Archive for July, 2012

Atlanta Falcons: Jerrell Harris turning some heads at camp

Coaches have been impressed with undrafted rookie linebacker Jerrell Harris, from Alabama, taking the field for practice in Flowery Branch on Sunday, July 29, 2012. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

Coaches have been impressed with undrafted rookie linebacker Jerrell Harris, from Alabama, taking the field for practice in Flowery Branch on Sunday, July 29, 2012. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

FLOWERY BRANCH – The importance of making a good first impression in most job environments is vital.

Strangely enough, that general employment rule applies to players seeking long-term work in the National Football League.

Through the first six practices of training camp, Falcons rookie linebacker Jerrell Harris has successfully made a good first impression and has caught the eye of defensive coordinator Mike Nolan.

“He stands out because he’s got long hair like everybody else,” Nolan quipped.

Then he flipped on the serious switch. “I think he stands out because of his size, everybody is impressed with his size,” Nolan said. “He moves well for a big man.”

Harris stands 6-feet-3 and weighs 242 pounds. He made a strong impression on the first full-squad training camp …

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Video: Falcons working on punt block drill

Falcons special teams coach Keith Armstrong leading punt coverage team candidates through the punt block drill on Sunday.

–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog

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Atlanta Falcons: First full practice in pads

Vivlamore reporting from Flowery Branch with your Falcons report.

The Falcons had their first full squad training camp practice in pads Sunday and coach Mike Smith was pleased with the results. No one got hurt.

“At the end of a play, you want to see all 22 guys on their feet,” Smith said.

Players are getting acclimated to practicing in pads after seven months off. The team will begin to fully install offensive and defensive schemes. According to Smith, this week’s practices will focus on game situations and lead up to the team scrimmage Friday at Peachtree Ridge High School in the annual Friday Night Lights event. Players have an off day Wednesday.

There was some hitting Sunday, mostly between the offensive and defensive lines.

“I thought, as you normally see on the first day of pads, there are going to be some guys that really stand out,” Smith said. “And there were. You’re always concerned on that first day in pads that guys start a little …

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Atlanta Falcons: Practice to be televised on NFL Network

Quarterback John Parker Wilson signals an adjustment to a play call at the line of scrimmage in Flowery Branch on Saturday, July 28, 2012. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

Quarterback John Parker Wilson signals an adjustment to a play call at the line of scrimmage in Flowery Branch on Saturday, July 28, 2012. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

FLOWERY BRANCH — Segments of today’s practice will be televised live on the NFL Network.

Practice is set to start at 3:30 p.m. and run through 6:05 p.m. The players will be in pads, but will not have full contact.  

The normal broadcast rules allow for all media outlets to shoot the drills and not the 11-on-11 team activity. (The Falcons don’t want their plays showing up on YouTube.Com.)

The practice session is open to the public.

–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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Wyche on NFL AM show that’s set to debut Monday

Steve Wyche of NFL AM. (Courtesy of NFL Network)

Steve Wyche of NFL AM. (Courtesy of NFL Network)

Before heading out to practice today, we want to wish our pal and former colleague Steve Wyche and the rest of the cast of “NFL AM” well on their new show which debuts at 6 a.m. Monday on the NFL Network.

The four-hour morning show plans to feature seasoned and opinionated talent who will report and debate news, and examine the personalities that play the game.

Along with my fellow Howard alum Wyche, who I backed up when he was the Falcons beat reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution from 2005-08, NFL AM’s talent roster features 13-year NFL veteran Eric Davis, Mark Kriegel, Brian Webber and Nicole Zaloumis.

The show will be based at NFL Network’s Culver City, Calif. studios. They have been doing test runs over the last few weeks. Here’s an interview with our guy Wyche:

Steve Wyche begins his fifth season with NFL Network and NFL.com, providing reports from team facilities and games on a variety of programs …

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Atlanta Falcons: Gonzalez likes his role in new offense

Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter applaudes a catch by wide receiver Julio Jones in approval of a well run play in Flowery Branch on Saturday, July 28, 2012. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter applaudes a catch by wide receiver Julio Jones in approval of a well run play in Flowery Branch on Saturday, July 28, 2012. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

FLOWERY BRANCH — Despite getting less production out of the tight end position than the Falcons have averaged over the last three seasons, Tony Gonzalez is comfortable with the role the tight end plays in new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter’s system.

In Jacksonville, tight end Marcedes Lewis averaged 41.4 catches over the last five seasons with David Garrard and Blaine Gabbert operating the offense. Lewis peaked in 2010 when he caught 58 passes and 10 touchdowns to earn a trip to the Pro Bowl.

In former coordinator Mike Mularkey’s system, Gonzalez averaged 77.6 catches over the past three seasons and has made two trips to the Pro Bowl.

“I don’t see it changing too much from what it’s been around here,” Gonzalez said. “It’s somewhat the same plays. Of course, he …

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Grimes talks contract, new defensive scheme

Vivlamore reporting from Flowery Branch. Here is my story from today’s interview with Brent Grimes.

Flowery Branch – As the Brent Grimes’ contract situation played out during the offseason, the Falcons cornerback insists he wasn’t about to worry.

Who needs the gray hair?

The Falcons kept Grimes for another season when they placed the franchise tag on him in March. He will earn $10.281 million this season on a one-year contract.

“Honestly, it’s not my problem to deal with,” Grimes said following Saturday’s training camp practice. “I do what I do. I play football. That’s what I have agents for. They call me and tell me what’s going on. Whatever happens, I’m just going to come out and play football. I don’t worry about all that. I just have to worry about covering people.”

Cornerback Brent Grimes is set to make $10.281 million in 2012, but reportedly would like a long-term deal. (Curtis Compton  ccompton@ajc.com)

Cornerback Brent Grimes is set to make $10.281 million in 2012, but reportedly would like a long-term deal. (Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com)

Hours after the Falcons announced …

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Atlanta Falcons: Ovie Mughelli signed by Rams

Falcons fullback Ovie Mughelli suffered a torn MCL and had surgery last season. He was released by the Falcons on Tuesday.  (Bob Andres / bandres@ajc.com)

Falcons fullback Ovie Mughelli suffered a torn MCL and had surgery last season. He was released by the Falcons on May 8. (Bob Andres / bandres@ajc.com)

FLOWERY BRANCH — Former Falcons fullback Ovie Mughelli, who was released in a salary cap move, signed a one-year deal with the St. Louis Rams on Saturday, accordng to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Mughelli, 32, missed most of last season after he suffered a right knee injury against Detroit in Week 7. The Falcons released him on May 8 after he was cleared to return to practice.

The Falcons needed salary cap space to sign cornerback Asante Samuel. Mughelli was scheduled to earn $3 million. 

The Falcons drafted fullback Bradie Ewing in the fifth-round of the NFL draft. He’s competing with Mike Cox and Lee Meisner for the starting spot.  

In St. Louis, Mughelli will compete against Brit Miller and undrafted rookie Todd Anderson for the fullback job.

Former Falcons executive Les Snead is the new general manager in St. …

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Atlanta Falcons: Offensive guard Vince Manuwai released

FLOWERY BRANCH – Veteran offensive guard Vince Manuwai became the first casualty of the Falcons’

061912 FLOWERY BRANCH:  Atlanta Falcons guard Vince Manuwai shows of his Somoan tattoos at the end of the first day of mini-camp in Flowery Branch on Tuesday, June 19, 2012.      CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

061912 FLOWERY BRANCH: Atlanta Falcons guard Vince Manuwai shows of his Somoan tattoos at the end of the first day of mini-camp in Flowery Branch on Tuesday, June 19, 2012. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

 open competition along the line when he was released between practices on Saturday.

“It was a football decision,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “Vincent was out last year, completely out and in terms of the competition at the offensive line positions, we wanted to not muddy the waters.”

He was signed by the Falcons as a free agent on March 9, 2012 and received a $65,000 signing bonus. He was scheduled to make a base salary of $890,000.

Basically, the coaches were impressed with what they’d seen from guards Garrett Reynolds, Peter Konz, Mike Johnson and tackle-guard Andrew Jackson and were also able to make a clear assessment of Manuwai, who played eight seasons …

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UGA’s White making most of opportunity with Falcons

Vivlamore reporting from Falcons training camp.

Flowery Branch – It’s been a whirlwind few months for Aron White.

The tight end, out of the University of Georgia, was not invited to the NFL Scouting Combine and then went undrafted in April. He was, however, invited to the Falcons rookie minicamp in May on a tryout. White made enough of an impression to be signed and brought to training camp.

Falcons rookie tight end Aron White, from UGA, makes some moves to the sounds of rap music playing on team speakers as he takes the field for the start of practice in Flowery Branch on Friday. Photo by CURTIS COMPTON

Falcons rookie tight end Aron White, from UGA, makes some moves to the sounds of rap music playing on team speakers as he takes the field for the start of practice in Flowery Branch on Friday. Photo by CURTIS COMPTON

Now, just three months after the disappointment, he is sharing the practice field with the likes of Tony Gonzalez. White is one of six tight ends in camp fighting for likely three roster spots.

“Draft day came and any time you don’t get picked up you are going to have the momentary setback, that momentary disappointment,” White said after a recent practice. “When I …

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