Atlanta Falcons: Q&A with head coach Mike Smith

Falcons head coach Mike Smith circles his troops as he leads his players through the opening day of training camp in Flowery Branch on Thursday, July 26, 2012. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

Falcons head coach Mike Smith circles his troops as he leads his players through the opening day of training camp in Flowery Branch on Thursday, July 26, 2012. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

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

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36 comments Add your comment

Ken

July 26th, 2012
11:24 pm

1danielbell

July 26th, 2012
11:31 pm

falconsrus

July 26th, 2012
11:47 pm

Pump up the ball and lets kick this thing off

JSS

July 26th, 2012
11:54 pm

So that was an interesting quote: ”it’s going to look different, but it’s going to be more things that are the same than are different.” Whoa! So so if we take Mike Smith at his word, the venerated overhaul is simply an amalgamation of systems?

lowdownjj

July 27th, 2012
1:29 am

Always wondered how “Enter your comments here” got posted…FAT FINGERED it. Hope Peters injury isn’t serious. He’s been a steal for a third rounder and one of our most consistent D-Linemen. Was wondering what D-BLOCK would look like without Mike Pete. Glad I won’t have to find out

Barry

July 27th, 2012
2:07 am

HEY Y”ALL:

IT”S THAT TIME!!!! THE SMELL IS IN THE AIR. THE PLAYERS ARE BACK! THE COACHES ARE BACK! THE OWNERS ARE BACK!! THE LOCAL MEDIA IS BACK!!! AND FOR SURE, WE THE FANS ARE BACK!!!!!! THIS IS THE TIME TO GET O_R HEARTS IN SHAPE TO WHAT IS G OÍ ING TO BE AN EXCITING YEAR OF ATLANTA FALCON FOOTBALL. IT”S TIME FOR THECOACHES TO DESIGN THE X” AND “O”s. THE PLAYERS TO REMBER THE PLAYS AND GET OFF THE BALL IN “ONE HEARTBEAT!!!” IT”S TIME TO JELL AS A TEAM, AND THOSE WHO MAKE THE FLOWERY BRANCH TEAM WILL BE THE HEAD OF THE “ONE HEARTBEAT FORFPR GEORGIA, ATLANTA, AND ALL THE COMMUNITIES WITHIN. TOGETHER, WE ARE “OONE HEARTBEAT!!!” WE ARE A POWER!! WE ARE A FORCE!! WE ARE NOTHING TO BE PLAYED WITH!! THUMP!!!! WE ARE “ONE HEARTBEAT!!!!” UNITY AND TOGETHERNESS IS OUR CALLING. NASTINESS,POWER, SPEED, AND FINNESE IS HOW WE PLAY ON THE FIELD. THE ” PROCESS” CONTINUES AT FLOWERY BRANCH. AND I LOVE WHAT THIS “PROCESS” IS SHING INTO. ONE G AT A TIME. ONE GAME AT A TIME IN “ONE HEARTBEAT!!” THUMP!! CAN YOU HEAR IT?? THUMP!! IT”S GETTING LPUDER!!!THUMP! THUMP!!!

NOW, ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL????!!!!! I DAMN SURE AM!!!

GO FALCONS!!!!!!!!!!

“FALCONS RISE UP!!!” IN “ONE HEARTBEAT!!!!!”

SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSHHHHHHH!!!!!!!
This is a SECRET from a FALCON FAN. TELL EVERYBODY!!!!!!!!

‘…………………..”ONE HEARTBEAT, BABY!!!”………..

DD

July 27th, 2012
2:08 am

We have a Good coach in MS and a Good GM in TD! If we can avoid the injury bug I belive we can win the NFC and represent in the Superbowl. The New coords should make just enough difference for us to get over the playoff win hump.

[...] “He was the first guy in the weight room this offseason,” Smith told reporters on Thursday, via D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  “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. [...]

brookings

July 27th, 2012
3:51 am

It all boils down to the regular season games! Can we man up.

J-Lo

July 27th, 2012
4:00 am

Matty ice has finally earned his nickname. Sure, he has always been cool as ice, but has he ever been hard as ice? Although he may have only added ten to fifteen pounds, it is a suit of armor made of muscle. Even his face and neck have an extra layer of muscle and vascularity. It shows how dissatisfied Ryan is with his consistent success and improved stats every year. None of that means anything to him if it does not help him toward his goal of the Lombardi Trophy. It is as if Ryan/Smith/Dimitroff/Blank are of a single mind. To them, great regular season performances are the status quo. They are to be expected given the talent and diligence of the leaders of this organization. Therefore, a successful season hinges totally on postseason performance. This has always been the case, but poor assistant coaching combined with the fact that we always draw the Super Bowl winner in game one (I am including the Cardinals who should have won the Game if it were not for two truly miraculous plays by the Steelers), has given an appearance that Atlanta is falling very short of their goals. However, what I am saying, is that this is an illusion. If we had better play calling OR if we weren’t going against the hottest team in the league, we would have several playoff victories in the Ryan/Smith/Dimitroff era. These excuses are not the best position to argue from, but I think they are very valid and convincing, and there is no reason not to expect playoff success from the Falcons in the near future.

Michael M.

July 27th, 2012
7:08 am

Seems like we hard the same thing last year too out of Coach Smitty ……………………tell us something new for this year please.

Michael M.

July 27th, 2012
7:10 am

@ LMAO….no, you keep Lofton………………..he might help us out more by being a member of ” your team”.

Ray H

July 27th, 2012
7:32 am

JSS, if you know anything about football, you would know that majority of the schemes are the same. theres only so many route combinations and defensive assignments in the game. Whats going to change is the play calling. its going to the combination of plays that will be different!

Ken Strickland

July 27th, 2012
8:59 am

LMAO-You signed CLofton because no other team was desperate enough to sign him but you. He wanted to remain a Falcon badly, which is why he was angry at having to sign with the AINTS/TAINTS and lashed out at us. Otherwise, why be angry at the Falcons if he ended up where he wanted to be? Even a delusional AINT/TAINT fan should have enough sense to figure that out.

You delusional AINT/TAINT fans should take a serious look at your own situation before commenting on someone elses. Than again, maybe you already have, which is why you’re posting on our blogs. Here’s what I mean:
1-You’ve replaced CNicks, the NFLs best OG, with BGrubbs, who’s good but not nearly as good, which is definitely a step backwards.
2-You’ve replaced hard hitting playmaking Probowl MLB JVilma with former Falcon MLB CLofton, who’s definitely not a hard hitter or play maker, which is definitely a step backwards.
3-We don’t know who you replaced your OLB with.
4-We also don’t know who you’ve replaced your best CB with, but you can bet he won’t be an improvement, which is a step backwards.
5-You’ll likely replace RMeachum, you’re 2nd best WR, with a backup, which won’t likely be an upgrade.
6-Replacing HC/OC SPeyton with an assistant is definitely not an upgrade, no way.
7-You’ve lost your 2 top backup DTs, which might not be that great of a loss in talent, but it certainly will be in size and depth.
8-Because of the immoral, and unethical approach your low life organization took to playing the gm, you didn’t get much of anything in the draft, which is definitely a step backwards.

Now tell me AINT/TAINT FANATICS, what has your TAIL TUCKED BETWEEN ITS LEGS TEAM AND ORGANIZATION done to improve? Better still, tell me what they’ve done to remain at the same level? Your SORRIER THAN SORRY DEF finished in the bottom half last yr, and that was before losing your best CB, MLB, OLB, and top 2 backup DTs.

[...] shared a must-read Q and A with Mike Smith this evening. There are several juicy nuggets in there, so make sure you read it [...]

Ken Strickland

July 27th, 2012
9:44 am

Here’s what it’s like to be a delusional AINT/TAINT FANATIC. First, you send a lot of time on you rivalry’s blogs commenting about things that you can face about your own team, like:
1-You replaced Allpro OG CNicks, the NFLs best OG, with BGrubbs, who’s a fringe Probowler who’s not as good in any phase, which is a definite step backwards.
2-You replaced hard hitting play making Probowl MLB JVilma with former Falcon MLB CLofton, who’s definitely not a hard hitter or play maker, and is a liability in pass coverage, which is definitely a step backwards. You signed him because no other team was desperate enought to offer him a contract.
3-You’ve replaced CB TPorter, your teams best CB, with a backup with little experience, which will most likely represent a step backwards.
4-You’ve replaced your starting OLB with another backup. We don’t know how that will workout.
5-You’ve replaced your #2 WR with another backup, which won’t likely be an improvement.
6-You’ve replaced HC/OC SPeyton with an assistant, which is definitey a step backwards.
7-You’ve lost your 2 top backup DTs, which might not be much of a loss talent wise, but will definitely affect your depth.
8-Because your lowlife organization took the lowdown, dirty, underhanded, and immoral approach to playing the gm, your 1st and 2nd rd draft picks were forfited, so you definitely didn’t improve in anyway through the draft.
Only a DELUSIONAL AINT/TAINT FANATIC would look at these facts, or pretend not to notice, and spend time criticizing your rival, who’s in a helluva lot better shape than you. Your SORRIER THAN SORRY DEF was a bottom rated DEF even before losing some of you very best players. We have backup DEF players that are as good or better than some of your starters. GET A CLUE.

Ken Strickland

July 27th, 2012
9:46 am

D ORLANDO LEDBETTER-My last 3-4 posts have been blocked, why?

Ken Strickland

July 27th, 2012
9:46 am

D ORLANDO LEDBETTER-Why are all of my posts being blocked?

Falconfever

July 27th, 2012
9:53 am

Really Good Article DOL!! Im excited… you can see Smitty’s patience paying off! He really is an excellent coach….

Falconbikerdude

July 27th, 2012
9:55 am

Matt, no offense, but you need to be stronger throwing the football… we have to get the ball downfield deep and accurate and make some connections so the defense starts to reflect that… that will take significant pressure off our running game.

DR. FALCON

July 27th, 2012
10:06 am

GOOD JOB, BARRY! I’M ALL IN! “RISE UP”! THIS IS MATT RYAN’S 5TH YEAR! NO EXCUSES! THE APPRENTICESHIP IS OVER! A DEEP PLAYOFF RUN, ATLEAST! SUPPORT OUR QB! HE IS TOP 7, AT LEAST AT THE POSITION! HE CERTAINLY IS BETTER THAN TONY ROMO’S, ASS! ONE DAY CLOSER TO THE DALLAS COWGIRLS, ON SUNDAY NITE! I’M NOT WORRIED ABOUTH THE SAINTS! THEY ARE DONE! CAN WE SAY 5-11?

Mikey

July 27th, 2012
10:33 am

SO nice to be seeing football again. Can’t wait for the season to begin. So glad to hear that all but one are healthy and hope this continues throughout the season. A good training camp will get them all ready to compete with the big boys. GO FALCONS!

C Carroll

July 27th, 2012
10:46 am

I will know that there are changes in the offensive game plan when on 4th and 1 we fake a handoff, roll out and hit Jones on the fly for a touchdown. Any of you old enough to remember Johnny Unitas and the Colts? A coach that will not gamble for the home run will never win the super bowl.

JSS

July 27th, 2012
10:46 am

That is why you add “wrinkles” ask your dear friend the Skateboard safety…
“They showed use tendencies and formations we hadn’t seen before…” Duh…

LexLuth

July 27th, 2012
12:16 pm

Question to DOL…Would Lofton have fit under our salary cap with his new salary?

No more eggcuses 4 Perrier Jerry

July 27th, 2012
1:36 pm

How come U never adress the looser Perrier Jerry? R U afraid they will not let you report on the team if U ask the most basic question about the bigest bust in history?

FRANK

July 27th, 2012
1:36 pm

FROM WHAT I HEAR DENT IS LOOKING VERY GOOD

Shady

July 27th, 2012
1:55 pm

DOL that’s goood stuff, thanks for update.

Coat hangers & Sawdust

July 27th, 2012
2:17 pm

Anyone else think it is funny when a church burns? If God is so powerful, how come he did not stop the church from burning?

Nativebird

July 27th, 2012
3:44 pm

It’s all talk. All this regime ever does is talk. Shut up and win a playoff game.

The DIirty Bird

July 27th, 2012
4:20 pm

Been a real dirty bird fan since day one and this coaching staff and players will bring down the house this year “Matty Ice” will show signs of greatness this season and our defense will be the talk of the NFL – So jump on the BANDWAGON Now , we’re likely to win 12 or 13 games – you heard it from the DIRTY BIRD , GO COONS !!!!!!!!

old qb

July 27th, 2012
4:27 pm

DOL–Any word on who they’ll be looking to make some tackles on kickoffs this year. The loss of Weems and now with Dent playing MLB that’s two big holes to fill.
Also, are there rumors yet on bringing in some more veteran linebackers? If Dent goes down Peterson will have to fill in. If Nicholas goes down Adkins has to go in. If weatherspoon goes down Robert James, the munchkin has to play. In other words there is no depth and certainly not playoff caliber.
We better pray Gonzalez doesn’t go down because Palmer and the guys they pulled in off the street aren’t going to scare anyone. Maybe pick up a vet after the final cuts.

SB Ring-LESS IN ATL

July 27th, 2012
6:43 pm

SB ringless FAILCANTS ….Lmao…..

Saints > FAILCANTS ….

SB Ring-LESS IN ATL

July 27th, 2012
6:44 pm

Rise up…FALL DOWN…FAILCANTS ARE LOOSAHS…FACT…SAINTS OWN YOU…

Respect Ray

July 27th, 2012
7:56 pm

Falcon James

July 27th, 2012
8:13 pm

Am I the only one who hates to read a post that is in ALL CAPS? I have gotten to where I just skim right over them. I figure anyone who can’t type doesnt have much to say. Just my opinion. If you are one of the people who do it, save your energy. I wont’t be reading what you have to say.