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The attitude of the Atlanta Falcons early in camp is right, starting with the veterans


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The attitude of the Atlanta Falcons early in camp is right, starting with the veterans

August 2, 5:55 PM

From the sounds of things in the first few practices of the 2009 Atlanta Falcons training camp, the veterans on the team are determined to get another shot at the playoffs.

They've adopted Head Coach Mike Smith's humble and hungry message from May's minicamp and are living and breathing it. And they don't have much time for rookies or younger players that aren't following suit.

"There's no one complacent right now," defensive end John Abraham said on Saturday. "If they are, they're going to understand real quick that they probably won't be here. The vets we have this year are really trying to push to get us there."

By "there" he means the playoffs, but with a win this time.

Most of the team around for 2008 appears to have put the successful parts of last season behind them, choosing instead to focus on how the first-round playoff loss to the Arizona Cardinals felt.

Smith probably expected that attitude, but he didn't take any chances. In the team's first two meetings before the initial practice of camp on Saturday morning, he took a moment to remind everyone that last year is a distant memory.

"Last year is last year," wide receiver Brian Finneran said of Smith's address to the team. "His biggest thing is ' Success does not breed success.' You've got to keep working and trying to get better. Everybody else is getting better, so we've got to keep do the same thing. Don't get complacent. "

Pro Bowl running back Michael Turner has seen firsthand that expectations don't guarantee success. In his second season with the San Diego Chargers in 2005, the team was expected to follow up its impressive 12-4 2004 finish with another playoff run. Instead, they finished 9-7, third in the AFC West.

That experience showed Turner that there are no promises in the NFL. Just because you were a playoff team one year doesn't mean teams will concede wins to you the next.

"Nothing's guaranteed in this league," Turner said. "So we've got to bounce back. Just because we had success last year doesn't necessarily mean we'll be the same team this year."

For Smith, however, some of the things that worked last season will be done again, starting with resting his veterans. Many of his "Over 30 Club" players will be practicing only once a day during training camp. It's Smith's way of rewarding his veterans for contributing to the team in more ways than just on the football field and keeping them fresh for the 16-game grind (and hopefully more).

Though second-year quarterback Matt Ryan is not one of those players that gets days off, and may never, he can still appreciate the lengths his head coach goes to take care of his players during the hot August months of training camp and beyond.

"He's going to work you hard, but he's fair," Ryan said. "He's going to take care of the guys, especially some of the older guys that have been around this for a long time. Smitty does a great job. He works us hard and gets the most out of us, but at the same time he takes care of us."

It's a common theme in close knit families, communities, and work groups. Take care of your own and they'll take care of you. You watch my back and I'll watch yours. Those are all theories that Smith clearly subscribes to, believing if he takes the steps to make sure his players feel appreciated and rewarded when needed, they'll always lay it all out for you.

Sometimes, as in the case of Abraham, they'll do some of your dirty work for you.

Last year's team got major contributions from its rookies. With five starters on defense from '08 gone, some of the young players, including a few rookies, will be counted on in 2009.

Abraham, likely echoing the sentiments of the coaching staff but saying it in a way that only one of a team's stars can, told the rookies exactly what will be needed from them this season.

"We just expect them to make as few mistakes as possible," Abraham said. "As a rookie you've got to know all your stuff. Mainly we want them to know all the plays, where to be, and what to do. ...We're just trying to get somebody to do right the whole time."

For some guys like Abraham, they know their time in the league is winding down. This could be their last opportunity to do something big,

When speaking about first-round rookie defensive tackle Peria Jerry, he provided a glimpse into the sense of urgency that 2009 contains for many of the veterans.

"We've just got to make sure he stays focused in his first year and understands that this year is important for us."

I always love to hear what you've got to say. Leave a comment or email me for the Weekly Mailbag: jdanielcox@gmail.com. Click "subscribe" to receive emails whenever a new article is posted. Follow me on Twitter.

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Thanks for the post... From what I've heard and read from other posts this Defense is intense and hungry. They have that all or nothing mentality going on. They understand that it is going to take time (or as Smitty says a Process) to get to where they want to be. They are definately putting in the work and hopefully at the end of the season they will be reaping the benifits.

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