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Falcons Suspend Jeff George After Sideline Confrontation With Coach

September 23, 1996

SUWANEE, Ga. (AP) _ The Falcons suspended Jeff George on Monday, one day after the quarterback confronted coach June Jones on the sidelines, and there were strong indications that George’s career in Atlanta is over.

``He left me no choice,″ Jones said after meeting with George, who departed the Falcons complex without comment. ``I told him I’d call him tomorrow, and we’ll see where it leads from there.″

Jones, who built his entire run-and-shoot offense around the strong-armed George, said all options would be considered, including a trade, although the quarterback’s $3.64 million contract could be a stumbling block under the salary cap.

``After the next 24 to 48 hours, we’ll look at it closely and decide where we’re going to go from there,″ Jones said. ``It’s just a bad situation. ... I don’t know how it’s going to sort out.″

George, after being benched in the third quarter of a 33-18 loss to Philadelphia that left the Falcons at 0-3, followed Jones down the sideline, noticeably upset with the decision.

The two met before Monday’s workout, and it was clear that George had gone too far with his sideline tirade. Jones said the suspension was for conduct detrimental to the team, including abusive language and ``the fact that it went on for 10 minutes.″

Jones said if George had expressed his displeasure in private _ instead of in front of the team and a national television audience _ a suspension probably would not have been warranted.

``But when it comes to the point where it affects the rest of the group, then you’ve got to do something,″ Jones said.

After the game, George was repentant about the language he used with his coach.

``I guess some of the things I said on the sideline, I’m kind of upset about that,″ he said. ``I need to learn a little bit about that, I guess.″

Still, it was clear George wasn’t happy about his benching, having completed 10 straight passes before he threw an interception that prompted Jones to put Bobby Hebert in the game with the Falcons trailing 23-10.

``In my mind, I think I could have brought the team back,″ George said. ``We had the whole second half. There was a lot of football to be played.″

George left the Falcons complex without talking to reporters Monday. His agent, Leigh Steinburg, was observing the Yom Kipper holiday and could not immediately be reached for comment.

The suspension of George was the latest in a series of events that have saddled him the reputation a selfish player who will never be a winner in the NFL.

In college, he stirred hard feelings when he transferred from Purdue to Illinois. Drafted by his hometown team, the Indianapolis Colts, he wore out his welcome in 1993 with a holdout. In Atlanta, he never was accepted by the fans, despite the big numbers he posted in the run-and-shoot.

``Maybe he’s a little ... standoffish,″ Hebert said. ``Maybe some people didn’t like that and perceived that as some form of arrogance.″

Saying he wanted to settle down in Atlanta, George sought a long-term deal from the Falcons after throwing for a club-record 4,143 yards and leading the team to the playoffs last season. But negotiations bogged down, and he further dampened his reputation by missing two preseason games before agreeing to a compromise one-year deal that makes him an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year.

``I think Jeff played at a very high level for us,″ Jones said. `` I feel for him, but at the same time I feel he left me no option.″

Hebert, 36, will start Sunday at San Francisco. He was a Pro Bowler for the Falcons in 1993, but underwent surgery on his throwing elbow after that season.

Atlanta, fearing he didn’t have the arm strength for the run-and-shoot, traded for George, and Hebert accepted a role as a backup. Now, he’s back in the starting lineup.

``I’ll just try to bite the bullet and do all I can to help the team win now,″ said Hebert, who threw three interceptions _ one more than George _ after he entered Sunday night’s game late in the third quarter.

Atlanta was carrying only two quarterbacks, and Jones plans to bring in two new players to back up Hebert. At the top of the list are former Falcons Browning Nagle, Perry Klein and Billy Joe Tolliver.

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