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Falcons camp report: Atlanta’s a Super Bowl sleeper

SportingNews 11 hours, 5 minutes ago

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Observations and opinions from Falcons training camp in Flowery Branch, Ga.:

What’s new

The secondary received a boost this offseason with the addition of free-agent cornerback Dunta Robinson(notes), a seven-year vet. He is sidelined right now with what coach Mike Smith(notes) calls a "tight hamstring," but the Falcons expect him healthy for the Sept. 12 opener at Pittsburgh.

Camp battle

AdChoices

Robinson, obviously, has one cornerback spot locked down, but the other is up for grabs. Veteran Brian Williams(notes), recovering from offseason knee surgery, must get healthy, and he also needs to beat out Christopher Owens(notes), a ’09 third-round pick who started six games last year. Brent Grimes(notes) and Dominique Franks(notes) are in the mix, too.

Rehab report

Michael Turner(notes) rushed for 1,699 yards in his first season with the Falcons and had 831 yards (5 yards a carry) when he injured his ankle in Week 9. A pair of comeback attempts the final few weeks ended quickly, and Turner spent the offseason with a healthy dose of rest.

"Definitely feels great to be back," said Turner, who says he’s close to being 100 percent healthy. "It feels like forever since I’ve played football."

Rookie on the spot

In separate interviews this week, Smith, quarterback Matt Ryan(notes) and tight end Tony Gonzalez(notes) all identified rookie outside linebacker Sean Weatherspoon(notes), a first-round pick from Missouri, as having an outstanding camp.

"Spoon’s great," middle linebacker Curtis Lofton(notes) said Thursday. "He’s very smart, very athletic and brings a lot of speed and intensity to the field. That’s what you want out of a rookie. He’s been playing both sides (of the formation), and that’s tough, but he’s been doing a really good job of it."

2010 outlook

Although the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints are in the division, Sporting News has tabbed Atlanta as the favorite to win the NFC South. And the Falcons could well be a Super Bowl sleeper.

"We’ve got the camaraderie as a team and the right players," wide receiver Roddy White(notes) said. "And if we can just stay healthy we can put ourselves right up there with the elite teams in the league."

Ryan Fagan is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at

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