It's time to start making up for that ugly playoff loss.
With the NFL lockout settled, the Falcons opened training camp Friday amid a flurry of moves designed to set up another run at the team's first Super Bowl title.
"I don't know how many times I got asked in the offseason, 'Hey, what happened in that game? Why didn't y'all make it further?"' center Todd McClure said. "I got tired of answering those questions."
The defense certainly has something to prove after getting shredded by Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. Green Bay never even had to punt in its playoff romp.
"As a defense, we played a lot better (last season) than we had in the previous three years," linebacker Sean Weatherspoon said. "But that last game leaves a sour taste in your mouth."
The Falcons made a major move to shore up the defense Friday, agreeing to terms with Edwards. He had 16.5 sacks the last two seasons in Minnesota and gives his new team a much-needed pass-rushing threat to complement John Abraham.
Atlanta also agreed to a five-year, $25-million deal with Clabo, the cornerstone of the offensive line. The contract includes about $11.5 million in guaranteed money.
Finally, the Falcons locked up their entire draft class, including a four-year, $16.2-million deal for Jones, the No. 6 overall pick.
Addressing needs on both sides of the line, the Falcons made it clear they still intend to be a major factor in the NFC, even though the schedule -- especially in the first five weeks -- is much tougher than a year ago.
"If we can stay healthy and go out and play the type of ball we've been playing, we've got a shot," McClure said. "Obviously, you play 'em one game at a time, but with that end goal in mind."
Not everything went Atlanta's way during the hectic free-agent signing period, condensed into just a few days after the players approved a 10-year labor agreement that ended the 4-month-long lockout.
"They've been kind of a staple of what we've done," Ryan said. "But we have to understand it's a business and different things are going to happen. ... We'll make the most of whoever is here."
Running back Jerious Norwood was also released. His agent, Bus Cook, tells The Clarion-Ledger that he expects Norwood to sign with another team. Cook says the Falcons wanted to go in a different direction with younger players.
A third-round pick out of MSU in 2006, the 28-year-old Norwood played in just 57 of 80 regular-season games over the last five years with the Falcons while dealing with injuries ranging from a concussion to a hip flexor to a torn knee ligament.
Not bad for a franchise that had never even managed consecutive seasons above .500 before they arrived.
"Our expectations," Smith said, "are really high."
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press