FLOWERY BRANCH — Falcons coach Mike Smith addressed the media after the team’s first practice on Thursday.
Here are some highlights:
ON THE FIRST PRACTICE: I think we have to go back to what we did in OTAs. I think we laid a really good foundation in OTAs in all three phases of the game. Our goal moving forward is to build on that foundation. I think Mike (Nolan) and Dirk (Koetter) have done a really good job during the offseason working with their guys, and today was a really good start. We got a break with the weather; the weather was real nice, we got a nice breeze. Our guys worked hard. The offense made some plays, the defense made some plays. It was a good competitive practice, and we anticipate seeing more of those throughout training camp. Here’s a story on what Nolan plans for the defense.
ON AKEEM DENT TAKING OVER AT MIDDLE LINEBACKER: The biggest key is to give him as many snaps as we possibly can, and expose him to the different situations that are going to come up in a game. Today we were working on our base defense, and third down and medium yardage. For a young guy that’s played a lot of football, but not in the NFL and scrimmage snaps, we feel like he’s ready to go. That’s why we drafted him. We drafted him to be our middle linebacker. More on Dent click here!
ON INJURED TACKLE COREY PETERS: He was the only guy that was unable to participate. Corey was hurt off campus before we started our offseason program. He’s a guy, that as I mentioned two or three days ago, will have a follow up exam in about three weeks, and we’ll see where he’s at.
ON THE NEW COORDINATORS: There are changes, it’s going to look different, but it’s going to be more things that are the same than are different. Mike (Nolan) and Dirk (Koetter) have done a very good job meshing their system that they have run in the past to what we’ve done here, especially with the verbage. I think that’s very important as a staff. You can’t come in as a coordinator and throw your book down and tell your team, ‘Hey this is my systems, this is what we’re going to run.’ We’ve got to build this system as a staff and as a team. Believe me, the players have had some input into it as well. The older players, and the mentors in terms of how we’re going to call things, the quarterback on the offensive side, a couple of experienced guys on the defense side have been a part of putting this package together verbage wise.
ON THE SEASON’S OUTLOOK: I think we have a special group of guys. I am a firm believer that you win in the locker room first. You’ve got to have a team that likes to be around each other, and that loves playing the game of football. I think when you have that you have a chance to go out each and every week and be successful. The guys that we have in our locker room, the leaders that we have on our team show the leadership you need to have to be successful in this League. Nothing is guaranteed. Nothing we have done in the past is going to have a bearing on what happens this season, but I like the locker room that we have. We’ve got some good men in that locker room.
ON THE FIRST PADDED PRACTICE: We have to go through a four-day period that started yesterday, tomorrow makes day three, and on our fourth day we’ll be able to put on the pads and practice. You go through basically three days before you put on the pads. It’s an acclimation period. It hasn’t really affected what we do. People that have been around us know that we don’t jump right into pads. The only difference with us, with the new CBA, is that we will have a little more than a walkthrough practice in the morning. But we got a lot done this morning. You saw coaches adjust, this is our second sequence of going through it, and we have a better idea of how we want to handle it.
ON TEACHING METHODS: FBI, or football intelligence or football I.Q., is very important. With the new schedule when you’re not on the field as long as you have been in years past, you have to spend more time in a cerebral situation in the meeting rooms. We as coaches have to be prepared to work with the guys, and some learn differently. Some you have to do walkthroughs. I think you saw this morning we kept certain groups out here, and did walkthroughs which are basically meetings on the field instead of showing tape, and getting up on the board and showing guys that way. It’s our job as coaches to get these guys prepared. We know what the parameters that we’re working with are, and we have to go out there and get them prepared. They’re very eager. I think everyone that you’ll talk to you’ll find is very excited about starting the season.
ON MIKE PETERSON’S RETURN: It worked out well for us. Unfortunately, Lofa sustained a pectoral injury and is out for the season. With Mike Peterson there is a comfort level because he’s been in our system. When I say our system, not necessarily the x’s and o’s, but he’s been in our locker room. He’s been a leader. He’s a guy that can play all three positions, he can play sub, and he’ll be great mentor to the young guys. Sean Weatherspoon is emerging as a leader in that group as well. He’s played a lot of football games, he’s going to be able to help Akeem Dent in his maturation process because he’s just a year or two removed from what Akeem’s going to be going through this year.
ON MATT RYAN’S OFFSEASON PROGRAM: He was the first guy in the weight room this offseason. (Check out a column by Jeff Schultz on Matt Ryan. Click Here!) I think he took somewhere between two or three weeks off before he popped back up here in the building. When you have your quarterback as the first guy in I think that’s a positive thing. It’s funny how other guys started to trickle in when he came in. We couldn’t work with him because of the rules associated with collective bargaining agreement. We were not allowed to have interaction with him, but we could open the facilities and allow them to work in the facilities. I see it in Matt’s strength. I know some of you are saying, ‘He doesn’t look like he’s that much bigger,’ but when you’re slight like Matt is and have the body type that he does you’re working in percentages. Matt’s done a good job with his body. He looks stronger throwing the football, and if you start the season stronger you’re obviously going to finish the season stronger. That’s something that we have talked to our entire football team about is finishing. Finish everything we do.
–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog