Archive for May, 2011

Matt Ryan, John Parker Wilson share ‘The Julio Plan’

Kevin Winston, the Falcons' senior director of player development, welcomes Julio Jones to the team's facilities today in Flowery Branch. (D. Orlando Ledbetter/Dledbetter@ajc.com)

Kevin Winston, the Falcons' senior director of player development, welcomes Julio Jones to the team's facilities in Flowery Branch in April. (D. Orlando Ledbetter/Dledbetter@ajc.com)

BIRDLAND — The lockout is a real bummer for the players.

But quarterback Matt Ryan is taking the bull by the horn (unlike the Hawks) and is providing the team some leadership during these turbulent times.

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan before leading about 30 players through an unofficial minicamp practice on Tuesday. (D. Orlando Ledbetter/Dledbetter@AJC.com)

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan before leading about 30 players through an unofficial minicamp practice on Tuesday. (D. Orlando Ledbetter/Dledbetter@AJC.com)

One of his missions is to get rookie Julio Jones up to speed. Jones, whom the Falcons traded up 21 spots to select in the NFL draft, has already been meeting with Ryan and the wide receivers.

It certainly helps that John Parker Wilson, one of Ryan’s backups, has been helping. Parker won 12 games as a senior at Alabama when Jones was a freshman.

He noted that Jones came in and learned the offense pretty fast. He said that Jones won’t have a …

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Ochocinco signs contract to ride a bull at Gwinnett Arena

Brendon Clark rides Folds-Strickland's Cool Spot for 85.75 during the third round of the 2010 PBR World Final. (Photo by Andy Watson)

Brendon Clark rides Folds-Strickland's Cool Spot for 85.75 during the third round of the 2010 PBR World Final. (Photo by Andy Watson)

One thing is for certain, Chad Ochocinco is staying busy during the NFL lockout.

The NFL receiver has entered into a contract to ride a bull during intermission of the Lucas Oil Invitational on Saturday at the Gwinnett Arena.

Ochocinco will attempt to ride the bull for eight seconds. He will receive $10,000, a Ford F-150 truck and a chance to rename the bull if he has a successful ride.

The 10-year NFL veteran and six-time Pro Bowler, had a tryout with Sporting Kansas City of Major League Soccer in

Chad Ochocinco after signing his bull riding contract.

Chad Ochocinco after signing his bull riding contract.

March.

Ochocinco, who has been working out in Atlanta and running the track at the Marist School, started tweeting about riding a bull on twitter.com. Professional Bull Riders executive Sean Gleason issued him a challenge.

“(He’s) a gifted athlete, but bull riding is a much different sport and …

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Stephen Nicholas in limbo during labor strife

Here, Stephen Nicholas (54) is flying over the top of the pile of Falcons as they stop the 49ers' Frank Gore (21) in the first quarter. Johnny Crawford / jcrawford@ajc.com

Here, Stephen Nicholas (54) is flying over the top of the pile of Falcons as they stop the 49ers' Frank Gore (21) in the first quarter. Johnny Crawford / jcrawford@ajc.com

CUMMING – Falcons linebacker Stephen Nicholas has had a busy offseason.

Nicholas is watching the labor situation closely because he’s directly affected. His future with the Falcons will likely turn on the status of four-year players under a new collective bargaining agreement.

He had to make a decision on whether to sign a tender the Falcons made. He elected not to sign it and has switched agents. He wants a long-term deal and doesn’t want to play under a one-year tender if possible.

We caught up with Nicholas, who’s started 25 games over the last two seasons and has played in 65 games over his career, at the team’s ad-hoc offseason strength and conditioning program.

Falcons linebacker Stephen Nicholas (54) discusses the importance of keeping fit with kids. (By PHIL SKINNER / PSKINNER@AJC.COM

Falcons linebacker Stephen Nicholas (54) discusses the importance of keeping fit with kids. (By PHIL SKINNER / PSKINNER@AJC.COM

Q: How’s the …

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Falcons to Carolina’s Cam Newton: ‘Bring it on!’

Former Auburn quarterback and Heisman trophy winner Cam Newton appears headed to Carolina. (Associated Press)

Former Auburn quarterback and Heisman trophy winner Cam Newton appears headed to Carolina. (Associated Press)

UNOFFICIAL MINICAMPVILLE –  In the modern NFL, a player drafted in the top 10 is expected to play.

(NOTE FROM DOL:  Well, they didn’t actually say “Bring it On!” I just liked the movie and wanted to post the picture of Kirsten Dunst and Gabrielle Union in each other’s face.)Bring it on

Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Mark Sanchez and Sam Bradford have changed that dynamic for quarterbacks.

The owners feel that they are paying hefty rookie salaries, so it’s incumbent on the coaches to get the young

quarterbacks ready to play.

You have to give a lot of credit to former Falcons quarterbacks coach Bill Musgrave and offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey for Ryan’s speedy development.

So, it will be interesting to see how Carolina handles Cam Newton, the No. 1 overall pick in the draft from Auburn and Westlake High. Musgrave, now the offensive coordinator in Minnesota, will try to get former …

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5 things we learned at minicamp practice

Falcons safety Thomas DeCoud soars high for a pass at Tuesday's minicamp practice. Can X-Men fly? (D. Orlando Ledbetter/DLedbetter@ajc.com)

Falcons safety Thomas DeCoud soars high for a pass at Tuesday's minicamp practice. Can X-Men fly? (D. Orlando Ledbetter/DLedbetter@ajc.com)

BUFORD – Here are five things we learned at minicamp practice on Tuesday.

1. Free safety Thomas DeCoud is a fan of X-Men:  DeCoud, who was sporting a blue X-Men t-shirt, was working out at C.E.S. with Chip Smith. Also, a member of the Saints was working there. When the Saints player left, DeCoud knew it was time for the Falcons to start getting together, too.

2. Quarterback Matt Ryan is a married man: “It’s been great,” Ryan said. “It’s been a month now. The first month has been awesome. Everything you could hope for. We’ll just leave it at that.”

3. Ryan and backup QB John Parker Wilson have been drilling Julio Jones: While Jones wasn’t at the first practice, he has been meeting with the quarterbacks and wide receivers. Also,  Wilson said that Jones is a fast learner and will not have any problem picking up the offense.

Ryan is not sure …

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Q&A: Matt Ryan, Mike Peterson led minicamp drills

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan before leading about 30 players through an unofficial minicamp practice on Tuesday. (D. Orlando Ledbetter/Dledbetter@AJC.com)

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan before leading about 30 players through an unofficial minicamp practice on Tuesday. (D. Orlando Ledbetter/Dledbetter@AJC.com)

BUFORD – Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan and linebacker Mike Peterson helped to orchestrate the team’s first unofficial workout on Tuesday.

More than 30 players were on hand for the seven-on-seven drills that later for just over an hour.

Before taking the field, Ryan spoke with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution about the drills, his wedding and integrating wide receiver Julio Jones into the offense.

Linebacker Mike Peterson led the defense through the drills. (D. Orlando Ledbetter/DLedbetter@ajc.com)

Linebacker Mike Peterson led the defense through the drills. (D. Orlando Ledbetter/DLedbetter@ajc.com)

Q: Who’s coming? Will Julio and Roddy [White] be attending?

A: Julio can’t run quite yet. I don’t want to talk about the injuries. We’ll kind of keep that same policy. He had some work done during the offseason. But, he’ll be here. It’s a little more laid back than the usual setting. But those guys will be here and we’ll get …

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Kroy Biermann dealing with love, lockout and fatherhood

Falcons defensive end Kroy Biermann after working out on Monday. (D. Orlando Ledbetter/DLedbetter@ajc.com)

Falcons defensive end Kroy Biermann after working out on Monday. (D. Orlando Ledbetter/DLedbetter@ajc.com)

CUMMING – Falcons defensive end Kroy Biermann is coming off his first season as a starter.

He’s participating in the Falcons’ ad-hoc offseason strength and conditioning program four times per week with Ignite Elite Athletic Training out of the High Intensity Training Center.

After Monday’s session, Biermann chatted with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution about the program, the draft and about being an expectant father with his celebrity girl friend Kim Zolciak.

Defensive Kroy Biermann has won the respect of Hines Ward.

Starting defensive end Kroy Biermann also played a key role on special teams last season.

Q: How has the offseason been going for you?

A: It’s been good. I started training in the first part of March and will be going through June. I’ve been coming in here four days a week. I’ve been staying focused.

Q: How did you review your season?

A: I felt good with it. I felt like I improved. I had a major role on special …

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Falcons set to open ‘private’ minicamp tomorrow

Quarterback Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons during practice on January 26, 2011 in Kapolei, Hawaii. (Aaron M. Sprecher/NFL)

Quarterback Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons during practice on January 26, 2011 in Kapolei, Hawaii. (Aaron M. Sprecher/NFL)

FLOWERY BRANCH – The Falcons will open their unofficial minicamp on Tuesday at an undisclosed site. The camp is closed to the public.

The players, who are locked out and can not use the team’s facilities, will hold their own seven-on-seven drills.

Last season, the Falcons held their minicamp May 7 through 9.  The team’s organized training activities were held May 25 through June 17.

Most of the players have been participating in a strength and conditioning program in Cumming since early March. Quarterback Matt Ryan and wide receiver Roddy White are expected to participate in the minicamp. It is not known if rookie Julio Jones will attend.

–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog

Get instant updates on Twitter at AJCFalcons and you can join the Facebook Fan page at AJC Falcons.

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Depth chart: Ray Edwards welcome to the ATL

Minnesota Vikings defensive end Ray Edwards would be a nice fit for the Falcons. (Associated Press)

Minnesota Vikings defensive end Ray Edwards would be a nice fit for the Falcons. (Associated Press)

BIRDLAND –   With the draft over, here’s a look the Falcons 2011 projected depth chart.

We took in to account that there will be free agency and that the Falcons will take some hits along the offensive line. Right tackle Tyson Clabo is likely to get a big offer and will have to take it. Not sure about left guard Justin Blalock, but he wasn’t drafted by the current regime so he could also bolt.

They’ll be replaced by Mike Johnson at left guard and Jose Valdez at right tackle.

Of course, Julio Jones will start opposite of Roddy White at wide receiver. They just need to teach him the 9, 8 and 7 routes (go, post and flag) to start off. They can add the rest of the route tree on the fly. They didn’t get him to catch a bunch of bubble screens.

On the defensive side, I went ahead and signed Minnesota’s Ray Edwards. (It’s fun playing GM!!!). Here’s his bio.

He’s had 29 sacks in five …

Continue reading Depth chart: Ray Edwards welcome to the ATL »

What if the Falcons retained their NFL draft picks?

Colorado's Jimmy Smith went 27th to Baltimore in the spot originially owned by the Atlanta Falcons. He has top 10 talent and similar measurables to hall of famer Rod Woodson. But his off-the-field issues caused him to drop to 27. (Associated Press)

Colorado's Jimmy Smith went 27th to Baltimore in the spot originally owned by the Atlanta Falcons. He has top 10 talent and similar measurables to hall of famer Rod Woodson. But his off-the-field issues caused him to drop to 27. (Associated Press)

BIRDLAND – If the Falcons had not made the mega-trade here’s what their draft could have looked like:

–Cornerback Jimmy Smith went 27th to Baltimore. He had too much baggage, but would have been a nice add to a secondary that must defend Tampa Bay’s huge receivers and New Orleans’ Marques Colston. Defensive end Cam Heyward was still on the board, but I was told he wasn’t a scheme fit. Also, Pittsburgh defensive end Jabaal Sheard was available. The Falcons likely would have passed on Smith and selected Notre Dame tight end Kyle Rudolph.

–Wide receiver Greg Little went 59th to Cleveland. He’s a little bit of a Diva. He had nice form when he kicked that ball into the stands at Virginia Tech. He’s a former running back and is a natural …

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