Things are going good here in training camp. In OTAs, it was a little different, putting on the black helmet and walking into unfamiliar buildings, trying to find your way around, learning a lot of different people’s names all at once. It was a little overwhelming. I’m used to it now.
We’ve had record numbers of people out watching us practice. As has been reported, all home games are sold out. The city, the community, Falcons Nation is very excited about the upcoming season — just as I am. To see the fans out, to see them wearing my jersey and embracing me as a member of the Atlanta Falcons, I couldn’t be happier. Knowing that you have that kind of anticipation, that kind of support, you only want to go out there and do your job well.
I’m feeling comfortable in the offense, and now I’m just playing football. When you’re first learning the offense, you’re doing more thinking, so you’re not able to react as fast. But I feel like myself now.
Being part of an offense that has been together a number of years — your quarterback, your receivers — Day 1 of training camp isn’t really Day 1. It carries over from offseason, OTAs, coaching sessions. Once you enter training camp “Day 1,” you’re executing the whole playbook already. You’re not trying to get guys on the same page or learning what the offensive coordinator wants to do because he’s had a vision in place already. When I had that month break in June, between minicamp and now, I was really in my playbook because I want to play at the speed that these guys play at. It’s so fluid. And I feel like I’m there now. When Matt calls an audible, I’m not thinking about what I need to do. I’m reacting immediately. The time I put in over that month really paid off, and I’m glad I put it in.
I’m also working on my camaraderie and chemistry with the offensive line, and letting them get a pulse for how competitive I am, and what I expect from them. I’ll pat you on the back, but if I feel the need to light a fire in you, I will step up and say something. I pick and choose my times, and I’m allowing them to get to know my personality overall. I plan on knowing intimately the way these guys are going to block on certain runs. The way that guys respond to certain challenges, who has a tendency to do what. When we get to Week 1 and New Orleans, I know that I can react in a way where I’m not questioning, and I’m not hesitating. I’m just playing fast and explosive. This next month of camp, I’ll continue to watch film — not only from this training camp, but games from last season so I can see how the guys up front prepare as a unit in a game situation.
THE LOCKER ROOM
I’m working on my relationships with each and every person in the locker room. Of course, I get along well with the skill players. I spent a lot of time with Julio and Roddy this offseason.
When I first joined the team, I was quiet. I was the new guy. I wanted to see how things were run, what players took what roles. Once I learned when I could step in, and where I’m needed, I felt more comfortable taking on the leadership role that I plan on bringing, and the attitude I plan on instilling, especially on offense. My teammates did their homework on me before I got here. They all knew that I was very competitive, very fiery when it comes to the sport and the position itself. When I started speaking up more and more and started challenging them, they responded on a positive note. For them to receive me that way and to know that I come from a good place, that I mean well, makes it a lot easier.
The one thing that I really admire about this team and Coach Smith is that they allow guys to be themselves. Guys have fun. Years from now, when I retire, I’ll miss this because guys know how to have fun. They’re loose. They’re comfortable. They’re confident. And then when we get to the football field, they know how to snap in and be pros, and do things the right way.
You can also see why they’ve been so successful over the last five years. They all enjoy each others’ time. Guys get together outside of football. They know each other. Their families know each other. It’s more of a brotherhood than feeling like you’re with your co-workers when you see each other throughout the day and at practice.
You feel the camaraderie. You feel the closeness. That starts from the top down, and carries over to success on the football field.