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Falcons LBs making plans to preserve 'camaraderie'
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FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — Stephen Nicholas said Thursday he and other Atlanta Falcons linebackers plan to work out together this offseason if the lack of a new collective bargaining agreement means there are no team workouts.

The Falcons normally start their offseason workouts (OTAs) in late March. There were no players at the practice facility on Thursday as labor talks continued in Washington.

Nicholas, a restricted free agent, said in a telephone interview he is plans to work out with Curtis Lofton, Sean Weatherspoon and Mike Peterson away from the team's facility. Peterson also is a free agent.

"We've talked about getting together, about doing some linebacker drills, just working on stuff together to keep the linebacker camaraderie going," Nicholas said. "I'm pretty sure quarterbacks and receivers will do the same thing."

Nicholas said the goal is to keep the linebackers together even though all may not re-sign with the team.

"I don't know if all the pieces are still going to be together, but as friendship goes, we're definitely going to be together," he said.

Nicholas said the players have discussed meeting in the Atlanta area or in Florida for the workouts.

Among other key free agents for the Falcons are three starting offensive linemen: guards Justin Blalock and Harvey Dahl and right tackle Tyson Clabo.

Kicker Matt Bryant, punter Michael Koenen, running back Jason Snelling, cornerback Brent Grimes and receivers Eric Weems and Brian Finneran also are notable free agents.

The Falcons have placed a second-round tender on Snelling, who like Nicholas is a four-year veteran. Snelling and Nicholas could become unrestricted free agents in a new collective bargaining agreement.

Frustrated by his inability to re-sign with the Falcons during the labor talks, Nicholas took a creative route to marketing himself. He attended the Super Bowl in Dallas and jumped into the media blitz.

Many players take advantage of the massive gathering of sports talk radio shows to push products or events they are endorsing in interviews. Nicholas pushed himself.

"I thought it'd be good exposure," he said. "A lot of things happen on radio row. I'd never had the opportunity to do that. I'd never seen that many media, fans and reporters just walking around. It was something to see. I thought it would be good and I think it was good."

When he returned, Nicholas signed with new agents, Doug Hendrickson and C.J. LaBoy of Octagon Sports.

Despite his efforts and his solid production — Nicholas was fourth on the Falcons with 72 tackles — he is in limbo as he and other players wait and hope for a new labor agreement.

"Not only me, there are a lot of guys in my situation, not knowing exactly what position they are really in," he said.

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