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Falcons Offseason News

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Falcons' Reedy is ready to pursue dream

By Vaughn McClure

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Atlanta Falcons rookie Bernard Reedy is still waiting for his NFL career to take off, but his acting career has launched -- sort of.

Before minicamp concluded in mid-June, the diminutive, undrafted receiver from Toledo was summoned by "the skinny white guy who always wears sunglasses" -- better known as football communications coordinator Matt Haley -- for a video session with the crew from HBO's "Hard Knocks."

"I think they said they're going to have me 'mic'd' like two times a week," Reedy said of the Falcons' upcoming training camp documentary. "They had me go in there and do a little commercial thing with the previews and spray the water all over your face. It was some sticky stuff where they made you close your eyes, and [then] you've got to look up at the camera like you're mad.

"That was my first time trying to act. It took like, 10, 15 minutes. I think they said your head turns into a football or something, so you've got to turn this way and then turn that way. And they put this green screen behind you. It was fun."

The 5-foot-8, 175-pound Reedy made the offseason much more entertaining, even without props. His explosive cuts and nifty deep-ball catches impressed Falcons coaches and left some teammates in awe. His 4.39 speed in the 40 was clearly evident.

Reedy, however, has an uphill battle to make the 53-man roster. Julio Jones and Roddy White will lead an established receiving corps into Friday's opening day of camp.

"It's a crime that the kid didn't get drafted," Toledo offensive coordinator Jason Candle said of Reedy. "Obviously, folks have their specs in what they want, size-wise and speed-wise. ... But this kid has an unbreakable mindset about him. He's always risen to the occasion. The moment is never too big for him."

If "Hard Knocks" decides to make Reedy one of the featured characters, he'll have a compelling story to tell.

Ask him about what motivated him to excel as a football player while growing up in St. Petersburg, Florida, and Reedy will tell you about the friendly competition with his older sister.

Innekia Reedy was the flag football co-athlete of the year for Pinellas County in 2007. She averaged 100 rushing yards and three sacks per game during her senior year at Lakewood High School.

"I think she was the best flag football player in the nation," Reedy boasted. "She played running back, quarterback -- you know, put the athlete anywhere. She's fast."

Reedy also attended Lakewood and was the county player of the year as a running back in 2009. He rushed for 1,211 yards and scored 36 touchdowns. But his sister, who briefly played small-school college basketball, has never shied away from claiming bragging rights.

"She was [always] claiming that she was better than me, faster than me," Reedy said.

Ask Reedy about his other sibling and he'll tell you his half-brother, Dominique Flowers, has been in and out of prison for a majority of his adult life.

"He's a street dude," Reedy said. "He's been slinging [drugs]. He's out now. Is he still drug-dealing? I don't know."

"He's not allowed to drive because he has no license," Reedy said of his brother. "So I'll go pick him up and then we'll go do something. He went jet-skiing with me this summer. He was just amazed. I was like, 'This is what it looks like when you get out of the house.'"

Reedy grew up in an undesirable neighborhood on the south side of St. Petersburg. He elected to meet at a restaurant in a "nicer" area of town to be interviewed for this story, to avert any violence near his home.

"Ever since I've been growing up, the crime rate has been crazy," he said.

Reedy had a few run-ins with the law as a teen. St. Petersburg police confirmed he had been stopped in the past for illegally riding his dirt bike on the street.

"I didn't think it was no harm," Reedy said. "I knew [it was wrong], but it's not like I was running any red lights."

Sports gave Reedy the green light to do something more with his life and possibly achieve an NFL dream. Ask him why he didn't get drafted and he’ll shrug his shoulders. He has grown accustomed to being overlooked: Despite gaudy numbers in high school, his only two college choices were Toledo and Western Kentucky.

As a junior at Toledo, Reedy ranked sixth in the nation in all-purpose yards per game (174.7). He didn't have the type of senior season he had hoped for, but he thought he was good enough to be drafted.

Reedy figured he was on his way after a strong showing in East-West Shrine game practices and scoring a touchdown in the annual all-star game, played in St. Petersburg. Then he started generating interest from two NFL teams in particular, Houston and Oakland.

"The Raiders talked to me for like two hours," Reedy said. "And they were just saying how important the [East-West Shrine] practices were. And [later] I was like, 'If they were that important, I should have went the first round.'

"I thought I was going to the Texans, especially after my pro day. They had me working outside, inside and catching punts. And then they called Coach Candle about me."

Regardless, Reedy didn't get drafted. Thirty-three receivers did.

"I'm thinking all these receivers that they're taking, I just played with these guys," Reedy said. "One of the guys who got drafted, he broke his finger in the East-West practices and didn't even practice. I mean, I don't knock anybody, but I've seen talent before."

Some of that talent came from St. Petersburg. Former Lakewood standout Louis Murphy, now a receiver with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, mentored Reedy and helped him during the lead-up to the draft.

"I wasn't trusting none of the agents at first, so Murph paid for me to train," Reedy said. "And he paid for my housing. He used to come to my little league games and my high school games. Of course I look up to him."

Murphy had no problem lending a hand.

"I wanted to look out for him," he said. "I just feel like it's my duty, as a guy who made it out of St. Petersburg, to give advice or always be accessible."

Perhaps Murphy and Reedy will meet again when the Falcons and Buccaneers battle Sept. 18 at the Georgia Dome.

Reedy realizes he has to make quite an impression during training camp to stick. But his opening act this offseason was nothing short of spectacular.

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From this day forward, I'm gonna stay out of certain threads in tatf. You ask a simple question over there and people instantly assume stupid ish. Good grief. No more serious talk over there for me unless it's with a non homer

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From this day forward, I'm gonna stay out of certain threads in tatf. You ask a simple question over there and people instantly assume stupid ish. Good grief. No more serious talk over there for me unless it's with a non homer

You see why I don't go over there as much as I use to! Some dudes over there are just stupid as he11! LOL

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You see why I don't go over there as much as I use to! Some dudes over there are just stupid as he11! LOL

I mean dang man, get an understanding of what you're getting upset over before going off on the deep end lol. It's funny though. Then you come along and say I'm keeping up ****. I'm the victim most of the time lol

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I mean dang man, get an understanding of what you're getting upset over before going off on the deep end lol. It's funny though. Then you come along and say I'm keeping up ****. I'm the victim most of the time lol

I know bruh just messing with you when I say that, lol. Some of these dudes are just special, LOL

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I know bruh just messing with you when I say that, lol. Some of these dudes are just special, LOL

sensitivity is real over there lol

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Friday, July 25, 2014

Falcons Camp Report: Day 1

By Vaughn McClure

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Atlanta Falcons training camp:

•The big news of the day was Julio Jones returning to practice for the first time since suffering a right foot fracture in Week 5 of last season. Coach Mike Smith said Jones will be limited during camp with one day on, one day off. Jones showed no ill effects while planting and cutting. His reps were limited during full-team drills and one-on-one coverage drills. "I thought it was very good," Smith said of Jones' first day. "You guys saw it. He was running routes very well. I thought the timing between he and [quarterback] Matt [Ryan] was good. We have a plan, a prescription that we're going to try to stay by for the first couple of weeks, and then we'll make an evaluation after that. It was great to see Julio back on the field."

•Smith promised camp would get a little physical. Outside linebacker Kroy Biermann and rookie offensive tackle Jake Matthews got into a scuffle that led to a punch thrown. Remember, Biermann missed most of last season with an Achilles tear, so he's no doubt itching to get back at it. "Kroy has not been able to be out on the field … I'm sure he's excited about it," Smith said. "And I'm sure that Jake is not going to back down from anybody. I imagine we'll have some of those types of battles all through training camp. Those things are good. It keeps it spirited, and we're going to have spirited football practices here in Flowery Branch up to the start of the first game."

•The offensive line will be on the spot going into the season, so seeing some fight from Matthews on Day 1 was a good start. It also was impressive new starting right guard Jon Asamoah seemed to shove guys around with ease. He was on the attack against defensive end Tyson Jackson, his old teammate in Kansas City. Tackle Lamar Holmes, who is on the roster bubble, showed fight going against Tyler Starr in pass-rush drills, while veteran newcomer Gabe Carimi seemed to be frustrated with his performance during the same drill.

•Smith declined to go into detail about why the team waived second-year receiver Darius Johnson before practice. Johnson contributed as a reserve receiver last season. "No, I'm not going to comment on the reason that Darius was released," Smith said. "We never do. But there was a transaction that we put in today, and he's no longer a member of our team."

•Outside linebacker Jonathan Massaquoi, the guy the Falcons are counting on to provide a consistent pass rush, took a few plays off after grabbing his hamstring. But Massaquoi said he was fine despite being stretched out by a member of the training staff, so it might have been cramps. He returned at the end of practice.

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Saturday, August 2, 2014

Falcons' Ishmael might have to step up

By Vaughn McClure

LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. -- Neither safety Kemal Ishmael nor any of his Atlanta Falcons' teammates wanted to speculate about the status of starting free safety Dwight Lowery.

Sure, strong safety William Moore has five years under his belt and a Pro Bowl behind his name. But players such as Ishmael, rookie Dez Southward, and second-year player Sean Baker have yet to start an NFL game.

Ishmael, who stepped in for Lowery aside Moore for a brief stint Friday, seems ready for the challenge -- if the opportunity presents itself.

"I've been here a year and I'm ready to go," Ishmael said. "When one guy goes down, the next guy has to step up. We're cut like that. That's what we get paid to do. So, I'm ready. Any challenge that comes in my way, I'm just going to tackle it and do it to the best of my abilities."

Again, it's too early to speculate on Lowery's status. However, he missed the bulk of last season with the Jacksonville Jaguars after sustaining a concussion in Week 3 following a cheap shot from Seattle's Golden Tate. If he suffered another concussion Friday, it would be Lowery's third in the NFL and fourth since college.

"Dwight, he's a heck of a player," Moore said of Lowery. "I really don't know what happened to him or what not. I didn't even ask because I know he's OK. He got up and walked off on his own."

The Falcons already are down two safeties with the rookie Southward sidelined at least a week by a left knee injury and second-year player Zeke Motta expected to miss the entire season coming off neck surgery. Moore and Thomas DeCoud made up the starting safety combination last season, but DeCoud was released and is now with the Carolina Panthers.

As for Ishmael, he was a seventh-round draft pick out of Central Florida who primarily played on special teams as a rookie. He has had a strong training camp thus far.

"I did a lot of work this offseason," Ishmael said. "I shed some pounds, almost 10 more. I trained in Miami, but also came back here and worked with our strength coach. We did one-on-one kicking the soccer ball to make my right hip flexor and right foot better. Plant. Drive. Everything.

"I've been prepped, man. So I'm ready."

The possibility of Lowery going through the concussion protocol means an increase chance of Ishmael running alongside Moore when the Falcons practice against the Tennessee Titans come Monday. Such would be a valuable experience for the young safety.

Ishmael can play both safety spots but is more comfortable with one over the other.

"I like the strong," he said. "But I'll play free. This is my job. I'll do whatever they want me to."

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Friday, August 1, 2014

Cox discusses wife's battle with cancer

By Vaughn McClure

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Bryan Cox, who barked a lot during his NFL playing days, still has an gruff presence about him, particularly during his profanity-laced tirades.

Yet the Atlanta Falcons' new defensive line coach would be the first to admit he has encountered something more intimidating than the person he sees in the mirror every morning.

Cancer.

Cox's wife, Kim, underwent a double mastectomy last year. Her condition was serious enough that the couple, whose youngest daughter is 5, constructed a will.

"We got everything prepared, because we didn't know," Cox said Friday after a Falcons walkthrough. "That's what was so scary to me. It was like, 'You mean to tell me my wife could die? I could be by myself with a 5-year-old?'

"But women are the strongest creatures on this earth, especially a black woman. Ain't nothing like a black woman."

Kim Cox went to the doctor last November for a checkup and received the diagnosis.

"It was the scariest moment of my life," Bryan Cox said. "When your wife comes home and tells you, 'I have to go back to the doctor [because] they found something,' and then she calls you at work and says, 'Meet me in the parking lot, I need to see you,' and then all of sudden she breaks down because she wants to see your face and share the experience because she's scared and you're scared ...

"Then all of sudden, they say, 'OK, you do have it in your breast, and you have it in your other breast as well, so we need to remove your breasts.' It's a scary thing for a father of a 5-year-old and a mother of a 5-year-old to be in a position where you could be without one of the parents. You could be lost."

Kim underwent her surgeries in the Tampa area while Cox was coaching for the Buccaneers last season. Cox praised former Bucs coach Greg Schiano for allowing him time off to spend with his wife during and after the surgery.

"My wife has a good spiritual foundation," Cox said. "She said, 'I don't want any negative things in the house. We're going to do positive [things]. The doctors have spoken, but God hasn't. So we're going to wait to see what He has to say on it.'

"We went into December and she had the surgery and everything went well. It was like a 14-hour surgery. She was down for a few weeks. But the love that our family showed ... when she went for the surgery, we had 14 people in the lobby. And we all stayed there all day."

Kim is currently cancer-free, Cox says, although she is scheduled to undergo another procedure in late October.

"Now, we hear she's clean. She didn't have to go through any chemo. She's fine now. And through our walk, we met so many people who are not fine, where their story turned out to be much different than ours," Cox said. "It humbled me. I'm not scared of much, but I was definitely afraid of that."

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Friday, August 1, 2014

Falcons Camp Report: Day 7

By Vaughn McClure

LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. -- A daily review of the hot topics from Atlanta Falcons training camp:

SAFETY FIRST: The big news to come out of Friday night's scrimmage at Archer High School was starting free safety Dwight Lowery exiting with a head injury. It's unclear how it happened, but Lowery missed most of last season with a concussion. Coach Mike Smith wasn't in a panic. "I don't know anything right now," Smith said. "We took him off the field. And I'll get a full report, probably in the morning. It looks like it was a head injury. We'll see. But nothing serious." The Falcons already are down two safeties with rookie Dez Southward sidelined a week with a left knee injury and second-year player Zeke Motta likely to miss the season coming off neck surgery. Kemal Ishmael replaced Lowery Friday night.

SPEEDY REEDY: Once again, undrafted rookie receiver Bernard Reedy made his presence felt, burning defensive backs during one-on-one drills in press coverage. Reedy wowed the crowd with his blazing speed and soft hands. His last blow by against Javier Arenas was a thing of beauty. Reedy continues to show why he might deserve a spot on the 53-man roster. "I mean, it gives you like an opportunity to showcase your skills, show what you can do, show how you can help the team," Reedy said. "I just go out there and do what the coaches say. If you execute what the coaches tell you to do, you'll be in good shape." Reedy also made a solid catch in traffic during the scrimmage that drew praise from receivers coach Terry Robiskie.

GOOD IMPRESSIONS: Smith said he wanted to see which players would step up when Friday's scrimmage really went live in the second half, with the second and-third teamers going at it as the starters rested. Some of the players who appeared to take advantage were running back Josh Vaughan, rookie linebackers Prince Shembo and Jacques Smith, rookie receiver Tramaine Thompson, and safety Sean Baker. Baker put a punishing hit on running back Devonta Freeman. "Sean was a guy we added late last season on our practice squad," Smith said. "He's gotten an opportunity to learn our system and he's getting an opportunity to show what he can do."

EXTRA POINTS: Receiver Jeremy Ebert got quite a reaction when he beat starter Desmond Trufant in one-on-one drills. Trufant got more physical in the drill after getting beat but then picked up a flag for holding Roddy White. ... Cornerback Josh Wilson had an interception during situational drills. ... Both Lamar Holmes and Terren Jones had some bad moments during the scrimmage but fought back. ... Receiver Geraldo Boldewijn hurt his cause with a drop of sure touchdown. ... Wide receiver Julio Jones sat out the scrimmage as part of his day-on, day-off schedule. ... Newly signed defensive tackle Theo Agnew took over retired Peria Jerry's No. 97.

NEXT UP: The Falcons return to Flowery Branch Saturday for practice at 3:30 p.m.

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Saturday, August 2, 2014

Falcons' Nolan concerned about safety depth

By Vaughn McClure

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan addressed a variety of topics following Saturday's practice.

One of his primary concerns is the lack of depth at safety in the preseason, considering he would prefer to keep his starters fresh for the regular season. Strong safety William Moore is healthy, but fellow starter Dwight Lowery suffered what head coach Mike Smith said might be a head injury during Friday night's practice.

The Falcons already are down two safeties with Zeke Motta likely out for the season following neck surgery and rookie Dez Southward sidelined at least a week with a left knee injury.

"You don't want to come out of a preseason game where your starter had to play -- say he had to play 50 snaps," Nolan said. "That's not a good way to have a preseason because that wears those guys out. And by the time they get to the regular season, that's not a good thing. So I'm concerned for that reason."

Players such as Kemal Ishmael and Sean Baker will get longer looks at safety if the injuries to Lowery and Southward linger. Kimario McFadden is another guy in the group.

"And Kemal's had a good camp," Nolan said. "Kemal's done a nice job. ... He's made some a good strides from a year ago. I know he's [10 pounds] lighter and he's moving a lot better. He's one of the guys that's been able to take advantage of some of the things with the front line being a little stouter, just from the standpoint of coming up and closing the gap. Baker has also stepped up his game.

"All of those guys from last year were kind of just young guys running around or new to our system. Kemal and Baker have made some good strides. I'm kind of excited to see what they do."

Nolan, of course, would prefer to start the season with Moore and Lowery as the starting safeties.

"He's in the right place more often than not," Nolan said. "And he's been making some plays. He's a very athletic guy. He's got good size. Our two safeties look good. If nothing else, they look good getting off the bus."

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Sunday, August 3, 2014

Hester ready to adjust to new blockers

By Vaughn McClure

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Fans have caught glimpses of Devin Hester's unique return ability throughout training camp, but the real action begins Friday night when the Atlanta Falcons host the Miami Dolphins in preseason action.

Until then, arguably the greatest return man of all time will continue to get adjusted to his new teammates and the new blockers in front him.

"It's kind of hard right now because the bullets ain't flying,'' Hester said. ``But from looking at film and knowing the guys, we've got some dogs out there. I would say that Antone [smith] is solid, always-in-the-right-position type guy.

``And see, we've got 0-linemen out there blocking. We've got Gabe Carimi and guys out there on kickoff return back there blocking. You're used to DBs, safeties, smaller guys. Now, we've got a bigger unit. That's a good thing for me. ... It reminds me of back in the day, my first two years [in Chicago], with the way we had our special teams run."

Hester set an NFL record with 18 combine kick-return scores while with the Bears. As dynamic as he was, Hester would be the first to acknowledge the great blocking and scheme he had in Chicago under special teams coordinator Dave Toub. And Hester had a Pro Bowl blocker in front of him in Brendon Ayanbadejo.

Hester once again has an outstanding special teams coach in Keith Armstrong. And Armstrong has the utmost respect for Hester.

``I tell you what: You get away with more mistakes with a guy with that type of speed who's exceptional and can make some people miss and can wiggle,'' Armstrong said. ``What we have to be prepared for is they're not going to kick it to you anymore. That's what starts happening.''

Right now, it's about developing the blockers in front of Hester.

``That's the biggest, biggest key,'' Armstrong said. ``The thing you have to realize is he had a great corps in Chicago. So it is imperative that we develop. He's a talented guy. Extremely talented. But he had some good work around him. So it's imperative that we develop our guys and they understand, `Hey look: We're all in this thing.' It's going to take the group. It's not going to be one of these where, Ok, they punt the ball and, `All right, Devin. Let's see what you've got.' It doesn't work that way.''

Armstrong singled out a few players who are capable blockers.

``I tell you a guy that we picked up that obviously will help us is [Courtney] Roby,'' Armstrong said. ``I think Courtney has done a great job for us. And he brings a great attitude; professional. He's tough and he can run.

``Antone, obviously, has done a great job for us. He's going to contribute and be a winner. Robert McClain will contribute and be a winner for us on teams. Probably won't get a chance to get Joplo Bartu or (Paul) Worrilow. But I think [Tim] Dobbins would be a good pickup because he can run and hit.''

Armstrong will continue to mix and match until he finds the right combinations.

``There are some veteran guys who will be in that mix,'' Armstrong said. ``If we can get a good flow of the young guys to come in and create a solid core, now you've got a chance to go get something done.''

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Sunday, August 3, 2014

Falcons sign safety Tyrell Johnson

By Vaughn McClure

ESPN.com

FLOWERY BRANCH, GA. -- The Atlanta Falcons prepared for the possible loss of projected starting free safety Dwight Lowery for the season by adding a veteran safety to the mix.

Tyrell Johnson (6-feet, 207 pounds), who last played for the Detroit Lions, signed with the Falcons on Sunday, a day after coach Mike Smith confirmed Lowery suffered a concussion.

The 29-year-old Johnson has five years of NFL experience, four with the Vikings. He is a former second-round pick from Arkansas State. Johnson started 27 gamed in Minnesota.

It unclear if Johnson will step into a starter's role immediately, but the Falcons have a need. Lowery suffered the third concussion of his NFL career and fourth since college during Friday night's scrimmage. The initial word is Lowery's season is in doubt despite a promising start to training camp.

Veteran strong safety William Moore worked with second-year safety Kemal Ishmael during Saturday's light practice. The combination is likely to continue over the next couple days as the Falcons practice in pads.

"Let me tell you something: Kemal is a heck of a player,'' Moore said. "He reminds me of myself: one of the underrated guys coming into the league with not much hype. But if you watch Kemal's ability, one day he'll gain the attention for people to watch his ability.

"Man, he came out here this year, and I don't know what he did in the offseason. But he came in lights out.''

The Falcons had been down two other safeties before Sunday

The Falcons had been down two other safeties before Sunday, but rookie Dez Southward, who has been dealing with a left knee injury, was back on the practice field with a helmet. Second-year safety Zeke Motta, however, will likely miss the entire season coming off neck surgery.

Sean Baker is the only other returning safety in the mix. The Falcons also are cross-training cornerbacks Robert McClain and Ricardo Allen at safety for added depth.

To make room for the veteran Johnson, the Falcons released fullback Roosevelt Nix-Jones.

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Monday, August 4, 2014

Mike Tice talks Jake Matthews

By Vaughn McClure

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons offensive line coach Mike Tice discussed a variety of topics on Monday morning.

He is obviously impressed with rookie right tackle Jake Matthews, who has performed like a veteran at the start of camp.

"We knew when we drafted him that he was further along than other tackles in the draft,'' Tice said. "We felt like we were going to get a guy that was ready to step in early. From the second week he's been with us, he's taken all the reps with the ones. His footwork is extraordinary, outstanding, confident. He's got some things that he has to continue to improve on with his hands. But it comes very natural and very smooth with his technique.''

The Falcons drafted Matthews with an emphasis on protecting quarterback Matt Ryan. But Tice sees more in him.

"Outstanding run-blocker,'' Tice said. "I think that's probably something that might have got overlooked. Brings his feet with him on contact. ... Very minimal mental errors for a rookie.

"Sometimes, I don't even watch him on film. I look at the other stuff and try to clean that up.''

Here are a few other things Tice discussed:

On left tackle Sam Baker: "Sam has worked extremely hard on changing up some of his technique. We've been trying to dabble in a few minor footwork changes and a few changes with his body lean; some steps on the backside in the run game. He's bought in. He's doing an outstanding job trying to execute these techniques. I think he's had a very solid camp.

On the identity of the offensive line: "First of all, we want to be smart. We've minimized the mental errors very well. Guys are obviously studying. I think they're taking some of the work home with them. They're not just relying on the meeting time, because that's not enough. ... We want to be physical, and that means also in pass protection. We want to keep the inside part of the pocket clean for the quarterback; give him a lane to see. If [Matt Ryan] has a lane to see, he's a top-tier quarterback. I think we have some great receivers. We're going to complete a lot of balls down the field, be explosive.''

On center Joe Hawley getting involved in fights: "Hawley? He's a little dude, man. He better watch himself.''

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Monday, August 4, 2014

Robert Alford looking forward to Titans

By Vaughn McClure

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- A little talk already started well before the Atlanta Falcons and Tennessee Titans were scheduled to take the field for a joint practice Monday afternoon.

Falcons cornerback Robert Alford and Titans receiver Justin Hunter had a couple conversations leading up to the practice. But it couldn't exactly be classified as trash talk.

Alford might be saving it for the field anyhow.

"Going against the receivers with the Titans, I know Justin Hunter,'' Alford said of his old training buddy at IMG Academy. "He's one of my little homeboys. We just call each other to check up on each other to see how camp is going. But I already know we'll be battling it out. ... I'm pretty sure, if he's their best receiver, he'll be on both ends.''

The 5-foot-10, 186-pound Alford and 6-foot, 190-pound Desmond Trufant, the Falcons' starting cornerbacks, should get to test their skills throughout Monday's session. The 6-4 Hunter presents the tallest challenge, but the Titans have two other standout receivers in Kendall Wright (5-10, 191) and Nate Washington (6-1, 183).

It should be more intense than the usual practice. Then again, Alford and Trufant get a battle just about every day.

"Roddy [White], Julio [Jones] and the rest of the receivers that we have ... we have all kind of receivers,'' Alford said. "We've got the small, quick guys. We have guys like Harry [Douglas] in the slot. And we've got Roddy and Julio who are big, strong, and fast. They all help me and Trufant at practice.''

One of the things to watch for Monday is defensive holding, which is a renewed emphasis around the league this year. Officials have been brought in to call practice.

Falcons secondary coach Tim Lewis has reinforced the rules of defensive holding during meetings.

"He's been putting it on the projector, but it's up to us to go out and execute,'' Alford said. "There's nothing we can really do about the officials or the rules they have applied. We just have to obey the rules and go out there and play and not think about it.''

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Monday, August 4, 2014

Ra'Shede Hageman checks out OK

By Vaughn McClure

ESPN.com

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith said rookie defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman did not break any bones in his right hand during a fight with teammate Joe Hawley on Sunday.

Hageman exited the field after the fight and had discussions about a possible hairline fracture in his wrist, according to a source close to the player. But such a classification apparently was talked about before X-rays were taken.

"Hageman does not have a fractured hand," Smith said Monday. "Don't know who the league source was or who said it, but you'll see. He'll be a full participant in practice today. And there was no fracture whatsoever in his hand."

The team has classified the injury as a bruise.

"The test that we did with the X-ray that he was taken, there was no fracture," Smith said.

Also, Smith said that offensive tackle Terren Jones, a practice squad player last year who is fighting for a reserve role, is going through the concussion protocol after being carted off the field Sunday and rushed to a hospital. Jones was kicked in the head accidentally during a regular pileup, Smith said.

"I thought that our medical people did a wonderful job in terms of the situation yesterday in getting him off the field into the Northeast Georgia Medical Center," Smith said. "But he returned within a couple hours and was back in here last night."

Smith offered no timetable on Jones' return. Jones is the third player to sustain a concussion since training camp began, joining free safety Dwight Lowery and linebacker Pat Angerer.

The team remains optimistic about Lowery returning to action in the near future. He sustained a concussion after being blocked by running back Jacquizz Rodgers during Friday night's scrimmage.

At the same time, Lowery's history is a cause for concern, as it was his third concussion in the NFL and fourth since college. The projected starting free safety told people close to him that he feels "normal" after the latest incident.

The Falcons signed veteran safety Tyrell Johnson as insurance despite the optimism about Lowery.

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Monday, August 4, 2014

Robert McClain fine being safety net

By Vaughn McClure

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Near the end of Sunday's practice, Atlanta Falcons cornerback Robert McClain stepped in for a few reps at free safety.

Now, McClain doesn't expect to suddenly be thrust into a role with the first group. But he is more than willing to provide depth at the position, if called upon.

"With our packages, everybody knows everybody's position,'" McClain said. "I've done safety-type work. But that's the first time I've been in there actually doing the base safety stuff and learning some of the blitzes that they do. So, I'm really learning the entire defense now. Even though I've already studied the entire defense and tried to learn different intricacies of the defense, I'm really having to fine-tune myself at the safety right now.''

The reason is obvious. The Falcons lack depth at safety right now with projected starting free safety Dwight Lowery's status in doubt following his third NFL concussion and second-year player Zeke Motta unlikely to play this season coming off neck surgery. Not to mention rookie Dez Southward suffered a left knee injury, although Southward was back to practice on Sunday in a very limited role. So the coaches decided to cross train both McClain and rookie cornerback Ricardo Allen at safety.

McClain continues to compete for the nickelback role along with Josh Wilson and Javier Arenas. Wilson seems to have gotten the longest look at the position so far, although McClain has held his own. Arenas had a rough day with a couple of penalties on Sunday. All three are expected to get opportunities to be the primary nickel during four exhibition games.

However the battle unfolds, McClain's versatility with picking up safety and his ability to be a special-teams standout should only help his standing.

"I've always known what the [safeties] had to do with their jobs, which helps me play fast on the field,'' McClain said. "I'm not the super-fastest guy, so I've got to be one of the smartest. And knowing my assignment every play helps. Knowing the safety assignments already have helped me adjust at safety.

"You have to be a student of the game no matter what position you're playing. Left corner, right corner, nickel, you have to be able to play all three. If you're playing free safety or strong safety, you have to able to play both safety spots. To be a student of the game and to really perfect your craft, knowing what the other 10 guys are doing helps you a lot.''

Maybe the development of Kemal Ishmael next to William Moore and the growth of Southward will keep the Falcons from digging too deep at safety. But if not, McClain will be ready.

"Just like Coach [Mike] Smith said: Your role can change any time,'' McClain said. "I've always been a player who accepts my role, accepts my job and does it 100 percent. I just want to win. I want the team to be happy. I want the morale, the fans, and everybody to be happy because we're winning. Whatever it does for the team, that's what we're all going to do.''

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These things may be posted in TATF but since I don't visit there much thought I would put things over here to keep the light on for some good football discussions.

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These things may be posted in TATF but since I don't visit there much thought I would put things over here to keep the light on for some good football discussions.

Who cares if they're posted over there? This is my first stop every visit.

blkbigdog35 likes this

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