Atlanta Falcons: Healthy Edwards eager to make a difference

Falcons defensive end Ray Edwards (right) is sporting a Mohawk these days. It's more than just a hairstyle. He and John Abraham (left) anchor the Falcons defensive line.  CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

Falcons defensive end Ray Edwards (right) is sporting a Mohawk these days. It's more than just a hairstyle. He and John Abraham (left) anchor the Falcons defensive line. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

Vivlamore reporting from Falcons training camp.

FLOWERY BRANCH — Ray Edwards is one letter away from becoming the player the Falcons envisioned would transform their defense.

It takes just an ‘L’ to change Big Pay Ray into Big Play Ray.

The end, who signed a five-year, $30 million contract last season, struggled with knee problems last season. He required surgery before and after a disappointing 3-1/2 sack season. Edwards, and his position coach, said he is close to being 100 percent healthy and ready to make a difference.

“It’s getting there,” Edwards said after a recent training camp practice. “It’s still a process. I’m only a couple months out of knee surgery but it’s getting there.”

Defensive line coach Ray Hamilton said Edwards has looked “really healthy the past three or four days.”

Edwards (6-foot-5, 268 pounds) had 29-1/2 sacks in five seasons with the Vikings, 16-1/2 his last two years, before joining the Falcons as a free agent. He also had 139 tackles and 41 assists. Plagued by the knee issues last season, Edwards played in all 16 regular-season games with 26 tackles and nine assists.

“Frustrating, very frustrating,” is how Edwards described his first year in Atlanta. “Not being able to hit the gym like I wanted to. That’s my thing. I’m a workout guru. I wasn’t able to work my legs and get the muscle back to where I wanted to be able to produce how I normally produce.”

Edwards insists he is ready to return to his old self – an impact player – and he’s starting with a haircut. Yes, a haircut.

He reported to training camp sporting a Mohawk. However, the transformation is about more than a look. Who knew a choice of hairstyle could mean so much?

“That’s my thing now,” Edwards said. “Everybody has their own hairstyle. This is my hairstyle. I wore it in Minnesota as well.

“I’m just getting back to being me. I put a lot of pressure on myself last year coming to a new team, trying to prove myself, trying to prove myself and my contract. Now, I’m going to go out there and have fun and hopefully it rubs off on the guys and it shows the kind of person I really am.”

John Abraham and Edwards, with $6 million salaries this season, are the second-highest paid members of the Falcons defense behind Brent Grimes’ $10.281 million. Edwards’ deal was far from one of the largest for a defensive end in the NFL. The Bills gave Mario Williams a six-year, $100 million contract this offseason, including $50 million guaranteed.

 Ray Edwards borrows a camera from a sports photographer to snap some photos of his teammates during a recent minicamp. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

Ray Edwards borrows a camera from a sports photographer to snap some photos of his teammates during a recent minicamp. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

Hamilton said that in addition to his health, Edwards had to learn the Falcons defensive system and it took some time for him to become comfortable. In Minnesota, Edwards solely played the left side with Jared Allen on the right. He had to switch sides last season as the Falcons looked for a favorable matchup for Abraham.

With a new coordinator this season in Mike Nolan, the scheme remains largely the same with some tweaks. Edwards had the benefit of a full offseason to fully adapt.

One tweak will be to use ends Kroy Biermann, Lawrence Sidbury and Abraham from a standing position to take advantage of their speed rush.

“You know James Bond ‘A License to Kill?,’ Hamilton said. “We call it a ‘License to Stand Up.’ You’ll see Abraham, Sidbury and Biermann do it. We haven’t given [Edwards] a license yet. …

“He does all the pass rush stuff and all the run stuff. He’s a big, strong guy. It’s just a matter of getting him to be mobile in our system a little bit more.”

Job No. 1 for Edwards is to stop the run. He will keep his hand in the dirt for now.

“I’m a run-stopper defensive end first, that’s how they look at me, so I get there and stop the run and make plays there,” Edwards said. “When I get my chance, I’ve got to capitalize on the pass [rush].”

The unique Edwards, who is flashing a smile more during this camp, is not getting caught up in the pressure to live up to his contract or the accompanying expectations. Off the field, he continues as an underwear model, which he calls his “fun job.” He also has a clothing line, True Ink, which features T-shirts with inspirational sayings.

It is football first. He is eager to show what a healthy Ray Edwards can do.

“Stay tuned,” the 27-year-old Edwards said. “God willing, I stay healthy and do what I need to do. I’m definitely putting the hard work into the season and hopefully it shows out on the field.”

- Chris Vivlamore

63 comments Add your comment

DSGB-4-LIFE

August 8th, 2012
2:04 pm

Good deal!! I’m hoping Edwards can get at least 8 sacks and continue to play the run.. We really need players to step-up, make big plays in order to reach our goals as Champions!!

Theevilspellbinder

August 8th, 2012
2:06 pm

Well, here’s to hoping he’s turned the corner. We’ll see.

rm

August 8th, 2012
2:07 pm

I hope he’s healthy and very productive this season. He could make a big difference. Go Birds!

DSGB-4-LIFE

August 8th, 2012
2:07 pm

JAYCOOL

August 8th, 2012
2:21 pm

This guy is my choice for breakout player this year. He was held so many times last year by O-lines, its going to be pretty interesting to see what he.can do at 100% strength and health.

Another Rick

August 8th, 2012
2:31 pm

Please be healthy and be the BEAST we think you are!

chris nichols

August 8th, 2012
2:34 pm

wat it do mane. just ckin on the home team from down here in hot ass texas. edwardws gotta step his game up as well as abraham staying healthy. also smitty need to come off of that conservative play calling and get that killer instinct like other teams have. he coach like he scared to death. ive never seen a coach run a rb on third and 4 but pass on fourth and 1? its gotta stop or blanks need to put his feet in the air after the season..

Just Wing It

August 8th, 2012
2:37 pm

I like to see Big Ray Edwards close-line a few of those bigshot nfl quarterbacks and lay em out in the games so I can laugh at some of them clowns that come on here

SeenThis B4

August 8th, 2012
2:51 pm

LOL! Ray Edwards! LOL! He’s played against Brees in four or five games now over the last three years, and he still hasn’t laid a hand on him. He was close to being 100% this time last year too, nothing has changed.

JSS

August 8th, 2012
2:55 pm

That hairstyle was hell-o-fied when Angelo from Fishbone wore it way back in 1985!!! My goodness, this team is filled with guys who lack any sense of originality!!! Speaking of that, how is that skateboarding wanna-a-be route jumping phony of free safety doing?

JSS

August 8th, 2012
2:56 pm

How long before Davenpoop posts that link to Ray “Lingerie Model” Edwards?

Just Wing It

August 8th, 2012
3:06 pm

Might not be laughing in another month so enjoy the laughters for now, the things change from one year to next one so keep on laughin you clown and while you at it do me a few tricks

Mo

August 8th, 2012
3:07 pm

Seen he wasn’t close to being 100 percent last year at this time. He was just sat for the Aug 10th preseason game and hadn’t been allowed to hit during practices. Get your info right before you vomit it!

Just Wing It

August 8th, 2012
3:07 pm

and go away permantly

Sabermetric Meister

August 8th, 2012
3:08 pm

He’s coming off of ANOTHER knee surgery?!?!? I’m starting to wonder why we even signed this guy. Talk is cheap.

‘“It’s getting there,” Edwards said after a recent training camp practice. “It’s still a process. I’m only a couple months out of knee surgery but it’s getting there.”’

This quote worries me a lot. We need Edwards to step up big time.

Just Wing It

August 8th, 2012
3:08 pm

he jus tmake a jackass out of his self that is all

SeenThis B4

August 8th, 2012
3:13 pm

@ Mo,

As I recall, he came to camp being heralded as The Missing Piece, that would take your defense to the next level. Sorry, but what I remember was that he wasn’t 100% then, and he’s not 100% now, just like last year. And when he was 100% when he was with the vikings, he couldn’t get to Brees then either, so BRING HIM ON!!!

hiramsaint

August 8th, 2012
3:15 pm

he’ll also be doing aarp commercials with abe , turner , gonzo , sammuels and smitty !

Mo

August 8th, 2012
3:21 pm

@ Seen
Right, no one can get to Brees with the amount of holding calls the Saint’s offensive line gets away with. You’re saying two different things in your posts. Sell it to someone else.

hiramsaint

August 8th, 2012
3:27 pm

mo-jealous of the saints ? me thinks so !

Just Wing It

August 8th, 2012
3:27 pm

see your team doing a 8 and 8 year and a step back cause they was cheatin and now caught and being watched thru the lookin glass and what so bad cant stand it cause fate is gonna hold true and youwont repeat as the south champs two years in a row it never happen before and wont happen this go round nether
Atlanta could loseboth times to them and still win it see

Just Wing It

August 8th, 2012
3:30 pm

no ref breaks this year sorry they will earn every yard the hard way

Another Rick

August 8th, 2012
3:31 pm

Welcome back to the Falcons Blog Aint fans! Lol. Wow! You guys are closet Falcons fans……

hiramsaint

August 8th, 2012
3:33 pm

@ just fling it – like the patriots ?

Just Wing It

August 8th, 2012
3:34 pm

or they be the moron ones

hiramsaint

August 8th, 2012
3:34 pm

aother rick- sorry for the confusion , this is and always has been a saints blog

Just Wing It

August 8th, 2012
3:38 pm

hey hermit the saint you startin something you never figure out a way out of now

yep they the moron closet fans wearing falcon gear and throwing jack crap out here on team they they love to see hit that field

Big Ray

August 8th, 2012
3:42 pm

And there go the lonely trolls….funny that they’re all a-quiver about Edwards and his underwear commercials. Sick ba$tards…I wonder…do JSS and Seen visit each other’s mom’s basements? LOL

hiramsaint

August 8th, 2012
3:44 pm

well ray -you mentioned it so we know where your heart lies!-BAM

Just Wing It

August 8th, 2012
3:45 pm

they like looking at guys dirty laundry

Just Wing It

August 8th, 2012
3:48 pm

and u ever notice they likegrasshoppers when a new post is on here they jump on it and hop back and forward like bugs in the yard doing stupid comments trying to cut down the team they love or they never would be here duhhh

hiramsaint

August 8th, 2012
3:48 pm

wll big ray does anyway but thats for a craigs list search

Steve-O

August 8th, 2012
4:01 pm

Typical SeenThisB4 lurk-trolling.

JSS

August 8th, 2012
4:02 pm

Zip-de-do-dah! The world is still spinning and you guys are still hoping!!!

Just Wing It

August 8th, 2012
4:08 pm

only them clowns hope but its a far cry to hope their season ended from that offseason mess

JSS

August 8th, 2012
4:18 pm

??? You are still confused that someone cares whether the Saints fate is tied to why I think the Flawcons roster is riddled with holes and depth issues?P Schemes aren’t going to cover those flaws unless you can pull off Jedi mind tricks like Foxborough Bill… And in the end, even he has

JSS

August 8th, 2012
4:18 pm

been exposed twice by Tom Coughlin!

Gamer

August 8th, 2012
4:50 pm

If Ray can return to the formidable DE he was with the Vikings then the D-line will be stout against the run and pass….

MAKE IT HAPPEN PAY-DAY RAY….

Just Wing It

August 8th, 2012
5:07 pm

I think he will too cause they going to have more shots at getting to them QBs since they have asante to deal with on one side and superfreak grimes on the other he he he

True Falcon Fan

August 8th, 2012
5:33 pm

There you go with no powder, no caliber, don’t know which end of the barrel the bullet comes out of… Running your magaphone mouth again “WOW what a Zero”!! Your ignorance is shining bright to post on this blog a crock of garbage BS the way you do and have ZERO meaning. Give us all a break go hide someplace, go to your local pawn shop there’s a great psychiatrist group known as Smith & Wesson — my bet is they can fix your problem in a millisecond.

Go Falcons

True Falcon Fan

August 8th, 2012
5:36 pm

He/she knows who i’m talkin’ to —- Right “ZERO”

hiramsaint

August 8th, 2012
5:54 pm

true failclown fan- you’re being a bit rough on your compadres aren’t you ? lets try to keep it a bit more civil because these blogs are for serious and in depth football discussion

Michael M.

August 8th, 2012
5:59 pm

hirmy, that wasn’t you out in Texas impersonating someone else and got caught DUI and a butt kick flip flop too …………….. say hey to me there hirmy !

Michael M.

August 8th, 2012
6:04 pm

I ‘m just having some fun with you Sonny Boy……………………….I like that new hairdo Edwards has……may have to get me one and get rid of the grey………he can play better than the past and the real question will be will he ?

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog)Atlanta Falcons: Healthy Edwards eager to make a differenceAtlanta Journal Constitution (blog)“Frustrating, very frustrating,” is how Edwards described his first year in Atlanta.  [...]

hiramsaint

August 8th, 2012
7:21 pm

the grey ? how old are you mikey ? i thought you be in your 20’s, i’m cool with you having some fun-thats why i’m here. if you can’t have fun with your rivals , then whats left ?

Ken

August 8th, 2012
11:48 pm

Talk is cheap. Another overpaid player by TD. We could of had Eagles DE Babin for less money..

JSS

August 8th, 2012
11:53 pm

Funny what you let pass Ledbetter…

hiramsaint

August 9th, 2012
12:27 am

I am gay and support Chick-fil-a. Oh wait, wrong thread. Silly me. But I tell you what something about Ray Edwards makes me tingle. He may not touch Drew Brees, but he can touch me all night long.

Nite Owl

August 9th, 2012
8:15 am

The thing is, if Ray Edwards is healthy, it’s a bonus. I believe in Mike Nolan enough that, even if we don’t get anything out of Ray Edwards, we’ll find a pass rush somewhere else—blitzes, Sidbury, whatever. We’ll be fine either way.

And I will hand it to Drew Brees that nobody seems to be able to get to him. He has such a quick release and dumps the ball before you can get to him. There have been a few times where we’ve confused him, though, like that awful underhanded interception he threw against us.

The key is he won’t be able to pick on our nickel corner anymore, and he won’t just be able to dump the ball quick and have his receivers run free. At least that’s the plan. We’ll see.

And yes, Saints trolls. We hope. Just like you hope that your team can function without its head coach this year. Sorry, couldn’t resist.