Mora has no hard feeling over dismissal from Falcons

KIRKLAND, Wash. -- Jim Mora isn't bitter that the Atlanta Falcons fired him as their coach last New Year's Day -- a move that began more trouble in a year than an organization would want in a lifetime.

Nope, Mora remains committed to Atlanta -- specifically, to its kids -- in his first season as defensive backs coach for the Seattle Seahawks.

The NFC West champions (10-5) end their regular season against the decimated Falcons (3-12) on Sunday, Mora's first game in Atlanta since owner Arthur Blank fired him for going 27-23 in three seasons. That included an appearance in the NFC championship game at the end of the 2004 season.

"I'm excited to go back. I'm excited always to play a game," the energetic Mora said after running with his Seahawks through another practice Thursday. "I'm excited to go back to Atlanta and see a lot of good friends, people I've known professionally and personally.

"I do keep in touch with people there."

Mora's Count on Me Family Foundation, started in 2005, still benefits low-income, at-risk and mentally and physically challenged children throughout Georgia. And Mora said it will stay in Atlanta.

"I made a commitment, you know, when I started. And I don't want to walk out on that," Mora said. "There are too many children that need help, and especially in that area.

"This is a nomadic business, and when we started that foundation there, our goal was to have a lasting effect. I don't know if it's a memory or source of pride."

One of Mora's favorite programs within the foundation is the Jim Mora Flag Football League. Sunday, he is hosting about 50 of its players, but not to cheer the Falcons.

"I've invited the winning teams from each age group to the game. And they'll be there in Seattle Seahawks shirts, cheering on the Seahawks," Mora said, smiling. "That'll be kind of fun to see."

It may be the only fun inside the Georgia Dome this season.

First, Falcons quarterback Michael Vick was arrested and eventually sent to prison for dogfighting. Then came season-ending injuries along both the offensive and defensive lines before Mora's successor, Bobby Petrino, deserted the team this month and returned to college to take the job at Arkansas.

Yes, Atlanta has had a season that might make Mora glad he escaped to a playoff team, to a place where he is largely viewed as the heir to 59-year-old coach Mike Holmgren, who has one year remaining on his Seahawks contract.

"No, no. I mean, I feel for those people there," Mora said of Atlanta. "I made a lot of great friends in the organization and have a lot of great relationships with people there, both players and people in the front office. I feel for what they're going through.

"It's not easy. They are friends of mine. And you don't like to see your friends suffer."

Mora, whom Holmgren has credited in part for reducing Seattle's habit of allowing big plays in the secondary and for refining Marcus Trufant into a first-time Pro Bowl cornerback, said he has no hard feelings over Blank dismissing him -- on a holiday, even.

"No, no hard feelings," said Mora, son of a longtime NFL coach. "This is a grown-man's league. I've been around this league my entire life and I understand that sometimes things happen. Really, quite frankly, I'm very appreciative of the chance, the opportunity that Arthur gave me, to be a head coach in this league. We had a lot of success and won a lot of games and had a lot of fun.

"Very rarely do those things end positively, unless you decide to step away. So I think you just have to be mature enough to handle it as it comes down."

In Seattle, Mora isn't just seen as Holmgren's potential replacement. The 38-year-old, who spent his formative years in the city while his father coached at the University of Washington, is a popular choice to replace Tyrone Willingham with the struggling Huskies -- if UW doesn't keep Willingham past 2008, the fourth year of his five-year contract.

How often does Mora think longingly of his days of being a head man?

"Not often," he said. "I think about doing the best job I can every day with the Seattle secondary."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press.

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