For many Falcons, instead of going to their posh weight room at the team’s facilities in Flowery Branch to start the offseason strength and condition program on Monday, they went to Ignite, an athletic training facility, to start their ad hoc program.
Because of the NFL labor situation, the players have been locked out of the team facilities.
Linebacker Coy Wire, the team’s player representative, and right tackle Tyson Clabo, the team’s alternate player rep, are coordinating the offseason program. Wire said about 30 players were on hand and that he expects near 100 percent participation.
“We have to take it upon ourselves to continue working in a manner that will allow us to continue to establish ourselves as one of the top teams in the NFL,” Wire said.
The Falcons were 13-3 last season and won the NFC South. They entered the playoffs as the conference’s No. 1 seed before losing to the Green Bay Packers in the divisional round. Under head coach Mike Smith, the Falcons have been to the playoffs in two of the last three seasons.
“We don’t want to skip a beat,” Wire said.
The players would prefer to be at the team facilities, but are making do at Ignite, which is located in Cumming.
The team is split into two groups. They have workouts at 8 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. Monday through Thursday. Friday is set aside as the make-up day.
The workouts, which are conducted by Jim Launer, a NFL and Celebrity trainer, are designed after the team’s program, which is run by Jeff Fish, the team’s director of athletic performance. Wire, who is involved with Ignite, met with Launer and shared Fish’s philosophy and structure with Launer.
Each day there is a running and movement focus. There is usually a speed and agility focus or some form of plyometrics.
“Then (the workout) also has a strength focus where we’ll go into the weight room,” Wire said. “Each day, we are getting movement and we are getting strength and power.”
Some point to the team’s strength and condition program to explain their six victories in the fourth quarter or overtime last season.
“We’ve been a team that’s healthy and a team that endures through the end in the fourth quarter,” Wire said. “We want to maintain what we’ve been doing.”
Launer was working out middle linebacker Curtis Lofton and safety Shann Schillinger when reached by phone on Monday.
“He’d tell you that his aim is to keep all of the guys healthy,” Wire said. “He wants to get them to a point so when they do return to the Falcons’ facilities and get back in Jeff Fish’s program that it would be as if they’d never missed a beat. He just wants to hand us players back to Fish ready to roll.”
In the past, Smith has allowed veterans like tight end Tony Gonzalez and defensive end John Abraham to workout on their own.
Last season, Abraham spent the two months before training camp working out at Bommarito Performance Systems in south Florida.
“It’s given us a chance to pull together even stronger as a team,” Wire said. “Although it’s unfortunate that there is a lockout, there may be some good that comes from this.”
Wire is hoping the players can continue to bond through the lockout.
“There is something about being away from the facility that we feel less like we are doing something because we have to, but because we want to,” Wire said. “No one is telling us to be there. No one is telling us to workout. But we are all making a choice to do this together.”
Wire and Clabo, along with team leaders on offense and defense, are making plans for the mini-camp and organized team activities if the lockout continues. Last season, the Falcons held mini-camp May 7 through 9.
The OTAs were held May 25 through June 17. Training camp started on July 29.
“If it does go through the time where we start getting into OTAs and mini-camps, we have a field that we can set up,” Wire said. “We are going to have it lined professionally. We are going to have seven-on-seven drills, our walk-throughs . . . again, my goal through all of this is to try to do what our organization would have us do. What we’ve been doing the past couple of years to build this program has worked. The Atlanta Falcons have made progress.
“If it’s not broke, then don’t fix it. We want to try to maintain the philosophical structure as far as the offseason program even though we can’t be there with our coaches and with our strength coach Jeff Fish.”
–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog