The media has already jumped on the story of Jason Elam and Domonique Foxworth facing their former teams. (Tyson Clabo also started his career with the Broncos, signing with them as an undrafted free agent in 2004. Jamaal Fudge is likely to remain on the inactive list, but he's also a former Bronco.)
But the best story of a player coming back to face a former team goes the other direction... A Falcons staffer told me in preseason that our Birds would probably have won four more games last season if we only had a kicker. I always get a chuckle out of that idea, because we actually had several of them.
First we had Aaron Elling, but we cut him in camp to go with Billy Cundiff. Cundiff kicked extremely well in camp and was rock solid in the first three preseason games. Then, in the final week of preseason, Matt Prater became available. Special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg had been watching the kid for a while and liked what he saw, and he had GM Rich McKay invite the young kicker in for a workout with the coaching staff.
Petrino never even had him practice with the team. He didn't even watch a complete workout. He simply had McKay sign the young kicker, had Prater kick the final exhibition game (when he had the entire first unit take the night off), and unexpectedly cut Cundiff the next morning in favor of the kid with the tribal armband tattoos on BOTH arms.
Falcon fans remember the rest of the story, though hardly any can even remember the kid's name. Prater was working through a brief period with some mechanical issues. He had pulled one of his three kicks in that final exhibition game. He also pulled one of his two attempts in the first regular season game against the Vikings - but hardly anyone cared, as the game wasn't particularly close, and the Falcons had many other problems to occupy everyone's minds.
But in the second game, against Smitty and the Jags no less, he shanked both of his attempts. Both were from short to middle range, and the Falcons ended up losing the game by... six points. The ever-so-patient hog caller released him immediately, and by that Wednesday Atlanta had once again dragged Morten Andersen back into action.
Meanwhile, the Broncos had a tendency of carrying a second kicker strictly for kickoffs in order to save Jason Elam's leg. (This was what I had hoped the Falcons would have done with Cundiff and Prater.) In midseason, they picked up Prater as their second kicker.
He worked out the mechanical problem he had during his whopping 17-day Falcon career and became their full time kicker after Elam's departure. Today, many Bronco fans claim he's better than Elam.
Mike Shanahan was asked if he's looking forward to seeing Jason Elam again. Shanahan joked of course not - he's kicking against us. I feel the same way about Prater. Rosburg was right. The kid has astounding potential, and Petrino cast him aside after just one bad game.
I'm glad things worked out well for him, and I'm looking forward to seeing him in action again. Considering that Petrino did more damage to Atlanta than General Sherman, Prater was probably lucky to have been set free so early. He missed the misery of the next 12 weeks that followed here in Atlanta (which many of the players compared to a form of purgatory - except worse), and he landed on his feet in a great situation for a young kicker.
Unfortunately for us, the kid has a cannon of a leg. If the Broncos choose to have him kick deep, expect to see the Falcons starting at the 20-yard line after any Denver kickoff. And if anyone in the league right now is capable of kicking a game-winning 60+ yard field goal, my money would be on Prater as the guy most likely to do it.