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Falcons Offseason News

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Roddy White Retires from NFL After 11 Seasons with Falcons

 

Tim Daniels

Bleacher Report | April 14, 2017


 

Longtime Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Roddy White officially announced his retirement from the National Football League on Friday after going unsigned for the 2016 season.

He made the decision public on social media:

Phillip Kish of WXIA reported Thursday that White is joining the coaching staff at Johns Creek High School in suburban Atlanta.

White hit the open market last offseason after spending 11 years with the Falcons, the franchise that selected him in the first round of the 2005 draft. He told Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in June that he only wanted to keep playing for a contender.

"When my agent and I went down the list and I saw the teams that really needed wide receivers, I was like, 'Wow, I really don't want to go there,'" White said.

He added: "I knew I couldn't win with any of those teams. At this point of my career, I don't want to be dragging my feet in Week 13 just to have an opportunity to be 4-10 next week."

The 35-year-old receiver waited to see if a more promising opportunity would arise, but it never happened. So he's decided to call it quits rather than put his body on the line for a team without a realistic chance of raising the Lombardi Trophy.

White started his career slow, tallying just 59 catches over his first two seasons, and ended on a low note with just 43 grabs and one touchdown in his final campaign. In between, however, he was one of the league's most reliable wide receivers.

The South Carolina native put up six straight seasons with at least 1,100 receiving yards starting in 2007. He eclipsed the 100-reception mark twice, highlighted by a career-high 115 catches in 2010, and also reached double-digit touchdowns two times.

All told, he finishes his career with 808 catches for 10,863 yards and 63 TDs in 171 games. He added 34 grabs for 369 yards and three scores in five postseason appearances for Atlanta.

White's career resume includes four Pro Bowl nods and a First Team All-Pro selection in 2010. In addition, he ranks first in Falcons history in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns.

Ultimately, he faces an uphill battle in terms of a Hall of Fame induction. Although he put together a strong group of seasons during his prime, he was rarely one of the game's top-tier wideouts. And it doesn't help his cause that there's been a logjam of receivers waiting to get in recently.

That doesn't diminish his accomplishments, though. He was a stalwart for the Falcons over the course of an entire decade, a rare feat in today's sports world, and will go down as one of the best players in the organization's history, even if the call from Canton doesn't arrive.

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Falcons' Taylor Gabriel, Ricardo Allen report without signed tenders

 

Vaughn McClure

ESPN.com | 1:30 PM ET


 

The Atlanta Falcons reported for the offseason workout program on Monday, and a pair of players showed up without yet signing their free-agent tenders.

Wide receiver Taylor Gabriel, a restricted free agent who was given the second-round tender of $2.746 million, was pictured arriving at the team's facility.

Although a team is unlikely to surrender a second-round draft pick by signing Gabriel to an offer sheet (if the Falcons' didn't match), the deadline for Gabriel to sign such an offer sheet is Friday. Essentially, Gabriel could wait until the last minute just to see if he can generate any outside interest. Injury protection is typically built to protect Gabriel as he goes through workouts this week.

The Falcons and Gabriel also could reach an agreement on a longer-term deal. The Vikings and wide receiver Adam Thielen reached a three-year, $17 million extension after Thielen received the second-round tender. Thielen's situation is a little different because he emerged as the Vikings' leader in receiver yards last season. However, the undrafted Gabriel certainly proved his worth in tying All-Pro Julio Jones for the Falcons' lead with six touchdown receptions in 2016.

Meanwhile, Allen, a former fifth-round pick, has an argument to receive a significant pay raise as a starter and team leader, but the safety has no real negotiating power as an exclusive rights free agent. His tender amount is $690,000.

Lineman Ben Garland already signed his exclusive rights tender.

On a different topic, running back Devonta Freeman reported Monday, as expected. Freeman is patiently waiting for a new contract. A deal expected to happen before the starter of the regular season and maybe by training camp.

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New Falcons' Mercedes-Benz Stadium construction delay to impact Atlanta United games

 

By Roger Gonzalez

CBSSports.com | 2017-04-18 22:49:00


 

Atlanta United fans will have to wait a little longer before the club's inaugural match at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The team announced Tuesday that due to construction delays, the MLS club won't be able to play their first game at the state-of-the-art venue on July 30, as originally planned. Instead, three additional games will be played at Georgia Tech's Bobby Dodd Stadium before the MLS side can call the Mercedes-Benz Stadium their new home.

The push-back is due to "normal surveying and analysis of the roof structure," along with steel work in the roof which all together have taken longer than expected. Here are the following home matches that will be moved from Mercedes-Benz Stadium to Bobby Dodd Stadium:
•July 29: Orlando City

• Aug. 13 vs. Minnesota United

•Aug. 19 vs. Los Angeles Galaxy


The attendance for Atlanta's new soccer team has been exceptional through the first six matchweeks of the season. So far, Atlanta has sold out all of its home matches at Bobby Dodd. For what it's worth, Mercedes-Benz Stadium can hold anywhere between 71,000 to 83,000, depending on the event, but will only seat 40,000 for its MLS games.

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The Atlanta Falcons began their 2017 offseason workout program on Monday

 

by James Rael@falcoholicjames Apr 18, 2017, 12:39am EDT

The Falcoholic  


 

The Atlanta Falcons began their much-anticipated offseason workout program at Flowery Branch on Monday. It’s finally time to put the exciting but absolutely heartbreaking 2016 season behind us. Flowery Branch is flush with football players and we’re looking ahead to training camp in July.

This is Phase One of a three phase program that 23 NFL teams kicked off today. During Phase One, participation is 100 percent voluntary. Workouts can only last four hours a day, half of which is under team control (i.e., the team can dictate how two of the four hours will play out; the remainder is used for weight lifting, various types of rehab, classroom time, etc.). Just 90 minutes of actual on-the-field work per day is permitted.

There are no shortage of big names in attendance, including Devonta Freeman, Vic Beasley, Julio Jones, and the elder statesman himself, Matt Bryant, to name a few. I’m particularly pleased to see Freeman there. It shows his dedication to this team and his craft, notwithstanding the absence of a contract extension. It also may be a sign the Falcons are working in good faith towards getting him that raise he’s been after. Meanwhile, there’s some unfinished business hanging out there.

Apparently both Allen and Gabriel were present today. This “Brotherhood” stuff may just be a rallying cry and it may be a little gimmicky, but that’s 3 guys with large roles showing up for the off-season program, in spite of their contract situations. Granted, all three contracts should be inked in the near future, so their presence isn’t shocking. But heck, I’m impressed, and you should be too.

 

© 2017 Vox Media, Inc. All Rights Reserved Sports data © STATS 2016

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Falcons' Matt Ryan on Super Bowl loss: 'It sucks' but 'life goes on'

 

Associated Press

ESPN.com | 6:19 PM ET


 

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- After a Super Bowl championship was ripped from his grasp, MVP Matt Ryan needed some time to grieve.

He wasn't alone on the Atlanta Falcons.

This one hurt.

A lot.

"It sucks. There's no getting around it," Ryan said Wednesday. "You hang on to it for a little bit. You're in kind of your spot, whatever that is, your dark place for a little bit. Then you realize life goes on."

For the Falcons, that reality began to sink in this week when they returned to their training complex in Atlanta's sprawling northern suburbs to begin nearly two months of offseason workouts.

Being together again, with a new goal to shoot for, put a bit of salve on their epic collapse at the Super Bowl, where the Falcons squandered a 25-point lead in the second half and lost in overtime to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.

"We addressed it. We talked about it," Ryan said. "And I felt like it was very clear that everybody was focused on what's in front of us."

Coach Dan Quinn, who coined the mantra "brotherhood" to illustrate the closeness of his team during its drive to the title game, has already come up with a new catchphrase to stress where the Falcons are heading into the 2017 season.

He calls this "base camp" -- as in, the point where his team will regroup and start climbing again after coming up just of the summit.

"In the Everest world of the climbers, where they go to base camp, they take a shot, get acclimated, come back, and keep going for it," Quinn said.

The Falcons return largely the same team, built around a dynamic offense led by Ryan at quarterback and a young defense that showed enormous promise until Brady pulled off his unprecedented comeback.

But there have been some big changes in the past couple of months, most notably on the coaching staff. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan left to become head coach of the San Francisco 49ers and was succeeded by former Washington and Southern Cal coach Steve Sarkisian. Richard Smith was dumped as defensive coordinator, replaced in house by secondary coach Marquand Manuel.

"We've got different guys in the building now. We're going to be a different team than we were last year," Ryan said. "Our focus needs to be in front of us."

And how's this for timing: While the Falcons were talking about moving on, the Patriots were at the White House being congratulated again for their stunning victory.

It will be interesting to see how the Falcons cope with such a monumental disappointment.

There's no set template to draw guidance from, as some athletes who have been through a similar ordeal seemed to carry it with them the rest of their careers (golfer Jean van de Velde never came close to another major title after throwing away the 1999 British Open on the 72nd hole). Others have used it as motivation to reach greater heights (the Boston Red Sox won the World Series in 2004 after a brutal meltdown in the playoffs the year before).

The Falcons are determined to follow the latter path.

"This is the team that wants to prove things -- prove how strong they are, how tight they are, how connected they are," Quinn said. "Obviously, we addressed [the Super Bowl]. But we also talked about, now, no more looking back in the rearview. 2017 is officially here, and let's go for it like we never have before."

While Quinn stresses competition at every position, there won't be any major holes to fill going into training camp.

The most notable battle will be for an offensive guard spot after Chris Chester decided to retire. He'll likely be replaced by either Ben Garland, a backup on the offensive and defensive lines, or Wes Schweitzer, who didn't play during his rookie season but was cited by Quinn as showing tremendous improvement in practice and workouts.

Several players will be limited during the offseason. Star receiver Julio Jones is recovering from foot surgery, while top cornerback Desmond Trufant is coming back from a season-ending pectoral injury that didn't stop the Falcons from signing him to a $69 million contract extension.

Both should be ready to go at full speed when training camp opens in late July.

Safety Ricardo Allen can't wait to get back on the field. As disappointing as the Super Bowl was, he says it taught the Falcons some valuable lessons about giving just a little bit more during the offseason so they don't wilt again with a championship on the line.

"We've been in that moment. We got tired," Allen said. "Everybody had plays to make. This just pushes us up to another level to be able to go make those plays when they need to be made."

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Atlanta Falcons’ 2017 Schedule Released

 

By Knox Bardeen

cbslocal.com | April 20, 2017 8:00 PM


 

We’ve known for some time who the Falcons would play during the 2017 season; a follow-up campaign to their Super Bowl run of a year ago, but it wasn’t until Thursday evening that we knew when each opponent would fall on Atlanta’s schedule.

The NFL released the schedule info for the entire league. Here’s Atlanta’s full schedule:
•Week 1: Atlanta at Chicago Bears — Sunday, Sept. 10 — 1 p.m. ET
•Week 2: Green Bay Packers at Atlanta — Sunday, Sept. 17 — 8:30 p.m. ET
•Week 3: Atlanta at Detroit Lions — Sunday, Sept. 24 — 1 p.m. ET
•Week 4: Buffalo Bills at Atlanta — Sunday, Oct. 1 — 1 p.m. ET
•Week 5: BYE — Oct. 8
•Week 6: Miami Dolphins at Atlanta — Sunday, Oct. 15 — 1 p.m. ET
•Week 7: Atlanta at New England Patriots — Sunday, Oct. 22 — 8:30 p.m. ET
•Week 8: Atlanta at New York Jets — Sunday, Oct. 29 — 1 p.m. ET
•Week 9: Atlanta at Carolina Panthers — Sunday, Nov. 5 — 1 p.m. ET
•Week 10: Dallas Cowboys at Atlanta — Sunday, Nov. 12 — 4:25 p.m. ET
•Week 11: Atlanta at Seattle Seahawks — Monday, Nov. 20 8:30 p.m. ET
•Week 12: Atlanta at Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Sunday, Nov. 26 — 1 p.m. ET
•Week 13: Minnesota Vikings at Atlanta — Sunday, Dec. 3 — 1 p.m. ET
•Week 14: New Orleans Saints at Atlanta — Thursday, Dec. 7 — 8:25 p.m. ET
•Week 15: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta — Monday, Dec. 18 — 8:30 p.m. ET
•Week 16: Atlanta at New Orleans Saints — Sunday, Dec. 24 — 1 p.m. ET
•Week 17: Carolina Panthers at Atlanta  — Sunday, Dec. 31 — 1 p.m. ET

Quick Observations

Toughest stretch: The five games from Week 7 through 11 could be brutal. Atlanta has to face its Super Bowl 51 demon and travel to New England, endure a consecutive road game against the Jets in New York, stay on the road (albeit all on the East Coast) and play in Carolina, host the Cowboys in Week 10 and then travel to Seattle for Week 11. That’s a doozie of a stretch with three road games in a row.

Easiest stretch: The first six weeks for the Falcons feel favorable. Starting on the road is tough, but Atlanta got a gift with the Bears in Week 1. Green Bay at home could be tough in Week 2, but then going to Detroit and hosting Buffalo before the Week 5 bye seems like a dream. Miami comes to town in Week 6 before things start getting tough. The Falcons could be 5-1, maybe even 6-0 to start the season.

 

©2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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2017 NFL Draft: Atlanta Falcons' top five needs, best fits on the clock at No. 31

 

By Frank Cooney

CBSSports.com | 2017-04-20 22:59:14


 

This is one in a series that covers each team, offering viewers information for homework, suggestions and then the opportunity to make a draft pick.

When the NFL Draft begins selections in Philadelphia April 27, the  Atlanta Falcons  have the No. 31 pick in the first round.

Here is an in-depth look at the team's needs, offseason changes, potential best fit and the selections by NFLDraftScout.com's experts.

Who would you pick and why?

Top five needs

1. Defensive end: The Falcons are looking for a traditional base 4-3 defensive end who has some pass-rush ability. They'd like to play him opposite of  Vic Beasley  in passing situations. The team has worked out  Tennessee Volunteers 's  Derek Barnett  and  UCLA Bruins 's  Takkarist McKinley . They could also address this need later in the draft, which is considered to be deep. Defensive line coach Bryant Young worked out  Ohio Bobcats  University's  Tarell Basham .

2. Right guard: The Falcons have heavily scouted Western Kentucky's  Forrest Lamp  with an eye toward converting him to guard. With the retirement of  Chris Chester , the Falcons are in need of interior offensive line help. Also, center  Alex Mack  is 31 and left guard  Andy Levitre  is 30. The Falcons could select Lamp or  Dan Feeney  in the first round of the draft if they are available. Protecting quarterback  Matt Ryan  is the franchise's No. 1 goal as he enters what should be the prime of his career.

3. Tight end: The position is key to the Falcons' passing attack and they've scouted Mississippi tight end  Evan Engram . The Falcons drafted  Austin Hooper  last season and re-signed  Levine Toilolo . They elected not to re-sign  Jacob Tamme . Joshua Perkins, who played for new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian at  Washington Huskies , showed some promise in a limited role last season.

4. Free safety:  Michigan Wolverines 's versatile  Jabrill Peppers  could be an intriguing prospect for the Falcons to take early. The draft is deep in defensive back talent. Converted free safety  Ricardo Allen  has been steady, but not spectacular.

5. Kicker:  Matt Bryant  is on the other side of 40 and will not kick forever. In the later rounds, the Falcons could make a move in order to find his replacement.

Best fit

 T.J. Watt , DE,  Wisconsin Badgers : The younger brother of NFL players  J.J. Watt  (three-time Defensive Player of the Year) and  Derek Watt  ( San Diego Chargers ' fullback) will be available when the Falcons select with the 31st overall pick in the draft. At first glance, Watt, a converted tight end, appears to be a first-round reach. He thrived for one season in Wisconsin's 3-4 defense when he finished with 63 tackles, 11.5 sacks, 15.5 tackles for loss and two forced fumbles last season. Watt, who is 6-foot-5 and 243 pounds, needs to get stronger and has an injury history the Falcons must investigate. He has the frame to add the weight and a huge upside as a potentially sturdy and versatile pass rusher. While some scouts believe that Watt would have benefited from returning to school for another year, others like his upside as a potential game-wrecking pass rusher.

The pick will be ...

Rob Rang:  Budda Baker , FS, Washington. After surrendering a Super Bowl record 466 passing yards to  Tom Brady , no one should be surprised if the Falcons opt to reinforce the secondary. At just 5-foot-10, 195 pounds, Baker does not possess ideal size but Dan Quinn has previously been willing to overlook that at free safety with the 5-foot-9, 185-pound Ricardo Allen currently starting in Atlanta and previously working with  Earl Thomas  (5-10, 202) in Seattle. Baker has more range and quickness than Allen, projecting as a traditional centerfielder who can drop down to help at nickel, as well.

Dane Brugler:  Tyus Bowser , DE,  Houston Cougars . Misused in Houston's defensive scheme, Bowser has tweener size, but his athleticism, power and juice off the edge are the type of traits that NFL coaches want to develop.

Jim Miller:  Taco Charlton , DE, Michigan.

(Kirwan, Miller picks based on last Friday's mock on SiriusXM Radio. Listen to their next mock Friday, April 21, on SiriusXM NFL Radio channel 88).

Frank Cooney, IMO: Agree with Miller. Vidauntae "Taco" Charlton can fill a need. He was only a one-year starter because he was lost on a talented roster and his talents fit the four-man line Michigan switched to last season. Plenty of untapped talent gives him upside to count on.

Your chance to go on the record

OK, it's your turn. Tell us in the comments section who you would pick and why. Check out the top 1,000 players rated by NFLDraftScout.com, including combine and pro day workouts, biographies, scouting reports.

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© 2004-2017 CBS Interactive. All Rights Reserved.

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Hall of Famer Deion Sanders headlines best draft picks for Atlanta Falcons

 

Deion Sanders, drafted No. 5 overall in 1989, had 24 interceptions in five seasons with the Falcons. Jason Miller/Getty Images

7:00 AM ET
  • mcclure_vaughn_m.jpg&w=160&h=160&scale=c
    Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer

The Atlanta Falcons have drafted 585 players since entering the NFL in 1966. Here's a look at their best draft picks by position.

OFFENSE

Quarterback: Matt Ryan, first round, 2008, Boston College. Ryan, the third overall pick, was known for his accuracy and didn't disappoint as he made an immediate impact in the league and eventually evolved into an MVP. He holds 20 franchise records. Michael Vick might go down as the franchise’s most exciting QB, but Vick never made it to a Super Bowl and wasn’t known for his passing.

Running back: Gerald Riggs, first round, 1982, Arizona State. Riggs is the Falcons’ all-time leading rusher with 6,631 rushing yards and was a three-time Pro Bowler in seven seasons with the team. Riggs made the Falcons’ Ring of Honor in 2013, symbolic of what type of impact he made on the franchise.

Wide receiver: Julio Jones, first round, 2011, Alabama. He is arguably the most dangerous threat in the game right now. Jones in on pace to surpass Roddy White as the franchise's all-time leading receiver. And Jones has more than 7,000 career receiving yards despite missing almost all of the 2013 season with a fractured foot and being nagged by various injuries.

2017 NFL DRAFT

NFL DraftRound 1: April 27, 8 p.m. ET
Rds. 2-3: April 28, 7 p.m. ET
Rds. 4-7: April 29, noon ET
Where: Philadelphia

NFL draft home page »

 2017 NFL draft order »
 Kiper v. McShay: Head-to-head Mock »
 Mel Kiper's latest Mock Draft »
 Todd McShay's latest Mock Draft »
 Mel Kiper's latest Big Board »
 Scouts Inc.'s player rankings »
 McShay's biggest needs for all 32 »
 McShay's 2017 All-Satellite Team »

Tight end: Alge Crumpler, second round, 2001, North Carolina. Crumpler made it to four consecutive Pro Bowls from 2003 to '06. He had 40-plus catches in five of his seven seasons with the Falcons. He had three 49-plus-yard touchdown receptions among his 35 touchdowns as a Falcon.

Tackle: Mike Kenn, first round, 1978, Michigan. Kenn, who has been a Hall of Fame semifinalist, is the franchise record-holder with 251 games played and started. Kenn, who played 17 seasons with the Falcons, was named to five Pro Bowls and named to the All-Pro first or second team five times.

Guard: Bill Fralic, first round, 1985, Pittsburgh. Fralic was named an All-Pro in 1986 and 1987 and earned four Pro-Bowl selections during his eight seasons with the Falcons. Fralic also was known for speaking out against steroid use.

Center: Jeff Van Note, 11th round, 1986, Kentucky. The former college linebacker made the transition to the offensive line and ended up playing a team-record 18 NFL seasons. Van Note, a six-time Pro Bowler, played in 155 consecutive games, which is also a team record.

DEFENSE

End: Claude Humphrey, first round, 1968, Tennessee State. Humphrey was part of the NFL Hall of Fame class of 2014. He is the franchise’s all-time leader in sacks with 94.5. Humphrey was named the Defensive Rookie of the Year and selected to six Pro Bowls during his time with the Falcons.

Tackle: Tony Casillas, first round, 1986, Oklahoma. Casillas, a nose tackle, was a second-team All-Pro selection in 1989. He made the league’s all-rookie team and then suffered a leg injury the next season. The year before his breakout season in '89, when Casillas had 152 tackles and two sacks, he left training camp after being overwhelmed by the stress of playing in the NFL.

Linebacker: Tommy Nobis, first round, 1966, Texas. Nobis, known as "Mr. Falcon," was the team's first-ever draft pick. He was the NFL Rookie of the Year, a first-team All-Pro in 1967, and the first Falcon voted to the Pro Bowl. Jessie Tuggle, the guy they call "The Hammer" and the franchise’s all-time leader in total tackles with 2,065, was undrafted.

Cornerback: Deion Sanders, first round, 2005, Florida State. The Hall of Famer not only was known for his ability to shut down opposing receivers, but "Prime Time" also doubled as one of the most dangerous kick returners around. Sanders had 24 interceptions in five seasons with the Falcons.

Safety: Scott Case, second round, 1984, Oklahoma. The hard-hitting strong safety was named a second-team All-Pro during the 1988 season, although he played right cornerback that year. Case also played free safety after a coaching change. He still holds the team’s single-season record with 10 interceptions (1988).

SPECIAL TEAMS

Kicker: Nick Mike-Mayer, 10th round, 1973, Temple. The soccer-style kicker made the Pro Bowl as a rookie. Mike-Mayer made 26 of 38 field goals and all of his extra point attempts.

Punter: Matt Bosher, sixth round, 2011, Miami. Bosher has been the Falcons’ punter for the past six seasons. He has a career net average of 41.2 yards per punt and has placed 147 of 367 punts inside the 20.

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NFL star receives touching note from family sitting behind him on flight

 


NewsComAu | 2017-04-23T23:29:00.000Z


 

FINALLY, there is some good news coming out of a flight.

After a brutal few weeks of overbooked flights, nightmare delays and battered passengers, this is a story we all need.

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Mohamed Sanu tweeted a heartwarming note he received from a fellow passenger, who wanted to thank him for being an admirable role model to their son.

“You don’t know us but we wanted to thank you,” the note read.


Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Mohamed Sanu tweeted the heartwarming note he received on a flight. Picture: Bob Levey/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images
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“Our son sat behind you on this flight and watched you. He saw you studying your plays, watched you make healthy choices with your snacks, food and drink.

“He watched how polite you were to everyone.”

The 10-year-old boy and his family sat behind the NFL star on a flight to Connecticut. The boy had just made an elite hockey team and they were travelling for his training.

The boy’s parents wanted to thank Sanu for being an inspiration to their athlete-in-the-making.

“You are an inspiration to children and for that you should be proud,” the note said.

Sanu tweeted the note with the caption, “This definitely put a smile on my face.”


Sanu (left) is the wide receiver of NFL team, the Atlanta Falcons. Picture: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images/AFPSource:AFP

It has been liked more than 10,000 times and retweeted more than 2700 times so far.

Sanu’s team, the Atlanta Falcons, also weighed in on Twitter, calling Sanu a “role model both on and off the field”.

 

News Limited Copyright © 2017. All times AEST (GMT +10).

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Undrafted free agents should turn to Falcons' Taylor Gabriel for inspiration

 

Since he went undrafted in 2014, Taylor Gabriel has made the most of his NFL opportunities. Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

9:44 AM ET
  • mcclure_vaughn_m.jpg&w=160&h=160&scale=c
    Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer

If the 21 undrafted players who agreed to free-agent contracts with the Atlanta Falcons on Monday need inspiration, they can go chat with new teammate Taylor Gabriel.

The 5-foot-8-inch, 165-pound wide receiver was in the same predicament following the 2014 draft, when he was overlooked coming out of Texas' Abilene Christian University. Gabriel didn't even watch the draft that year as fourth-overall pick Sammy Watkins (Buffalo) was the first receiver of the board and 244th pick Jeremy Gallon (New England) was the last. Gallon went on to play in the Arena League.

Atlanta's 2017 Undrafted Free Agents
PLAYER POS. COLLEGE
Travis Averill C Boise State
Marcelis Branch S Robert Morris
Daniel Brunskill OL San Diego St.
Deante Burton WR Kansas State
Reginald Davis III WR Texas Tech
Darius English LB South Carolina
Wil Freeman OT Southern Miss.
Jarnor Jones CB Iowa State
J'terius Jones DE Miami (Ohio)
Cam Keizur C Portland State
Andreas Knappe OT UConn
Robert Leff G Auburn
Josh Magee WR South Alabama
Quincy Mauger S Georgia
Jordan Moore S Texas-San Ant.
Chris Odom DE Arkansas State
Tyler Renew FB The Citadel
Taylor Reynolds CB James Madison
Christian Tago LB San Jose State
Alek Torgersen QB Penn
Deron Washington S Pittsburgh State

"I was just very anxious and just didn't know where I was going to get picked up or if I was going to get picked up," Gabriel said. "I didn't get any calls the last day (of the draft). I got calls like the next day."

Gabriel eventually received inquiries from the Cleveland Browns, New York Jets, Oakland Raiders, and the Falcons.

"It wasn't an undrafted contract, it was more of a tryout basis," Gabriel said of those calls. "I had to chose where I was going to try out. And I just felt like (Cleveland) would give me the best opportunity to show my talents."

As the story went, Gabriel impressed the Browns enough to not only stick, but evolve into a big contributor as a rookie with 36 catches for 621 yards and a touchdown. Gabriel spent two seasons in Cleveland before being released, a move the Browns said they regretted. Then he was claimed by the Falcons off waivers before last season to reunite with his former offensive coordinator in Cleveland, current San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan.

Now "Turbo Taylor" has become a household name with his blazing speed and video game-like moves. He tied All-Pro Julio Jones for the team lead with six touchdown receptions last season and added another score on the ground. Gabriel averaged 42.7 yards per touchdown reception.

The Falcons placed the second-round tender on Gabriel as a restricted free agent, which they knew would keep teams from trying to swoop in and sign him to an offer sheet. Gabriel eventually signed the one-year tender worth $2.746 million for the 2017 season.

"I felt like I just got drafted in the second round," Gabriel said. "I'm not undrafted anymore. I just feel like I'm blessed to even have this opportunity."

Although Gabriel did not sign his tender immediately, he did arrive for the start of offseason workouts and signed an injury waiver.

"On the contract aspect, that's really not my job," Gabriel said. "That's what I have agents for. That's something they have to deal with and something they have to see eye to eye on. But contracts and second-rounder tenders and me showing up on time, that's nothing that I had to second-guess. It was more for the brotherhood, and the thing we have going with the Falcons, and I love being a Falcon."

If he continues to produce like he did last season, Gabriel will find himself with a richer, longer-term deal sooner than later -- just like undrafted teammate Ryan Schraeder did last year with a five-year, $33 million extension. The next phase for Gabriel is just continuing to be an asset.

"A lot of people don't know my history and if they knew my history, they'd know my rookie year I actually had more receiving yards," Gabriel said. "I did end my rookie year third in the league in yards per catch. So last year wasn't my first year having a great season. It's not like it's something I haven't done on multiple occasions. I know my talents and I know what I can do, because I did it the past three years of just being consistent."

As for his message to the incoming undrafted players, it's simple.

"It doesn't matter what path you take," Gabriel said. "It's when you get the opportunity, make sure you take advantage of it."

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Falcons' Alex Mack (fibula) could barely walk but recovering well

2:54 PM ET
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    Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons Pro Bowl center Alex Mack could "barely walk" following the NFC Championship Game after suffering a hairline fracture in his left fibula, but Mack said Tuesday he finally started to feel better two weeks after his team’s Super Bowl LI loss to New England.

Mack addressed the media for the first time since the Super Bowl. He continues to recover from the injury, which did not require surgery although Mack spent a significant time getting treatment.

"That’s where the short offseason kind of goes in … less time to really heal,’’ Mack said. "You play that long, you’re going to be a little beat up. But we’re being smart with it. We’re taking care of it. And that’s really what [offseason workouts] are for. You can get your body right, start getting prepared for the next season [and] mentally get back and learn the offense, focus on the little details.’’

 

Alex Mack didn't require surgery for his fractured fibula, but still is taking it easy in anticipation of minicamp. Jason Getz/USA TODAY Sports

Mack showed his toughness in the Super Bowl, playing all 49 offensive snaps in the Falcons’ 34-28 overtime loss to the Patriots.

"Oh, it hurt,’’ Mack said. "But I was so glad to be able to be out there. To play at that stage has been a lifelong goal of mine. And to have that be actualized was amazing. It was a tough experience, really tough loss. But those are life lessons. That’s what you build to who you are and where you’re going from there.’’

Then after the Super Bowl, Mack got some much-needed rest. He initially suffered the injury in the third quarter against Green Bay in the NFC Championship Game.

"After the Packers game was probably the most it hurt, right after I broke it,’’ Mack said. "I could barely walk. And leaving the Super Bowl, it hurt a lot. But I was really able to, two weeks later, really move around pretty comfortably.’’

Mack talked about not having surgery.

"Broken fibula, there’s a lot of stuff around it that kind of keeps it in place,’’ Mack said. "It was a non-displaced fracture. It was just one of those things that’s going to heal better and faster if you just kind of leave it alone.’’

The Falcons are being cautious with a handful of players this offseason, including All-Pro Julio Jones (foot surgery), Pro Bowl cornerback Desmond Trufant (pectoral surgery) and Mack. First-round draft pick Takkarist McKinley, the pass-rusher from UCLA, won’t be ready immediately while still recovering from March shoulder surgery. Falcons coach Dan Quinn expects McKinley, along with the others, to be ready to go by training camp.

Defensive lineman Adrian Clayborn (biceps) and Derrick Shelby (Achilles) are returning from season-ending injuries.

The Falcons begin organized team activities May 30. Mandatory minicamp is June 13-15.

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Falcons intend to move swiftly in signing draft class

 

Vaughn McClure

ESPN.com | 7:00 AM ET


 

Last year, the Atlanta Falcons were the first NFL team to sign its entire draft class, when all six members signed May 5.

Although none of this year's six picks have signed just yet, expect the Falcons to move swiftly in getting those players under contracts. They've already informed agents of their intention to have the entire class signed by the start of rookie minicamp Friday.

NFC South foe Carolina has already signed all seven of its draft picks, but the Panthers' rookie minicamp was this weekend. The Falcons are one of 20 teams conducting their minicamp this coming weekend.

Falcons first-round draft pick Takkarist McKinley won't participate as he's still recovering from major surgery on his right shoulder. McKinley was the 26th overall pick; last year's 26th pick, quarterback Paxton Lynch of Denver, signed a four-year deal worth $9,476,308 that included a $5,091,860 signing bonus. Lynch, who received $8,334,083 guaranteed, got a little more of a boost than most rookies in getting $600,000 of his $1,742,223 base salary in 2019 guaranteed.

McKinley, like all first-round picks, will have a fifth-year option in his contract.

The rest of the Falcons' draft class will have four-year base salaries of $690,000, $615,000, $540,000 and $465,000, with the signing bonuses varying according to the slot in which they were drafted.

Linebacker Duke Riley (third round), guard Sean Harlow (fourth), defensive back Damontae Kazee (fifth), running back Brian Hill (fifth), and tight end Eric Saubert (fifth) are the other drafted players the Falcons hope to get under contract by the start of rookie minicamp.

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Fewer Skittles to help Falcons' Deion Jones 'grow up' in second season

 

Vaughn McClure

ESPN.com | 7:48 AM ET


 

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons middle linebacker Deion Jones couldn't help but laugh while talking about changing up his diet.

Coach Dan Quinn said he wants Jones to put on 5 to 6 pounds going into the 2017 season. So a couple weeks ago, Jones started following a game plan put together by the team nutritionist.

“It's a grind, so I have to eat right and I have to eat more,” Jones told ESPN. ”I eat a lot, but I just feel it hasn't been all the right stuff.”

So what does Jones need to cut out of his diet?

“The junk food,” he said with a smile. “I can't totally cut out the candy, but I can cut out everything else. I love Skittles and I love Haribo gummy bears. I gotta have them.”

Just having them in moderation should help Jones achieve a healthier balance going into his second season. He didn't speak specifically about what type of foods he's been instructed to consume more of, but Jones is willing to be a lot stricter with his choices.

“More solid meals, and just not snacking all the time,” Jones said. “I've got to grow up.”

Jones matured into quite the player from the moment he arrived as a second-round pick last year. He led all rookies with 106 combined tackles and finished third in the Defensive Rookie of the Year voting behind winner Joey Bosa of San Diego and Jalen Ramsey of Jacksonville. But as much as Jones thrived, there were moments when his size couldn't stand up to the physicality of bigger blockers. His blazing speed couldn't always bail him out.

Jones, who stands 6 feet, 1 inch, currently weighs 226 pounds. The heaviest he's played at in recent years was 232 while in college at LSU. He weighed 222 pounds at last year's NFL combine before being drafted.

“I always talked to [linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich] and I told him I didn't feel comfortable there,” Jones said of being in the 230s. “I've been big before. But I guess it just wasn't the right weight. I didn't feel like I moved as well back when I was that heavy. So I was like, `Nah, I'm not feeling that.'

“But now, it's more of me trying to find a way to get [that weight] without all the junk. In college, you can put on weight easily with pizza, candy, and eating ice cream late. To play on that, it's tough.”

Jones believes his new diet will help him put on the weight and play in the 230s without feeling sluggish, and without losing his signature speed.

Quinn talked about his vision for a heavier Jones.

“I just think he plays so hard, I want to make sure he has enough in the tank in his size with the tackling,” Quinn said. “He can run all day. That shows. He's able to go. It's not going to be a lot [of weight], but I feel like it has to be enough to where I feel like he's at his strongest. It's not going to be like, `Hey, gain 15.' Then you can't cover nobody.

“It's hard gain, good weight. So for him, I do want him to gain some.”

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Falcons reach contracts with Takk McKinley, entire draft class

 

Vaughn McClure

ESPN.com | 4:20 PM ET


 

The Atlanta Falcons agreed to contract terms with first-round draft pick Takkarist McKinley Thursday along with three other members of the 2017 draft class.

The Falcons will have all six drafted players under contract in time for the start of Friday's three-day rookie minicamp.

The terms of McKinley's deal were not immediately available. He was the 26th overall pick in the draft after the Falcons made a trade with the Seattle Seahawks. Last year's 26th pick, Denver Broncos quarterback Paxton Lynch, received a four-year deal worth $9,476,308 that include a $5,091,860 signing bonus. Lynch got $8,334,083 guaranteed, including an abnormal $600,000 of his base salary guaranteed in the fourth year of the deal.

As a first-round draft pick, McKinley also will have the fifth-year option tied to his contract.

The other draft picks to agree to terms Thursday were third-round pick Duke Riley, and fifth-round picks Brian Hill and Eric Saubert. The Falcons previously announced signing fourth-round pick Sean Harlow and fifth-round pick Damontae Kazee.

All the draft picks, outside of McKinley, are subject to four-year base salaries of $690,000 (2017), $615,000 (2018), $540,000 (2019), and $465,000 (2020), with signing bonuses tied to were they were slotted in the draft. Kazee, the 149th overall pick and first of three fifth-round picks for the Falcons, received a four-year, $2.688 million deal that included a $288,932 signing bonus.

The rookies take the field at 12:50 p.m. (ET) on Friday. McKinley, still recovering from major right shoulder surgery in March, isn't expected to participate much, if at all.

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Facetime will help Falcons' Takk McKinley stay up to speed despite NFL restriction

 

Vaughn McClure

ESPN.com | 4:20 PM ET


 

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons first-round draft pick Takkarist McKinley won't be allowed to stick around after this weekend's rookie minicamp due to an NFL rule. But thanks to modern technology, the defensive end won't fall behind in picking up the playbook.

McKinley, like third-round draft pick Austin Hooper of Stanford was last year, is prohibited from participating in any Falcons offseason activities outside of rookie minicamp because classes at his school, UCLA, are ongoing. According to the NFL rule, if final examinations at a player's school conclude after May 9, the player may not participate in any activities other than rookie minicamp. Graduate students are excluded. The rule has been in place since the 1990s.

McKinley is not currently taking classes, but UCLA's final examination run until June 16. McKinley won't be able to rejoin his teammates until training camp in late July.

That won't be too much of a problem from an on-field standpoint, because McKinley continues to recover from March surgery on his right shoulder, fixing an injury he initially said would sideline him four to six months. Falcons coach Dan Quinn said he expects McKinley to be ready to go, health-wise, by training camp. But to get up to speed with the defense, McKinley will have constant contact with the coaches via Facetime and possibly even Skype while back in California.

"I've got a playbook and I'm going to talk to Coach [Bryant] Young and Coach Quinn," McKinley said. "If I have any questions about any plays, I'm just going to call and ask. It's not that hard."

Quinn was asked which method he'd prefer to remain in contact with McKinley. "Both Facetime and phone," he said. "He's here until Sunday, then he's not allowed to be with the team until actually after minicamp [June 13-15]. That's when UCLA gets out.

"He's got a plan for his rehab, and that's the No. 1 priority with his shoulder right now -- the rehab and the conditioning. The football part of it, the learning, the stuff you learn in the playbook, we're allowed to do a little bit of that over the phone. But it's an important weekend for him to be here getting indoctrinated, getting to meet his teammates. And then it's kind of like, 'Hey, man, you're gone for a month.'"

On Day 1 of rookie minicamp Friday, McKinley ran on a side field away from the rest of the rookies during warm-ups. During practice, he worked with a member of the athletic performance staff going through various ladder drills.

He's itching to get on the field, of course.

"It's very frustrating," McKinley said. "I like to compete. I like football. I don't like to be on the sideline and just watching. I'd rather be out there with my brothers helping make plays. I understand it's a process. Gotta get the shoulder right. And once it's right, I want to help the Atlanta Falcons any way I can to get wins."

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NFL rookies were hyped the 1st time they saw themselves in ‘Madden 18’

 

by Adam Stites May 12, 2017, 12:38pm EDT

SBNation.com  


 

Madden 18 won’t come out until August, but a few rookies already got a look at themselves in their new uniforms.

It’s not every day you get to see yourself in a video game.

At the 2017 NFL draft, a handful of rookies in attendance in Philadelphia got a first look at their virtual selves in Madden 18, wearing the gear of their new teams.

Atlanta Falcons edge rusher Takkarist McKinley and Denver Broncos offensive tackle Garett Bolles were the most animated of the group. That’s not surprising from either player.

McKinley has already been in the spotlight a bit since getting picked at No. 26 by the Falcons and giving a passionate speech about his grandma. Bolles also had an emotional draft interview, bringing his infant son on stage and reaching out to kids in need of help.

New York Jets safety Jamal Adams just had one problem with his virtual likeness.

“Now, the pants could get raised up a little bit above the knees,” Adams said. “But you know, other than that, I love it.”

That was the only complaint, though. Tennessee Titans cornerback Adoree’ Jackson was already handing out advice to players on how to use him.

Fans will have to wait until the game — with Tom Brady on the cover of its G.O.A.T. Edition — comes out on Aug. 25 to play.

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53 minutes ago, Herr Doktor said:

Great thread bro.  **** shame so few people use this forum. I appreciate it though. 

Thanks man TATF is laughable sometimes.

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Decathlete Garrett Scantling trying to make it in the NFL

 

Curtis Compton

apnewsarchive.com | FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga.


 

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga.

(AP) — Garrett Scantling decided before his freshman year at Georgia to honor his track and field scholarship and focus solely on the decathlon.

Now five years out of football, Scantling has shelved his decathlon career for a chance to make the Atlanta Falcons' 53-man roster.

Quite a turnaround for a 23-year-old who came in fourth at Olympic qualifying last year and had to watch the Rio Games from home.

"Doing the decathlon, it was the mindset that was literally the main thing that I brought over here," Scantling said Saturday at rookie mini-camp. "You have to turn that page. You have to approach one event at a time. Just like here. You've got to lock in one play and when that one's done you have to lock in on the next one."

Scantling is one of two track standouts currently trying to make it in the NFL. Cyril Grayson, a four-time NCAA track champion at LSU, signed as an undrafted free agent with the Seattle Seahawks, but at least Grayson was able to get a spot at LSU's pro day .

Scantling made his way to the Falcons through an even smaller door. Unable to work out at Georgia's pro day, Scantling was already training full-time in Atlanta after graduating last year with a degree in financial planning.

A family friend put him in touch with agent Joby Branion, who had one of his assistants work out Scantling. From there, a feeler went out to the Falcons, and Scantling was offered a private workout at team headquarters in March.

The Falcons offered a minimum contract two weeks later. The only other workout he had was at Jacksonville University's pro day in April .

"I was actually at a decathlon in Athens working as an announcer when they called," he said. "I came straight here and signed. It was a dream come true for sure."

Scantling hasn't played in a football game since his senior year at the Episcopal School of Jacksonville, where he caught 66 passes for 13 touchdowns and over 1,200 yards in his last season.

He thought about trying out for Georgia's football team, and Bulldogs track and field coach Petros Kyprianou didn't object. Kyprianou had signed Scantling because of his athleticism and told him to do what he pleased.

"Coach Kyprianou was there for me, and I wanted to be there for him," Scantling said. "He gave me a shot from day one when I stepped on campus. Doing the decathlon, you have to train all year for that. He was my No. 1 supporter."

Scantling, a two-time All-American and a three-time All-SEC selection at Georgia, is nothing special with the Falcons. He's one of 87 players on the current expanded roster and 13 receivers.

All-Pro Julio Jones and veterans Mohamed Sanu and Justin Hardy already have spots secure, so that means only two of 10 receivers will make the final cut.

"Our first exposure to him was at our local tryout," Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. "That was where we found out how well he could run. Obviously it's documented for track guys, but for a guy who's over 220 pounds with that kind of speed, it catches your eye."

Scantling has approached his return to football with the mind of — what else — a decathlete.

"Doing a decathlon, you have 10 events, so if you start off with one bad event, that can ruin your whole day," he said. "One thing I was pretty good at was turning the page. If you have dropped ball or a missed block, you've got to forget about that or else the next play is going to be bad, so that's why I think I've brought here and why I'm mentally strong in that aspect."

Missing the Olympic team, due largely to disappointing finish in the discus, was tough to overcome emotionally, but Scantling looks considers his shortcoming at the trials as a learning experience.

If he doesn't make the Falcons, Scantling plans to try out for the 2020 Olympic team.

"I tell you that was one thing I was nervous about," he said. "Coming in, it's different studying it on paper. Once you get out here, they'll call it and you've got to get there. That's one thing I was proud of myself for doing was transitioning from the paper to the field. I think that's one of the toughest parts of the game."

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5 minutes ago, blkbigdog35 said:

 

Decathlete Garrett Scantling trying to make it in the NFL

 

Curtis Compton

All-Pro Julio Jones and veterans Mohamed Sanu and Justin Hardy already have spots secure, so that means only two of 10 receivers will make the final cut.

 

No mention of Turbo Taylor? I actually had to scroll up because I just could't believe Ledbetter would be that bad, this time I was wrong. It wasn't even him.

On another note, I would also like to echo the sentiments about this thread. Great stuff!

 

blkbigdog35 and Herr Doktor like this

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1 hour ago, jwickha2 said:

No mention of Turbo Taylor? I actually had to scroll up because I just could't believe Ledbetter would be that bad, this time I was wrong. It wasn't even him.

On another note, I would also like to echo the sentiments about this thread. Great stuff!

 

Lol I don't read Ledbetter's stuff. Thanks for the compliment.

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Mother paved way in football for Falcons' Brian Hill with five bucks per big play

10:42 AM ET
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    Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Mother's Day always carries added significance for Atlanta Falcons rookie running back Brian Hill.

The fifth-round draft pick from Wyoming wouldn't have even made it to the NFL had his mother not persuaded him to play football as a child. Growing up in the crime-ridden city of East St. Louis, Illinois, Hill knew his mother insisting that he play football was to his benefit.

Tamara Scott, a nurse and single parent of four boys and one girl, awarded her sons with $5 for every touchdown and sack they recorded during youth football.

 

Brian Hill says his mother, Tamara Scott, helped make him the player he is today by encouraging him to make football a priority. Photo courtesy of Brian Hill

"I started playing football in first grade, and I had a big game in seventh grade at the beginning of the season where I had four touchdowns and three sacks," Hill said. "And that's when she stopped [paying].

 
 
 
 

"Growing up, my Mom did everything she could to keep us out of the streets. She made us play football. She bribed us to play. She bought us video games. It was anything for us to not go outside and get with the wrong crowds. She did her part, and I did my part as far as school and sports."

The family eventually moved from East St. Louis to the quieter city of Belleville, located 15 miles southeast. Belleville is where Hill played high school football. After not generating a ton of college interest, Hill went to Wyoming and became the Cowboys' career rushing leader with 4,287 yards, accomplishing it in just three seasons.

His mother motivated him throughout his college career with a specific sacrifice she made. "She drove 14 hours [to] every home game in Wyoming to see me play," Hill said. "She was very dedicated. She would drive the morning of the game with my stepdad and my brothers, every home game. I'm forever grateful for her dedication."

There's one life lesson Hill learned from his mother more than any other: Be respectful.

"We couldn't just walk around saying 'yes' and 'no' to adults without being popped in the mouth," Hill said. "We always had to say 'yes, ma'am,' 'no, ma'am,' 'yes, sir,' 'no, sir.' One reason I feel like I've become the person who I am is because I've always tried to be respectful."

Hill, who last week signed an four-year rookie contract that includes an undisclosed signing bonus, already has started to spend his money wisely. "This is the first time I can get her what I really want to get her for Mother's Day," Hill said without revealing his mother's gift. "I'm excited. It's a surprise to her."

The 6-foot-1, 219-pound Hill, who the Falcons said "runs violently," could develop into a nice backfield complement to Pro Bowler Devonta Freeman and speedster Tevin Coleman.

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Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer 

Falcons announce signings of two tryout players from rookie minicamp: WR Reggie Davis from Georgia and DL Taniela Tupou from Washington.

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Dan Quinn: Lack of depth on D led to SB LI meltdown

 

Kevin Patra Around the NFL writer

NFL.com  


 

The Atlanta Falcons won't escape an epic Super Bowl collapse. The all-time choke-job will overlay every aspect of this year's team and be recalled seasons down the road.

Dan Quinn could take the well-worn coaches path, declining to speak of his team folding versus the New England Patriots after earning a 28-3 lead with 'we put it behind us' excuses and preaching about moving on by not reliving the nightmare.

Instead the Falcons are embracing the debacle. Quinn wore two black wristbands to the team's minicamp over the weekend, each reading: "Embrace The Suck," the motto they began using last offseason.

Quinn told the Atlanta Journal Constitution's Jeff Schultz the wristbands weren't a reference to the Super Bowl loss, but a reminder of the difficulty that lies ahead going through the grind to return to the championship game. The way they lost only adds to the suck.


"Eat a crap sandwich with a smile," Quinn said of his approach. "This is going to be hard. Your choice: It's a victim's mentality or a warrior mentality. It's like, 'I know this run is going to be long, and it's going to be really hard. But here I go again.'"

While Kyle Shanahan and the offense took the brunt of the blame following the Super Bowl loss, Quinn's defense allowed the Patriots five straight scoring drives to close out the game. Three of those were 10-plus plays, marching 70-plus yards, including going 91 yards to tie the game in the final four minutes.

"It wasn't about one play," Quinn said. "Those (defensive series) are the ones I evaluated over and over. When you go back and sit through it over and over, you know, 'I **** sure can't get a do-over. But I can learn from it.' I won't apologize for how aggressive we play and our style and attitude of where we're headed. But I have learned from that experience."

When it was postulated that perhaps his young defense spit the bit in a big spot, Quinn disagreed. Instead he noted the lack of depth.

"That wasn't it," Quinn said of his young players folding under pressure. "The guys were gassed. We had never played in the 90s (snap count). We were not traumatized at all. You could tell there was nothing left in the tank. They would come to the sideline in the fourth quarter and nobody was talking because there was nothing left."

The Falcons still have the offense to return to the Super Bowl, and made upgrades on defense this offseason, including first-round pick Takkarist McKinley.

Most teams suffer from a Super Bowl hangover after a loss. The Falcons failure would suggest a season-long sickness. But with Quinn at the helm, perhaps Atlanta has a chance to change course.

"Stay with what's in front of us," Quinn said of Super Bowl talk. "Everybody (journalist) is going to want to keep going there, but I'm kind of going the other way. To get there, you've got to strain."

Along with straining comes embracing the suck.

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Falcons' Deion Jones ready to get 'turnt' up with old friend Duke Riley

9:40 AM ET
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    Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Deion Jones' smile flashed from ear to ear while talking about his Atlanta Falcons' reunion with ex-LSU teammate Duke Riley.

The Falcons were looking for an upgrade at linebacker alongside Jones and fellow second-year player De'Vondre Campbell. Riley, who brings even more speed to the group, was available in the third round.

"He's a good player, a fiery guy, and is always amped," Jones said of Riley. "He's got a passion for the game. And he's got a high motor. I feel like that's going to be a good addition to this team. And I'm pretty sure guys around in this locker room are going to appreciate it, too."

Riley gave a glimpse of his energy and passionate play during rookie minicamp last weekend. Falcons coach Dan Quinn knows Riley has the tools to step right in and contribute. That's why Quinn said he plans to play Jones, Campbell, and Riley together in preparation for the season with Jones in the middle, Riley at the weak-side, and Campbell expected to make the transition from weak-side to strong-side linebacker.

 
If Riley appears to be a little ahead of the curve, it's because Jones has kept him up to speed on what it takes to make the adjustment from college to the NFL.

"I talk to Duke all the time," Jones said. "He was asking me questions about what to expect. I gave him my outlook on things. Like I told him, 'Just sit back and enjoy it. What's for you is going to be for you. What God has for you, nobody can take away. When you get here, you're all on the same playing field. You just have to show out from there.'"

Immediately after Riley got the draft call from the Falcons, cameras showed him screaming, "Me and Debo about get turnt" in regard to the duo turning up the intensity.

Jones agreed.

"We're going to be turnt; that's my boy," Jones said. "It's amazing to see his journey, too. Kind of similar to mine. We come from a common place. Just to see him overcome and put his nose to the grindstone, too."

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