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Falcons sign Turner from Chargers

POSTED: March 13, 2008 5:00 a.m.

 

ATLANTA — Michael Turner says he was won over by the Atlanta Falcons’ aggressive efforts when he agreed to a six-year deal Sunday.

"It was really the whole organization and what they’re trying to do," Turner told The Associated Press on Sunday when asked what influenced his decision. "Everybody is fresh with a clean slate and trying to build things back up. ... I did not come into the visit expecting to sign so soon. I didn’t know what to expect."

A four-year veteran who best known as LaDainian Tomlinson’s backup in San Diego, Turner is expected to play a more important role with the Falcons. He is projected as the power complement to speed back Jerious Norwood.

Turner said a factor in his decision was new Falcons’ coach Mike Smith’s experience as a defensive coordinator with Jacksonville when the Jaguars had success with tailbacks Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew sharing the carries.

"It will be interesting with a combo type thing," Turner said. "Coach Smith from Jacksonville knows how that works, so hopefully it will be a good thing."

The addition of Turner likely signals the end of Warrick Dunn’s time with the team. If the Falcons release Dunn, they will gain about $3 million in salary cap space.

Turner and a representative of his agent, James "Bus" Cook, wouldn’t confirm an ESPN.com report that his contract with Atlanta is for $34.5 million, with approximately $15 million guaranteed.

Turner (5-foot-10, 237 pounds) had 228 carries for 1,257 yards and six touchdowns in four seasons with San Diego. He also had three of the longest 11 carries in team history — 83, 74 and 73 yards.

He has averaged 5.5 yards per carry in his career.

Atlanta was Turner’s first stop in the free-agency period, and Falcons officials made sure he didn’t make any other visits.

Turner began his weekend visit Friday, and attended an Arena Football League game in Atlanta with Falcons owner Arthur Blank, general manager Thomas Dimitroff and Smith on Saturday. Blank also owns the AFL’s Georgia Force.

Turner said he also had dinner with Blank.

"He’s a great guy," Turner said. "He talked about what he’s trying to do with the organization and I respected what he said."

Dimitroff said the Falcons believe Turner is ready to be more than a backup.

"We are pleased to be able to add a very talented running back and a player who has produced at a high level in this league when given the opportunity," Dimitroff said. "We think he’s ready to take the next step and have a more prominent role in an offense, and we are happy he decided that opportunity is going to be here in Atlanta."

Turner showed his potential as a starter when given the chance to fill in for Tomlinson.

Turner rushed for 316 yards on 71 carries last season and added 164 yards on 43 carries in the playoffs.

In a Week 5 game against Denver, Turner set a career high with 147 yards rushing, including a 74-yard touchdown run, in the Chargers’ 41-3 win.

It was Turner’s third career 100-yard game.

"Besides being a quality football player, Michael Turner is a quality person," Smith said. "He is the type of player we are looking for to help build our football team. I’m excited that he is joining the Atlanta Falcons."

The Falcons already have added four free agents. The team also agreed to terms with tight end Ben Hartsock of Tennessee on Sunday.

Hartsock (6-4, 265) is a four-year veteran who was drafted in the third round in 2004 by Indianapolis and had 12 catches for 138 yards with Tennessee last season.

The Falcons signed defensive backs Erik Coleman and Von Hutchins on Saturday and re-signed quarterback Chris Redman, who finished the 2007 season as the starter.



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