There’s some down time coming up before we open training camp, but I’ve already had a great chance to learn more about this team through OTAs and then mini-camp.
Having the leadership in place that the Falcons do has made my transition a lot easier. I don’t have to be the only leader on this team. There are a lot of guys that share that role, and they’ve all made sure that I’m comfortable moving in, getting settled in and learning the way things are done around here in Atlanta. It allows me to make sure I’m doing my job to the best of my ability. Natural leaders -- when the time presents itself, they show up. But it’s also important to be able to follow sometimes.
I’m definitely going to remain a three-down running back here, and continue to trail blaze and take pride in being one of the last in a dying breed of franchise backs. I’m a back that runs, catches and protects the quarterback, all the things that a franchise running back needs to do, and what the older guys did in the eras before me.
It’s great that I get that opportunity, and with the weapons we have on the outside, it’s going to put me in a lot of one-on-one matchups underneath coverage where all I have to do is get open. That should present me with a lot of opportunities to catch the ball.
Being around these guys in the locker room for the last few weeks has definitely allowed me to get to know some guys I’d never met as well as some that I’ve had the chance to meet over the years, either through competition or in time at the Pro Bowl or award shows.
One of the guys I knew a little bit coming in was Roddy White. But working with him in this short amount of time, I can already see that he’s one of those guys that the game comes easily to him.
He’s at that point in his career where veterans say things slow down for them because they know different looks, they’re smart and they’re able to read a defense as they’re doing their job. When you watch Roddy run a route, you can tell that he’s able to read coverages really well and he’s a very smooth route runner. He uses different techniques to create separation, which is why he has so many receptions every year.
Off the field he’s just a fun guy. That whole receiving corps, Harry Douglas, Julio Jones and Roddy, they are a fun group. They have a lot of laughs and are very playful. They’re always teasing each other. It starts as early as seven in the morning until the last rep in practice after we’ve put in a day’s work. It’s always lighthearted and it keeps things fun.
You can tell that these guys have very good chemistry and are a tight knit group. You expect that from guys who have played together for so long. It translates in the way they play as well. To be a part of an offensive unit that’s so fluid and able to communicate with each other with slight signals and even just different looks at each other, because of the chemistry they have, it’s pretty great.
I’m continuing to build a good relationship with our quarterback, Matt Ryan, as well. Naturally, relationships and bonds become strong over time. He was the first teammate to call me and congratulate me on joining the team and we’ve definitely had the chance here and there since then to talk about a lot of things.
Since my signing I’ve reached out to him about different things of interest that are going on in the city, as well as questions I had about things in the playbook. We’ve discussed my role as a blocker and how he likes things protected and the details of a blocking assignment in this offense. It’s an open line of communication.
Matt has a presence about himself that says he’s a strong leader. He’s someone that’s very sociable and talks to every one in the room and even in the building. He knows everyone’s name and he’s a very nice guy, but when it’s time to get in the huddle, he commands the attention of all 10 guys in the huddle getting the play call and gets them focused on him. He does a good job of knowing when to be cool and relaxed and when to be stern.
On the field, he’s pretty neat to watch. He has a lot of free reign over the things we do, the tempo we play at and the execution of it. It’s pretty fascinating to dive in and learn right away. These guys are so formidable on the offense they’re not going to slow down and wait for me to catch up. I have to catch up to them.
In football when you’re thinking, you’re not reacting as fast as you can be, so it’s my responsibility to get to that level and play fast with them instead of thinking about it.
It’s also been great getting to know Coach Smith. One of the things that stands out is that he's very detail-oriented, and stresses that. I think he realizes the expectations -- not only that the public has put on us, but that we as a team have put on ourselves -- are high, and for any of that to become achievable, we have to do things to a point where we’re so detailed that it becomes second nature.
This team is loaded with a lot of talent, so there is competition all over the place, not only from position to position but also in terms of the offensive unit vs. the defensive unit and when we go against each other, it’s a very high level of competition on the field and some good work being done from the very beginning of practice to the very end.
One thing I’ve found out about my new teammates that has been a very cool thing is that a lot of them travel. Of course, that’s also a passion of mine, so I’m able to talk about different countries and different cultural experiences with a new group of guys. It’s also quite different being able to go a lot of different places from one of the largest airports in America.
I was talking the other day with one of our receivers, Drew Davis, about a trip he took to Japan this past offseason. So I was telling him about my Southeast Asia experience in February and how I enjoyed that area of the world. It’s just really cool to come to a new locker room and meet new people that have a lot of similar interests outside of football.
Now that I’ve been in the Atlanta area for a few months, I’ve definitely learned my way around. I try to keep it as low key as possible. My goal is to make sure that I have the same mindset that I had in St. Louis, that this where I work and this is where I come to perform at a high level. The only way I can continue to raise my level of play is by not becoming distracted.
I’m still trying to find my go-to places to eat. I’ve bounced from restaurant to restaurant to find different cool scenes and some good food on the menu. There are a lot of good restaurants in this city, but I’m still piecing together my top two or three restaurants that will be my go-to places. If you have any suggestions, I encourage you to send them to me on Twitter @SJ39.