressure on yourself.'

The game may be more important to Baltimore, which had a 13-7 loss to Washington halted early in the third quarter Saturday night due to lightning.

'That hurt because you took substantial snaps away,' Billick said.

Billick said second-string right guard Ben Grubbs, scheduled to play the full second half, instead was in the game for only five plays.

'It is what it is,' Billick said. 'We have to find a way to make it up and we'll do it this week.'

Billick said he the Ravens need the road trip as practice for their Sept. 10 opening game at Cincinnati. The team only took a short bus ride for the game at Washington.

'It's helpful. This is a dry run,' Billick said. 'The next time we go on the road it will be a night game. So how do you travel, what do you do all day at the hotel? This is their last chance to have a dry run before they go to Cincinnati.'

SideBar: Ravens at Falcons

When: Today, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Georgia Dome

TV/Radio: WXIA/92.9-FM