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Dan Quinn: Tom Brady's growth has 'come full circle'

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HOUSTON -- The Falcons won't be starstruck lining across from Tom Brady in Super Bowl LI, but they do have a healthy respect for one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history.

For all of Brady's previous playoff feats, Atlanta's players and coaches are perhaps most impressed with his uncanny ability to improve as he approaches age 40.

"I think it's just remarkable that he's played at this level, this well his whole career," 35-year-old backup quarterback Matt Schaub said. "I mean, there's been no dropoff or slip or anything."

Pass rusher Dwight Freeney, a potential Hall of Famer in his own right, sees a lot of similarities in Brady's obsessive preparation.

"I think you become great when you sit there and say you know what, I can be better at something," Freeney reasoned. "I don't care what year -- this is year 15 for me -- every year I say, you know what Dwight, I think you can better at this. And I think Tom does the same thing. He works at things he wasn't as good at."

After competing against Brady for years, coach Dan Quinn has noted that the quarterback has managed to add to his game while maintaining all of the gains from early in his career.

"It seems like -- I don't know how it happens -- but the accuracy has gotten stronger," Quinn explained. "So when you're evaluating the tape ... to me, it's kind of like come full circle for him."

The highest praise came from veteran defensive end Tyson Jackson, who acknowledged Brady's place in the pantheon of gridiron demigods.

"That guy's unbelievable, man," Jackson raved. "He's the best in the business for a reason. He'll go down in history as the best quarterback to ever play the game. It's unbelievable that a guy can get better with age, and he's been defying it for a long time."

Adding an unprecedented fifth Super Bowl ring would be a fitting way to celebrate the final game of Brady's thirties. Can Quinn and his defensive stars play the spoiler role? We'll find out Sunday night.

Here's what else we learned about the Falcons this week:

1. Devonta Freeman has the Pro Bowl honors, but backfield mate Tevin Coleman has emerged as a top-flight running back in his own right. Right tackle Ryan Schraeder said he realized Coleman was special the first time he saw the former Indiana star on the practice field in the 2015 offseason. "Man, this guy is fast," Schraeder said of his first impression.

After joining the team in early September, Gabriel started to get excited about Coleman's potential a month later. "The Denver game, I would say Denver," Gabriel said. "Tevin caught that one down the sideline and he caught another one, scored a touchdown. He looked like a wide receiver out there."

Asked if Coleman might be faster even than Gabriel, the speedy wideout quickly retorted, "I'm the fastest guy on the offense."

2. Gabriel weighed in on two of the best wideouts of the 21st century. What separates teammate Julio Jones from other premier wide receivers? It's Jones' extraordinary run-after-catch ability "He kind of has a little guy's game," Gabriel explained, "but he can play big as well." 

Gabriel's favorite receiver? "I like Steve Smith, I like Big Game Steve Smith," Gabriel said. "Just how much passion he brought to the game, how he ran his routes, and how aggressive he was with his man. I just love everything about his game."

3. Quinn confirmed he spoke with wide receiver Mohamed Sanu about President Trump's immigration executive order, which sparked protests throughout the United States as well as abroad. Sanu's family is Muslim, his parents born in Sierra Leone.

"Mo and I have both talked," Quinn said. "And it definitely is a topic that deserves a lot of time."

Quinn was reluctant to reveal details of their conversation, noting that the Super Bowl LI Opening Night festivities were not the proper "platform" for a broader discussion.

"But it's definitely (an issue) that deserves our time and attention," Quinn allowed. "I just basically wanted to talk to him. If he needed anything he wanted to discuss, I wanted him to know I was here for him."

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