Pope High’s T.J. Yates talks about whirlwind week

Here are excerpts of T.J. Yates’ press conference with the Atlanta media in preparation for Sunday’s game against the Falcons. The Texans’ rookie quarterback graduated from Pope High School in Marietta. Yates will start after injuries to Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart.

T.J. Yates, who starred at Pope High, will start for the Texans Sunday against the Falcons. (D. Orlando Ledbetter/dledbetter@ajc.com)

T.J. Yates, who starred at Pope High, will start for the Texans Sunday against the Falcons. (D. Orlando Ledbetter/dledbetter@ajc.com)

Q. This has been a whirlwind last week for you, but have you had a minute to reflect and appreciate how far you have come?

A. Yes. I kind of sat down and talked to my family and a couple of my friends on the phone and just had a second to relax and look at everything that has happened – from the draft, going through training camp and the season it’s all been a wild ride to get to this point. It’s definitely unfortunate circumstances the way [Matt] Schaub and [Matt] Leinart both went down. You never want that to happen. But it has happened and I’ve been preparing the whole season like I was going to be playing out there just for the fact that something like this could happen and it did. It’s really paying off.

Q. How much did going to Houston right after the draft and during the lockout to work with Schaub help?

A. It helped a ton. At that point, it was me, Matt and Dan Orlovsky. We were at Rice [University] three or four times a week. The best thing about Schaub was he never hesitated to stay extra, come on an off day when it was just me and him throwing routes. He was always teaching. No matter what we were doing, he was always teaching me something the whole time we were there. Even during training camp and throughout the season he never hesitated to teach me something or let me pick his brain about anything he’s thinking or anything that he does. That’s help tremendously in me learning this offense this fast.

Q. Is it true that when you went into the game Sunday [against Jacksonville after Leinart got hurt] was ‘What’s up guys?’

A. Yes. I got in there and they were in the middle of a drive and they didn’t realize. They thought it was a timeout because Leinart wasn’t down on the field. He got up, got in the huddle, called a play and ended up calling timeout when he got to the line of scrimmage. So none of the guys really knew what was going on. I had to rush out there, throw my earpiece off, get my helmet and run out there. When I got in the huddle, the guys were like ‘Whoa, what’s going on?’

Q. Were you able to maintain that calm?

A. I got rushed into a two-minute drill for my first NFL time so there wasn’t much calm going on. As the game went on, I got more comfortable. The guys could tell. It’s the way I’ve been playing my whole life. I don’t get too up and down. Whenever I do, I tend to play poorly. I try as best as I can, no matter what I’m doing, to be calm and keep it loose.

Q. Did the game slow down in the limited time you spent Sunday on the field?

A. A little bit. When I first went out there it was going 100 miles per hour because we were in a two-minute drill and I got rushed right into that. As the game went on you kind of start slowing down, running more run plays and going at a normal pace. One thing that has really helped me make the transition onto the field, every day on scout team for the past 10 weeks, I was going against the No. 1 defense in the league. Being able to get reps with them at their full speed every day just makes the transition that much easier.

Q. What has been the hardest part?

A. None of it has been too tough. One thing I have to get done on the field is timing with the receivers I haven’t been throwing with all season long. Being the third-string guy, you don’t get many throws with those first-string guys. Getting the timing down is one thing I need we are going to need to work on this week. I felt very good today. We had a good practice, threw the ball well. It will get better as the week goes on.

Q. What was training camp like just trying to make the roster?

A. It was interesting because Leinart was a free agent so those first three or four days it was only me and Schaub. Those first couple of days went by really fast because I was taking all the snaps with the [second and third teams]. Talk about having your eyes wide open flying right into training camp. From what [quarterbacks coach Gregg Knapp and offensive coordinator Rick Dennison] tell me no rookie gets that amount of reps in a training camp. Under the circumstances, I got tossed in there right in the fire. It definitely opened my eyes and got me acclimated right away.

Q. Do you pay much attention that the Texans are bringing in other quarterbacks?

A. Not at all. The way it’s been going here with different quarterbacks going down we have to have a full stable of quarterbacks just in case.

Q. What do you think of the Falcons so far as you’ve watched them on film?

A. They are very good against the run, I think top five in the league against the run. Their defense is very strong. They are a big zone team and we are going to have to run the ball effectively against them and be able to pass the ball down the field in order to move the chains. They are very good in the red zone. We are going to have to take a long, hard look at that and make sure we take advantage of our opportunities down there.

Q. Did Jake Delhomme practice today?

A. Yes. Jake is awesome. The first five minutes I was in the film room with Jake he was already telling me about stuff he knows from playing the Falcons when he was in the division with Carolina for so many years.

Q. Is it too much about business going forward or can you afford to look at this as a golden opportunity for your career, maybe with the Texans or somewhere else?

A. It is a very big opportunity. It’s hard not to look at it in that way because I never expected to be playing this early in my career, especially under the unfortunate circumstances. Two guys ahead of me going down, you never want to see that happen. You have to take every opportunity you get and run with it. I’m trying not to look too much outside the box this week. I’m trying to take it meeting by meeting, practice by practice and game by game – just trying to get better every day because I haven’t had the reps during the season. I’m just trying to get better every day.

Q. This whole thing is pretty cool though, right?

A. Yeah, it’s pretty cool. I try not to think too much about it. I’m trying to stay as focused as possible. I’m trying to keep my head out of all the other stuff. It can do nothing but affect my play on the field. Tunnel vision.

Q. You always want to play at home, but is there part of you that wishes this game was in Atlanta?

A. That would be pretty cool if it was but I’m excited to get back here and play in front of the home fans. Other than preseason, I’ve never stepped on the field here in a real live environment of a home game. I’m excited to play in front of the home fans.

Q. You grew up the first part of your life in Indiana but were you much of a Falcons fan when your family moved here?

A. We were big Falcons fans. Everybody was. That’s when I was in middle school and every single kid I knew had a Michael Vick jersey. That all changed when I got drafted here.

55 comments Add your comment

Blake

December 1st, 2011
6:38 am

Blake

December 1st, 2011
6:42 am

This guy scares me to death. I sure hope we can put some pressure on this guy and get Him off His game…

Steve

December 1st, 2011
7:07 am

He seems like a nice young man. I hope he has a long and storied career AFTER this weekend. Anyone besides me ever wonder “what if” Shaub had stayed here? Just sayin’.
GO FALCONS!!!

Virginia Jim

December 1st, 2011
7:11 am

Owens and Decloud will make this guy look like the second coming of Joe Montana.

SeenThisB4

December 1st, 2011
7:50 am

IT’S December!!!!

And my team is still at their rightful place, atop of the NFC South in complete domination of their divisional opponents!

Milt Olsen

December 1st, 2011
7:53 am

This poor kid doesn’t stand a chance against the Falcons. If he lasts the first quarater he will be lucky and Houston will have someone else starting at QB next week. Once the Houston offense stalls their defense will start to fall apart. Falcons 36 Houston 7.

SeenThisB4's Mom

December 1st, 2011
8:06 am

Honey, I told you to get off the computer and get ready for school. The short bus will be here soon.

Hobbinator's Dad

December 1st, 2011
8:43 am

T.J. is a fine young man! Been watching him play since the sixth grade. Great passer, smart and always cool under fire – a Leader. First time ever I’ll be pulling against the Falcons!

Savannah Fan

December 1st, 2011
8:44 am

I can see the Monday headlines now-T J has record rookie day-overwhelming psssing day etc etc- –it happens

Pete

December 1st, 2011
8:53 am

I honestly think this kid is going to SHOCK the football world and Dismantle the Falcon secondary on Sunday. He couldn’t be more lucky than to be playing against the most clueless NFL secondary in the history of the league.
Texans 28
Falcons 17

painter

December 1st, 2011
9:01 am

No way. Good luck kid.

painter

December 1st, 2011
9:03 am

Falcons will be 9-0 playing rookie QBs by Monday, 11-0 against them in a couple weeks. Good luck kid.

sam

December 1st, 2011
9:05 am

Now with Grimes out indefinitely, who’s going to cover Andre Johnson and Steve Smith in next 2 games? We all know Dunta is a back up at best and Owens is a bust. I’m just thankful we don’t face a real QB until the Saints. I have a feeling Cam Newton’s going to have a field day against this secondary next week.

North FLA Falcon

December 1st, 2011
9:15 am

It will be up to Ryan to move the ball and score some TD’s. Field goals will not do it in this game. It’s on him and the pass defense.

PMC

December 1st, 2011
9:29 am

Any word on whom the Falcons will be bringing in behind Owens and Franks at corner DOL?

Haden obviously is inactive for Sunday too. Just wondering if you had heard anything.

fes

December 1st, 2011
9:31 am

don’t worry falcons fans. t.j. always has a couple inexplicable gaffes per game. at a key moment, he’ll throw an interception to seal the game (saw it too many times at unc).

I'm Gumby, Dammit!!

December 1st, 2011
9:32 am

All you people hating on Owens need to STFU. Have you already forgotten who ran down Percy Harvin on the kickoff return last week??

Nobody’s happy about Grimes being out, but injuries happen. Rise up!!

PMC

December 1st, 2011
9:32 am

Glad to see another local high school product get an NFL opportunity.

Best of luck to you TJ Yates, just not this week.

North FLA Falcon

December 1st, 2011
9:53 am

Yates can’t carry the Texans but their running game and overall defense can. We cannot have stupid turnovers. No one mentioned Ryan’s near-fumble in the 2nd half which would have been a complete disaster. Control the game!!!

dabear

December 1st, 2011
10:00 am

TJ is a class act. Tough team for have a debut against. I hope he plays well. Best of luck to TJ Sunday and for the rest of the year. Hard work does pay off and TJ was well prepared by John Shoop & Butch Davis for the pro game.

Mikey

December 1st, 2011
10:01 am

Very sad to hear about the misfortune of Grimes. He is a top notch athelete and this is a tough setback for him. We will certainly miss him and I wish him the best in a speedy and a complete recovery. I thoroughly enjoyed some of Chris Owen’s play during his first year. I am hoping that with the good coaching he has and the kind of raw ability he has, he can demonstrate great CB talent just like Grimes did. He seems to be playing scared at times and needs to get his confidence back to get in the flow of the game. He can do it… he is fast and he is a fearless hitter. He just needs to have the confidnece to get past a terrible game against Green Bay last year. CBs can have a game like that as they develop, especially if they are dinged up… it happens to all of them. I am anxious to see how he does and will be rooting for his success. Any successful team will need to play backups and the backups need as much or more support than the regulars.Go Falcons!

Supes

December 1st, 2011
10:01 am

It’s gonna be pretty cool to see double nickle getting in his face, Spoon and Lofton as well. No matter what Delhomme tells them about the Falcons, things change from year to year. We’re going to go down there and impose our will and win another game. Falcons for the win! Good luck AFTER that T.J. Yates.

Michael M.

December 1st, 2011
10:44 am

I agree…too many hurt pitchers for Texans ( QB’s), Atlanta will slip by them and escape with the Win !

Jessie "The Hammer" Tuggle

December 1st, 2011
10:59 am

To Pete. Man what kind of glue are you sniffing. This clueless secondary held the Saints and the Packers to 23 and 25 points respectively. And Houston has a rookie QB. The Falcons have yet to play all 4 quarters at their best. In the words of Tiger Woods you haven’t seen their “A” game yet. When it happens and Sunday it could you will witness a serious buttwhipping with a big Texas WHIP. TJ is gonna wish he was back in HS school after this game.

JT

North FLA Falcon

December 1st, 2011
11:17 am

Continue to stuff the run and force JT to make some throws. 2nd and long, 3rd and long will be tough for the youngster!

FreedomRide

December 1st, 2011
11:17 am

Falcons should win if Matty Popsicle survives.

The Texans’ D is loaded with sack monsters. The Falcons could find themselves in the same QB situation as Houston when they come home from this game.

Who’s your backup? Chris Redman? Awesome.

Jake

December 1st, 2011
11:19 am

LOL…on the secondary making Yates look like an all pro….have made several quarterbacks rating go up…Pass rush? Edwards? hello? the DLine will know where he is, he won’t be scrambling…that would help the secondary–Rise Up defensive line, especially now with all the injuries with the DBs….and yes red zone offense will be especially important…always is..

StevenTexansManiac

December 1st, 2011
11:22 am

Jessie ” The Hammer” Tuggle…. Remember this my child you/re missing 2 starters in your secondary and we have multiple weapons on offense. You have one great tight end we have one probowl and on good tightend. Yall have 1 good running back we have 1 great and 1 good running back. Our wide-outs are tied. Oh and the most important thing our defense will get in Ryans grill from snap number 1. Number 1 defense in the leaugue, second in sacks and 4th in run. Dont get it twisted we are no push over and when we win on sunday with a rookie quarterback from your home state dont jump off the bleachers. GO TEXANS!!!!!

TexanFanHere

December 1st, 2011
11:26 am

I hate to say it but I think it likely that the Falcons do get by us this week. There’s just been too much turnover at the QB position over the last two games for us to keep the chemistry going. Our defense will give you a tough time and we’ve got a pretty good running game but I think we’ll be off in our timing at a few key moments. You know how a couple of mistakes can cost you games? Well, we’re on course to make a couple of mistakes this week I think. All of you talking positively about Yates has me feeling good about our chances in the coming weeks though. I’m looking forward to seeing him play with a few weeks of practice under his belt. I think he can get us in the post-season. Also sorry we couldn’t take care of the Saints for you earlier in the year. We almost got them but our defense was too new and hadn’t put it all together yet.

Stick a folk in that Secondary..

December 1st, 2011
11:58 am

If this Houston’s #1 defense gets to Ryan and I think they will, he is a turn over machine.. Which means the Texans will have a great shot at an upset!!

Big win for the Texans at Home!!!!!!!!!! Huge win…….

Tommy

December 1st, 2011
12:04 pm

On defense we’ll play it a lot like the Detroit game–high-low Johnson with a corner and a safety, just like we did, err. . . Johnson, and prevent the big play. The Texans play a 3-4 and are athletic, which means potential for sacks, but also for could lead to big plays on offense. Look for Ryan to be rolling out, with some screens and draws thrown in, and one or two big play action plays in the second half.

Gonna be close, but Smith’s Falcons normally beat run-and-defense teams.

Stick a folk in that Secondary..

December 1st, 2011
12:09 pm

Falcons will lose the 3rd quarter for the 9th time in 13 games..Thats why they have no shot @ winning a playoff game..it will be 0-3 last 4years….

Norv turner?

Supes

December 1st, 2011
12:12 pm

Yes I’d rather have Chris Redman than T.J Yates…think before you post! Rookies

SeenthisB4's Dad

December 1st, 2011
12:25 pm

I thought I told you to get off that computer and get ready for school. Leave them poor people alone In Atlanta and get a life. You know them Falcons could come down here and beat your beloved team and then you’ll be crying In my beer!

SeenthisB4's Pastor

December 1st, 2011
12:31 pm

I’ve begged Him/Her to repent for how they have talked to those good people In Atlanta.Maybe when the choir sings Falcons rise up,He/She will see the light. Until then I don’t see any hope of change….

Post-it

December 1st, 2011
1:21 pm

@TexanFanHere
Welcome to the Falcons blog and thanks for the civil, objective commentary. Any other week I’m pulling for your team. And I do think T.J. will settle in after a few games. Just a couple more wins and you’ll be at home for the playoffs.

Bob Berry to Cannonball Butler

December 1st, 2011
1:31 pm

its all coming down to that loss in Chicago and the loss in the Dome to the Aints. Last year those were wins. This year Chris Owens, Decoud, and Bosher are playing. No playoffs. W/Grimes gone, every team will score 50 on us now. Just move on to next year

Eric C.

December 1st, 2011
1:31 pm

Was just doing a little check of the stats and found that the Falcons defense is putting up good numbers against above average offenses.

The Falcons are ranked 9th in yards given up…but where do their opponent’s offenses rank?

1) Saints
3) Eagles
4) Packers
5) Panthers
9) Lions
15) Bucs
16) Bears
20) Titans
23) Vikings
30) Seahawks
31) Colts

This comes out to an average of about 14th, and if you take away the Falcons 13th ranked offense, you get an average of about 13th…not to bad, especially considering that they have faced 4 of the top 5 offenses and 5 of the top 9.

Eric C.

December 1st, 2011
1:33 pm

Bob Berry, I would equate the Bears loss to the Eagles loss last year, and yes, they did beat the Saints once last year, but they still have another shot.

Jason

December 1st, 2011
1:40 pm

I went to the same high school as TJ. I was years younger so I never got to play with him, but this is an extremely exciting time for anyone who went to Pope. TJ’s a class act, and I’m hoping he plays well this weekend and keeps the job the remainder of the year. He’s got a fantastic arm, and he’s got the weapons around him to help him succeed.

CGD..

December 1st, 2011
2:03 pm

Got a bad feeling TJ is going to light up that secondary just like the previous 2 or 3 backup QB’s….

Powerful arm and if he is more accurate than Melt, look out……

North FLA Falcon

December 1st, 2011
2:12 pm

I really wish we had won vs Tampa Bay. It will hurt us in the playoff stretch.

Die Hard Falcon

December 1st, 2011
2:58 pm

I will be pulling for the Texans after this week, but for now…GO Falcons!!!

I am very concerned about Grimes, I hope Hayden can be back next week and Grimes by the NO game or at least by the playoffs. If we can weather these next 3 games, we’ll be playoff bound, no way that we’ll drop the last 2. New Orleans will be tough, especially if we don’t have Grimey, but we only need 4 of 5 and we’ll be guaranteed a playoff spot. 3-2 might get us there as the Giants and Lions are falling off.

New Season once the playoffs begin, found that out the hard way last year, this year it’s our turn to play spoiler.

Michael M.

December 1st, 2011
3:14 pm

Falcons are good enough to win all last 5 games but I think they will give away one of those…which one is anybody’s guess, rather them lose to the Saints again down there because I have a feeling they may have to go back down there again and play em in the playoffs if Atlanta makes it to the playoffs. Going to New Orleans twice to play and win both games is just out of the question. They was to beat New Orleans twice down there they can win the Superbowl……..hands down!

Yo

December 1st, 2011
3:42 pm

T.J. says he is best when he gets “comfortable”, so we’ve got to shake him out of that zone. I note that he says the Falcon’s are good against the run, but didn’t get excited about our secondary except to indicate he was going long. I hope we are planning a lot of blitz. We have done pretty well against Jake D. in the past, so that is good. With Grimes out for a good while (post-op and rehab) I wonder if Smith is considering bringing in a CB? Right now it looks like Lofton is superman, covers the entire secondary. Need to give the guy some help.

CGD..

December 1st, 2011
3:49 pm

The Falcons wont even sniff an NFC Championship with this staff, QB, and secondary…

So be happy with a playoff invite.. Hugh?

TJ/Falcons Fan

December 1st, 2011
3:54 pm

Playing with TJ in high school and watching him grow as a QB at UNC is making me believe that this is not going to be an easy win for the Falcons. I love the Falcons to death, but their offense is going against one of the league’s top defenses, and the secondary is going to be matched up against an offense that is eager to throw the ball and get some points on the scoreboard. Expect a lot of 3-4 WR’s sets and play actions. The only way Falcons win this game is mixing up Blitz packages and Michael Turner having a 100+ rushing game. If Falcons give TJ all day to throw, and our offense resorts to passing on 3rd downs, expect this to be a nail bitter game. Falcons 24 Houston 17

thunderkyss

December 1st, 2011
4:11 pm

Falcons….. Bring a lunch

Michael M.

December 1st, 2011
4:16 pm

lol at lots of sniffing at a NFC title shot..don’t say that CDG, it might come back to haunt you !

The Real Falcon

December 1st, 2011
4:50 pm

Svitek to remain starter
So much for moving up to take Baker