Redman gets the reins
Search continues to replace Vick's presence at QB

FLOWERY BRANCH - The Atlanta Falcons knew it would be tough to find a replacement for Michael Vick.

With only a month to go in a miserable season, they're still looking.

Chris Redman, who was out of the league the last three seasons, became the third starter of the post-Vick era on Thursday, getting the nod after a strong performance in relief of Joey Harrington.

With Byron Leftwich still hurting and Harrington clearly not the answer, the Falcons (3-9) had little choice except to go with a quarterback who was selling insurance a year ago for their Monday night game against the New Orleans Saints.

'We liked the way he finished the game the other day,' coach Bobby Petrino said after Redman practiced with the first team on a chilly afternoon. 'He gave us a lift. He's got a lot of confidence. So we're going to start with him.'

Who knows how long he'll last?

After Vick was suspended indefinitely for his ties to a dogfighting ring, Harrington began the season as the No. 1 quarterback. He lost the job to Leftwich, only to get it back twice when the former Jacksonville starter failed to make it through an entire game without getting hurt.

Now, the Falcons are turning to Redman - in a prime-time game, no less.

'It's unbelievable,' he said. 'I have a chance to be on a pedestal that I never thought I would be on again, to be honest. I want to take advantage of this opportunity.'

Redman spent four seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, playing 10 games with six starts, but his career was sidetracked by shoulder and back problems. He didn't play at all from 2004-06, getting cut by New England and Tennessee and flopping in a tryout with the Cincinnati Bengals.

He was signed by Atlanta mainly because of his ties to Petrino, who was the offensive coordinator at Louisville during one of Redman's college seasons.

Both hope that familiarity will lead to a more cohesive, productive offense. Without Vick, the Falcons rank 26th in total yards and next-to-last in scoring at just 14.2 points a game.

'It's great for me,' Redman said of his history with Petrino. 'I feel real relaxed back there because he's calling plays. We have a good relationship.'

Harrington, who already lost starting jobs in Detroit and Miami, may have ruined any hopes of turning his career around in Atlanta. Petrino had intended to go with Leftwich the rest of the season, but he's still struggling to overcome ankle and tailbone injuries.

'I'm getting there,' Leftwich said. 'The tough part is not being able to go out there and show my abilities, show what I can do as a football player. It gets frustrating.'

Petrino knows the feeling. The rookie coach came to the Falcons after putting together some of the highest-scoring teams in college football, but he never got a chance to work with the team's most dynamic player.

Vick entered a guilty plea to federal dogfighting charges and is due to be sentenced on Monday, a few hours before the Falcons host the Saints. Though he technically remains on the roster, he's unlikely ever to play again for Atlanta.

'It's been different. There's no doubt about that,' Petrino said. 'We haven't had the continuity that you normally have.'

Redman replaced Harrington at the start of the fourth quarter last Sunday with the Falcons trailing 21-3 at St. Louis. The backup completed 16 of 24 passes for 172 yards and two touchdowns in a 28-16 loss.

'I did it for one quarter,' Redman said. 'Now I've got to show I can do it for four quarters.'

He's certainly grateful for the opportunity. Redman spent last season selling insurance, going door-to-door making his pitch to strangers.

'I don't take anything for granted,' he said. 'Every play is my Super Bowl. I was on the outside of the ropes for a while. It wasn't fun. Whatever opportunity I get, I want to take advantage of it.'