Arthur Smith had a pre-OTAs press conference today, and he had to know walking into it that there was one big question on the minds of every single reporter in that room, and that it concerned Julio Jones.
Unsurprisingly, given that the Falcons have tried hard to frame trade talks as “just taking calls” all offseason and did not let a word of Julio asking for a trade out of the building until Ian Rapoport dropped the bomb yesterday, Smith was in no hurry to talk about #11. I don’t know how long this organization will be able to hunker down on such a big story, but at least for the moment, they seem wholly committed to saying as little as possible.
Arthur Smith says he’s not going to comment on the matter with Julio Jones. Remains a private conversation on his end #Falcons— Kelsey Conway (@FalconsKelsey) May 25, 2021
We haven’t heard Terry Fontenot weigh in on the latest comments yet, but if he does, I imagine it will be much the same. Reporters did what they should do and tried a few times to get something out of Smith, but to no avail.
To summarize: Arthur Smith effectively said nothing about Julio Jones' situation or his "I'm outta here" comment or him wearing a Cowboys' hoodie, but he claimed he didn't really know about the hoodie & asked if I could text him a picture of it. I get that right @tori_mcelhaney? https://t.co/R4onXEPgcF— Jeff Schultz (@JeffSchultzATL) May 25, 2021
Of course, Arthur Smith is also a guy who seems very transparent about his feelings, so we also got this.
"We'll always coach the guys who show up." - Arthur Smith— Tori McElhaney (@tori_mcelhaney) May 25, 2021
This team likely would have gladly ridden this situation out until the end never letting on that Julio asked for a trade, and now that Julio and Ian Rapoport have blown that whole thing up (it’s not clear, still, whether Julio meant to do so), their approach could’ve shifted dramatically. With no interest in making the situation uglier for a number of reasons—imagine what happens if the organization dynamites the relationship and don’t find a trade partner for #11, for example—Atlanta will take the tight-lipped approach we’ve seen from them all offseason on everything from free agency to the draft and probably won’t go any further than saying they’re listening to calls. At this point, they’re likely hoping to find a partner willing to pay their asking price that Julio would feel comfortable being traded to and get it done, with mandatory minicamp looming and the potential for this trade talk to overshadow the regime’s first summer.
We may not be done learning revelations about why Julio wants out of Atlanta and where he’s headed just yet, but this team’s commitment to saying absolutely nothing about the situation until it’s over is already evident. All we can do is strap in for the roller coaster ride and wait to see how it ends at this point. For the Falcons, it’s going to be a lot more frenetic until they trade one of the best players in franchise history or convince him to stick around.