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Falcons release Gwinnett's Elam

Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips. Brookwood grad Jason Elam (1) watches the ball during an Atlanta Falcons game earlier this season at the Georgia Dome. Elam was released Tuesday.

Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips. Brookwood grad Jason Elam (1) watches the ball during an Atlanta Falcons game earlier this season at the Georgia Dome. Elam was released Tuesday.

After his latest miss Sunday, Jason Elam knew that his time with the Falcons was probably over. He was right.

But the release of the 17-year NFL veteran by Atlanta on Tuesday didn't create an opening for another Gwinnett County product.

Instead of former Collins Hill and Georgia standout Brandon Coutu, the Falcons signed the much more experienced Matt Bryant to replace Elam.

Bryant, 34, was cut by Tampa Bay at the end of training camp as he tried to come back from a hamstring injury. He played for the Bucs from 2005 through last season and has 138 field goals in 168 attempts with Tampa Bay, Miami, Indianapolis and the New York Giants.

The career numbers for Elam, of course, are much more impressive than that. But the 39-year-old Brookwood graduate had struggled mightily this season, missing seven field goals in 19 attempts, as well as an extra point.

"I know what the situation is," Elam said Sunday, seemingly expecting the bad news that was to come.

Elam, who also missed key field goals the previous two weeks, wasn't the only one to lose his job Tuesday. Long snapper Bryan Pittman was also released and replaced by Joe Zeleneka, who played eight seasons for Jacksonville.

Coutu was one of four kickers brought in for a tryout last week, but was not brought back for a second audition. He was released by Seattle at the end of training camp in favor of veteran Olindo Mare. Coutu spend the previous season with the Seahawks as a rookie, but didn't get to kick.

Elam returned home to Georgia to sign with the Falcons as a free agent after 15 seasons with Denver and made 29 of 31 field goal attempts last year before falling into the first real slump of his long career this season.

Elam's contract with the Falcons was worth $9 million over four years and he will end up with almost $5 million of it. NFL contracts are not fully guaranteed.

''This is not my dream ending, but I feel like it was a pretty good dream career,'' Elam told The Associated Press when reached on his cell phone. ''I never anticipated it lasting this long. I wish it was different circumstances that I was going out. But I gave them everything I've got. I can look myself in the mirror and feel good.''

-- The Associated Press contributed to this report