By SCOTT M. JOHNSON
ATLANTA – George Koonce’s first-quarter interception was his first since 1996, and only the second one he had returned for a touchdown in his nine-year career.
So what’s an old vet like him get for a reward? He was benched in the second quarter.
Actually, Koonce’s lack of playing time was by design. Coach Mike Holmgren said last week that he planned for some of his younger players to receive more playing time, which meant Isaiah Kacyvenski would spell Koonce at middle linebacker on occasion Sunday.
Kacyvenski, a fourth-round pick from Harvard who had played solely on special teams until Sunday, may have been the most pleasant surprise of the young performers. He was in for 14 of the game’s 61 defensive plays and made three tackles.
“It’s been 12 weeks since I last stepped on the field like that,” Kacyvenski said. “I was a little amped at first, then I settled down. The second time I got in there, I felt great.”
Among the other players seeing extensive action for the first time were:
“It was great to see everyone in and everyone playing,” Kacyvenski said. “Everyone was excited. That whole sideline was having fun and into the game. It was great.”
Even Koonce enjoyed the planned youth movement.
“I’m happy for all the guys,” Koonce said. “That’s one thing about our team: everyone’s behind each other. And that’s the key.”