Inside Training Camp  


Atlanta Falcons training camp: Dan Quinn bringing new energy


The road to success in the NFL begins each year with the hard work and wide-open possibilities of training camp. As teams around the league gear up for the 2015 campaign, NFL Media reporters will be checking in from all 32 camps around the league. For our next stop, Judy Battista visits the Atlanta Falcons.

Where is NFL Media?

The Falcons hold training camp at their expansive year-round headquarters in Flowery Branch, Georgia, not far from Lake Lanier north of Atlanta. The grounds are so lush that Gil Brandt noted the Falcons might have the best landscaping in the NFL. The Falcons hosted their first Military Day on Sunday, with 25 children of fallen service members accompanying players on the walk from the locker room to the practice field.


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1) The pressure valve has been released in Atlanta. Understandably, the last few years under former coach Mike Smith -- after falling just short of the Super Bowl in the 2012 playoffs, the Falcons posted two consecutive losing seasons -- were filled with pressure to match that run to the NFC Championship Game. The regime change this offseason, with new coach Dan Quinn taking over, has come with a huge dose of energy, competitiveness and, yes, swagger. Owner Arthur Blank said the energy Quinn has brought is exactly what he was looking for when he was considering coaching candidates. One more big sign times have changed: practices are loud. Very, very loud. Quinn has a disc jockey spinning, live, during practice. Yes, it keeps the players loose and the energy high, but there is another goal: trying to communicate in all that noise creates the kind of stress that coaches want to see players manage.

2) Star receiver Julio Jones is entering the final year of his rookie deal, but he is not going anywhere, and Blank sounds like he'll be happy to pay him. Blank spoke to reporters during practice Sunday, saying contract talks are ongoing and that he expects Jones to be a Falcons "lifer." Blank went on to praise the professionalism of Jones and talk about the good working relationship the Falcons have with his agent. When he was asked if it was realistic to expect a contract like those Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant and Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas received within minutes of each other just before the franchise tags would have taken effect (both have an average salary of $14 million), Blank did not demur. "I think whatever the market is in the league, we look at Julio as certainly being in that class," Blank said. "The specifics, his length of contract and where he is in his contract terms is different than those players. All of that needs to be built into the new deal. But we view him as one of the top receivers in the NFL, and I think most people do, as well."

3) Quinn -- a first-time head coach -- runs a very efficient, highly specific practice. Sunday's edition was focused on first downs: the goal of the offense was to get 4 yards on first down, and the goal of the defense was to stop it.

New additions

Vic Beasley, DE: Quinn wants his team to play fast and, well, Beasley, the Falcons' first-round pick, is fast. So fast that even members of the Falcons' staff can't wait to finally see the edge rusher in their first preseason game, against Tennessee on Friday. Beasley believes he can be an every-down player, but the Falcons had just 22 sacks last season, tied for second-fewest in the league, so the early emphasis is going to be simple: get upfield.

Justin Durant, LB: A free-agent signee from the Cowboys, Durant was the guy linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich said he had to have this season. On Sunday, Ulbrich called Durant the rock of the unit. Because of an injury history (he played just six games for Dallas last season before suffering a biceps injury, and he's played in all 16 regular-season games just once in his eight-year career), Durant has been on a snap count in training camp. But he practiced fully for the first time Sunday, and the Falcons love both his ability to play several linebacker spots and his leadership.


"Tell Devin Hester his role is to win the game. That's all. Tell him I said so."

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-- Terry Robiskie, Falcons wide receivers coach.

Extra point

» Falcons president Rich McKay, who was suspended from his role on the league's Competition Committee when it was discovered a former Falcons employee had improperly pumped artificial crowd noise into the Georgia Dome, is expected to meet with Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL executive vice president Troy Vincent to discuss reinstatement.

Follow Judy Battista on Twitter @judybattista.



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