FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Thomas Dimitroff's Super Bowl matchup against Bill Belichick and the Patriots is far more than an executive facing his former boss and employer.
Dimitroff, the Falcons general manager since 2008, has deep ties with Belichick. Dimitroff's first NFL job was on the Browns' grounds crew when his father was a scout and Belichick was the coach.
Dimitroff climbed the ranks before spending five years as the Patriots' director of college scouting under Belichick.
Now Belichick and New England stand in the way of Atlanta's attempt to win its first Super Bowl. It's a challenge Dimitroff said he relishes.
"This is kind of a dream game that way, to be able to go against the Patriots and against one of my mentors in this league," Dimitroff said Friday.
Dimitroff's respect for his former boss is obvious. He says New England is where he learned the most important lessons that prepared him for the opportunity in Atlanta.
"I learned a lot from my father and from different places I was at, of course, but it wasn't until I got to the Patriots that I truly realized the idea at the core of the team concept," he said.
"I mean, I grew up hearing it all the time, but actually being put into effect there in New England, I'll take that with me forever."
MORE SUPER BOWL: The average price for tickets is already down 9 percent from last year's game, according to ticket reseller StubHub. … Original cast members of the Tony Award-winning Broadway hit Hamilton: An American Musical will sing America the Beautiful during pregame festivities.
CARDINALS: Former NFL quarterback Byron Leftwich, who played for the Bucs in 2009, was hired as quarterbacks coach, and Freddie Kitchens was shifted to running backs coach.
49ERS: The team is planning to conduct a second interview with Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan in hopes of settling on a head coach.
VIKINGS: Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is continuing his rehab from a knee injury without a set timeline. His status for the 2017 season remains in doubt, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.