Falcons Turn to Harrington

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga.

Joey Harrington was on a vacation with his family last week, he says, when he got a call informing him that Michael Vick had been indicted on federal dogfighting charges.

That quickly, Harrington had become the likely starting quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons.

Harrington, the failed former starter for the Detroit Lions and Miami Dolphins, signed with the Falcons in the offseason after being released by the Dolphins. He was to be Vick's backup after the Falcons traded highly regarded young quarterback Matt Schaub to the Houston Texans.

But when training camp opened here Thursday, Vick was in a courtroom in Richmond and Harrington was on the practice field, lining up with the starting offense in new coach Bobby Petrino's quarterback-friendly system. The Falcons have no idea when, or if, Vick will rejoin the team. Vick's playing status is to be determined by a review of the case being conducted by the league after NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell this week prohibited him from reporting to training camp.

Vick is facing a potential six years in prison if convicted. Falcons officials have not ruled out releasing Vick at some point. Harrington, it seems, has the starting job for the foreseeable future. He did his best Thursday to take it all in stride.

"I don't know that my role has changed, to be honest," he said. "My role when I came to Atlanta was to be ready to play."

Harrington said he's not trying to fill Vick's shoes. Vick is an athletic marvel, Harrington said, and no one could.

But Petrino's offensive system isn't necessarily designed for an improvisational wizard of a player like Vick, anyway. Falcons players said they're confident they can win with Harrington as the starter.

"My goals for this team haven't changed," cornerback DeAngelo Hall said. "I still expect to win a lot of games."

By Mark Maske |  July 27, 2007; 8:17 AM ET  | Category:  Falcons
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