I definitely want to shout out all my fans and all NFL fans. I think this year is going to present another great year of football where any team can win it all.
There are a lot of old faces in new places, including mine this time, and I’m interested in seeing a lot of different things. How are Chip Kelly and the Philadelphia Eagles are going to do? Is there going to be a shift of power in the NFC West because all those teams are competitive and play good defense? Then there’s my transition here with the Atlanta Falcons and how I fit into this offense, with the chance to live out a dream, and win a Super Bowl.
There are a lot of exciting things to watch for this season, and a lot of things that I’m looking forward to individually and with my team. I’m going to continue to be who I am: a guy who will keep working hard and being consistent as a player and a person.
Wrapping up my first training camp in Atlanta and my 10th overall, I felt that it was a good experience.
Coming in with a new team wasn’t quite the same as being a rookie, but I definitely felt like the new guy those first few days. You have to get used to a new routine, figure out where you need to be for meetings, get in the flow of practice and things like that. But once a few days went by, I felt like I fit right in and knew where I needed to be. After that, football was football.
The preseason allows for me to get back and fine-tune the things that I love to do. Your amount of reps in the preseason are determined by the head coach and the coaching staff, but being a part of a new organization and a new team, I came into this preseason expecting to have a larger number of carries than I’ve had in a few years and I was up for the task.
I actually wanted those extra reps. Your body needs to know when it’s time to get into football shape. You need to get used to being tackled to the ground, and doing those things that you haven’t done for six or seven months.
It also helped me to continue to build a strong relationship with this offensive line. As we head into the season, I have a good feel for how guys are blocking and how guys are moving, and I’m very confident in what we’ve been able to do so far over the course of the preseason.
I believe we’ve done a good job of building trust, which is a big factor. I’ve been telling those guys what type of runs I like and the running style that I’ll bring to this offense. We’re going to continue to get better over the year as we get the reps. Once I’m in the flow of the game and I can see how things transpire, I’ll know more about how I may need to react.
That relationship isn’t something that we’re going to stop working on and allow to plateau just because the season starts. We’re going to continue to work on it and get better every week.
Coach Smith has done a good job of cultivating competition and having guys compete at a high level to make each other better. He comes from a defensive background, but he oversees everything. He sits in on a lot of different meetings to make sure the philosophy and what he envisions with the team are being preached to the players, but he allows his coaches to coach. I think that’s helped him develop what has been an excellent team year-in and year-out.
The coaching staff here, especially the offensive staff, does a good job of making sure that we understand the philosophy of the offense and the rules to certain plays, while at the same time, not stopping guys from being who they are — playmakers. We have a number of guys who are very dangerous when they have the ball in their hands.
Sometimes coaches tend to overcoach and want things to be done exactly the way it’s drawn up in the playbook, but things don’t happen perfectly on the football field and sometimes guys have to improvise. With the chemistry that is built between teammates — like Matt Ryan and this receiving corps — that improvisation allows for exciting plays to happen down field when guys are on the same page.
BUILDING A BOND
In addition to preparing your body for the season, training camp is one of those necessary evils that allows for you to be around new teammates, build camaraderie and get a feel for the chemistry with guys on the football field. It’s an important step toward building that bond that you’re going to need over the course of the season, especially in tough battles versus good opponents.
We have a very lively locker room with a lot of music fans. Two teammates I have to shout out are William Moore and Sean Weatherspoon. They’re two very talented guys, and they typically like to freestyle with a good rap beat. I think both of them could probably come out with their own mix tape if they wanted to. Over the years, I’ve heard plenty of guys give their attempts at freestyling, but they were never really successful, so I have to give my props to those two. They have the ear for music, and the ability to freestyle that’s pretty witty on the spot. I look forward to it every time.
It creates a fun atmosphere that allows for guys to be themselves. It also lightens the mood, and makes it so you want to stay in the locker room and hang out, not rush home to what’s going on outside of our professional lives.
When you’re able to build chemistry like that on and off the field, you have guys who like to be around each other. It also creates trust, and when you have teammates you can trust, it makes you more likely to go that extra mile for them. Those are the type of things that allow teams to win those tough games in the clutch, or push through a tough time during the season when other teams want to fold it up.
When you have that camaraderie, that trust and that will to win, you know that each guy is giving their all. It’s little things like that that some people take for granted but it really means something at the end of the day.
Training camp has taken up most of my time, so I have yet to see much of the city yet, but I have used the downtime I do get to do a fair share of movie viewing. Every time, I’ve had a day off I went to the movie theater to unwind, kind of just get away, take my mind away from football for a bit and enjoy a little bit of leisure.
The two movies that really impressed me were Fruitvale Station and Lee Daniels’ The Butler. Both movies are based on true stories and events that are very trying. Each one goes to show that tough times bring out some of the best performances, but also some of the moments in history that people take notice of and want to make a change. They’re both eye openers that show how far we have come in some ways, but also how far we have to go in other ways. Both were shot very well and the performances by the actors were excellent. I was very entertained and impressed by them.
Another movie that I saw was Jobs. I read the autobiography of Steve Jobs before seeing the movie, and like anything, the book is better than the movie. There’s so much information that the book provides that movie just can’t. But I was still impressed by the movie. I’ve always been in awe of Steve Jobs because very few people can go out and say they want to change the world, and then actually do it.
Hiccups and stop signs and other things of that nature are going to present themselves in your life, but he continued to push forward and continued to see his vision through. A lot of times, people tend to give up once they hit adversity and feel sorry for themselves. Many people also don’t want to stick out from the crowd, but I think people who are fearless and are willing to not be afraid of judgment typically change people around them, and change themselves. That’s what you have to do to press through and see your vision through.
I definitely feel the energy for football here in Atlanta, and that’s an exciting thing.
This town is very supportive of the Atlanta Falcons and football in general. Living in SEC territory for the first time, I’m beginning to understand how big Southern Football is here. It’s great to know that people live for the weekend so they can watch some good quality football.
Everyone on this team knows what the expectations are for us, but it’s not something we really talk about. We have to play this season one week at a time, and take each opponent seriously.
What we do know is we’re not coming into any opponent’s city under the radar. We have to go there and execute, and that’s the most important thing. It comes down to guys making plays, guys taking advantage of opportunities and not making mistakes that can be prevented by doing the fundamental things. We always go back the basics to make sure we’re doing things fundamentally, executing the philosophy of the scheme and to uphold the integrity of the game.
We start out on the road this weekend with a tough opponent and a tough challenge right out of the gate against a division rival in New Orleans, but I think both teams are looking forward to it and both teams are going to be prepared. It’s one of those games that I’m glad to be a part of because I know a lot of people will be watching.
When you go on the road for a game, it draws the team closer together. You know that you’re going into a stadium that’s home of a rival and therefore a hostile environment. Playing on the road against any team in the NFL is a challenge, for them to be a rival, it just heightens your awareness that you need to go in there and execute.
This whole week of practice we’ve been going in really focused. We created some artificial crowd noise because we know it’s going to be loud, and we’re going to have to over-communicate to make sure everybody is on the same page. It’s going to be a challenge, but we’re up to it.
The first thing you think about when you think of the New Orleans Saints is Drew Brees. He’s a guy who you know you have to look out for. You know he’s going to make his plays, but you want to limit the plays he makes. Going on the road, you want to show that you can go in a hostile environment and get a win. It’s hard to get a win in the National Football League on the road, but good teams do that.
We have a number of guys who are playmakers, and we’re all salivating at the opportunity to make plays. But with that being said, there are no big egos on this team. We all want to assist one another and play excellent football to ultimately get the win at the end of the day.
We feel that our potential is very high. But we have to go out there like any other team and execute, and prove ourselves. Just because we may be good on paper doesn’t mean anything. You still have to perform every week to the best of your ability.