Falcons players reported to the team's facility in Flowery Branch today to check in for training camp, which begins tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. The players seemed excited to get back on the field and get to work.
Julio Jones told the media that his agent is currently working with the Falcons front office to work out a contract extension, but Jones isn't aware of the details of those talks or how close the parties are to reaching an agreement.
"I don't know," Jones said. "I haven't talked to [the Falcons]. My agent and the Falcons obviously have been talking. I haven't been talking."
Jones' contract has been a hot topic of discussion this offseason, but he's made it clear that he's simply focused on the game.There was really no question as to whether or not Jones would hold out for a new deal. He showed up today ready to go, and Jones indicated that he and Dan Quinn are of one accord.
"I talked to DQ earlier. Me and him are on the same page," Jones said. "He just needs me to be the leader I am and to continue to keep working hard and take care of what I can take care of."
Jake Matthews said that he's back to 100% following offseason Lisfranc repair and that he's eager to get back on the field with a full workload.
"It feels good, yeah. I'm ready to go. Ready to do everything," Matthew said. "So when we start tomorrow, I'll be out there and playing. I'm excited, too. I'm ready to get back into it."
Lisfranc injuries are very difficult to rehab, but Matthews said he worked hard to recover and that he's confident and prepared.
Matthews did say that he has experienced some soreness, which isn't unusual or cause for alarm. It's possible the team will choose to limit his workload as a precaution.
"Obviously, when you've had a surgery like that, there's going to be some soreness," Matthews said. "You'll feel stuff every now and then, and I'm sure they'll do a good job of limiting reps if it does bother me, but I'm planning on feeling good and getting everything, so we'll see how it goes."
There have been some personnel changes along the offensive line and there are several players returning from injury, so it will be interesting to see how the starters in this unit develop chemistry during camp, especially with a new scheme.
Matthews was really limited in OTAs, so he's eager to get out on the field and work with his teammates.
"Yeah, it's a new group. Like I said before, I haven't really been out there practicing with them much, so I'm excited to get a feel for the new line and how we work together, especially in this new offense," Matthews said. "Training camp is a good time for us to find out what we're about and get to know each other. It's going to be exciting and it'll be fun."
Jonathan Asamoah said it's not really unusual in the NFL to be dealing with a completely different offensive line each season.
"It's the same thing every year, so this is the beginning of a new group. It's never the same," Asamoah said. "You know how it is. You leave that team meeting at the end of the season before, and it's almost a totally new group every year. So this is the time we build all that."
The offensive linemen seem to have really bought into the new zone blocking scheme.
For Matthews, it's a situation where he's learned the scheme in theory, and now it's a matter of putting what he learned in the meeting room into practice.
"Yeah, I feel good about [the zone blocking scheme]," Matthews said. "I was in for all the meetings and everything, all the OTAs, and so I feel like I have a good understanding just like everyone else, but now I've got to go out there and physically do it."
Jonathan Asamoah started his pro career in Kansas City running in a zone blocking scheme, and he believes it can help turn the run game around for the Falcons.
"It's exciting. It's what I came into the league doing in Kansas City, so it's good to get back to it," Asamoah said. "It's something that can really put the defense on their heels, and once we get the run game going, everything falls right off that."
New guard Chris Chester said that moving into the dorms at the start of camp was very similar to the first day of school. "I picked out my outfit and everything," Chester said.
While Chester is certainly one of the new kids on the block in Flowery Branch, he's also a seasoned veteran. That experience should help him adjust.
"There's kind of a duality to it. On the one hand, I've done this for ten years now and I've got a lot of experience, but on the other hand, I'm not 25 years old anymore," Chester said. "So I'm just going to have to lean on my experience and my knowledge of the game."
Rookie Grady Jarrett is at the other end of the spectrum, entering his first NFL training camp. Jarrett said that his primary focus during the team's time off was staying in shape.
"It was definitely good and definitely something that you want to do. You want to come into camp in shape so you can come out here and impress your coaches, impress your teammates," Jarrett said. "So that was really important to me for our time away, just staying in shape and showing up here ready to go."
Jarrett's been putting in the mental work to be prepared, also, and he said that he's working to get to a point where the playbook becomes second nature for him.
Training camp is physically demanding, but Jarrett said that just prepares the team for the season.
"I'm ready for whatever comes our way, but we definitely, as a team, we want to be challenged so we can be ready for the season and be in shape and just be ready to go," Jarrett said. "We're going to be fast and physical, so I'm really, really excited to be a part of it."
Devin Hester's been in the NFL for a long time, but he said that when you have a new coaching staff in place, players can't really be comfortable coming into camp. Hester said he's been doing a lot of studying the playbook to ensure he's as prepared as possible.
Since the new coaching staff places such an emphasis on competition, Hester is wise to do so. Hester indicated that his role in the new offense remains undefined.
"It's still up in the air. I really don't know the answer right now," Hester said. "New coaches, so it's time to compete right now, and may the best man win."
The depth chart at wide receiver is stacked, and Hester will face stiff competition during camp from Leonard Hankerson, Justin Hardy, Eric Weems, and guys like Freddie Martino and Bernard Reedy.
While training camp can certainly be a grind, especially in the late July and early August Georgia heat, Hester said that the way Dan Quinn approaches practice -- getting his players to work hard and focus on accomplishing what's necessary as opposed to dragging out practice -- is something players appreciate.
"Dan Quinn is a little more player-friendly," Hester said. "He's not really that coach that's going to turn training camp into a player's worst nightmare. I think he's going to make it a lot of fun, he's going to take care of the guys, and that's what we're looking forward to."
The team certainly got a taste of Quinn's approach during OTAs and minicamps. The pace is fast, the intensity is high, but it seems like Quinn likes to work smartly and efficiently. Practices often wrapped up earlier than scheduled because the team had accomplished all that was necessary.
Jonathan Asamoah said that the coaching staff clearly communicated what players could expect under Dan Quinn, so none of it is a surprise.
"They kind of set everything out and they said this is what we're about," Asamoah said. "This is what practice is going to be like. So we started from day one doing the real thing."
Desmond Trufant has learned a lot over the past couple of years with the Falcons. He showed up to the facility toting a gallon jug of water that was half-empty.
"It's hot out here compared to where I'm from. Tacoma, that's where I'm coming from, so it's like night and day, that heat," Trufant said. "But yeah, I can't wait to get out there. Got to stay hydrated if you want to perform."
Trufant has also learned that he can pack light for his time at camp.
"Actually, each year I've packed less and less. My first year, I brought a TV, Playstation, Macbook," Trufant said. "Now, all i've got is some shorts, some sweats, a couple of hats. That's really all I've got. I sleep mostly, so I learned that real quick."
But Trufant is okay with the rookies bringing all of those things to camp. He might even take advantage of it occasionally. "Every now and then I might go to their room, get a win real quick, just go back to sleep," Trufant said.
While camp is physically and mentally demanding, especially with so much to learn on both sides of the ball, Asamoah said this is a fundamentally important time for the team to come together.
"It's essential," Asamoah said. "To me, the way I feel about the game and every team I've been on, we go through all these things together and this struggle will keep us tight, and that's what develops the family and the fight for each other and all those things that will lead to our success."
The team has added a lot of new faces, so the next few weeks will be key to becoming a cohesive team.
Desmond Trufant had some solid advice for the rookies as they head into their first NFL training camp. Trufant said they need to keep their focus on getting better each day.
"Take it one day at a time. It's a long camp. It's preseason games," Trufant said. "It's a little bit different, the schedule, things like that. But just take it one day at a time, and just give maximum effort, and you'll be alright."