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Falcons rookie Jones joins teammates on field for first time

BUFORD, Ga. -- Julio Jones is starting to feel like a member of the Atlanta Falcons.

Jones, the No. 6 overall pick in April's draft, worked out on a field Tuesday for the first time with quarterback Matt Ryan and other new teammates.

During the NFL lockout, Falcons players have routinely run 7-on-7 passing drills at Buford High School, but this marked Jones' debut on a field.

The former University of Alabama standout didn't run full speed, deciding it was best to jog his routes and catch some easy passes. He's still recovering from foot surgery on a stress fracture that was discovered after February's NFL Scouting Combine.

"I went to Dr. (Robert) Anderson in Charlotte (N.C.), and he released me last Tuesday to run," Jones said. "They just told me to take it very slow. That's what I'm going to do."

Unable to watch film at Falcons headquarters, Jones has tried to immerse himself in the playbook. He received a copy from coach Mike Smith when the lockout was briefly lifted.

Sitting down recently with Ryan and third-string quarterback John Parker Wilson, his teammate at Alabama, Jones got a better understanding of what his role will be in formations.

"They looked over the playbook with me and told me what I needed to study as far as formations and what we use a lot," Jones said. "That's what I've been doing. That's the stuff that I've been mainly focusing on."

Ryan said Jones is a quick learner.

"It's our job to help him get up to speed so that we'll be ready to roll when the lockout ends," Ryan said.

Much of Atlanta's offense is similar to what Jones ran at Alabama. His new offensive coordinator, Mike Mularkey, worked under Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban when both were with the Miami Dolphins a few years back.

"The schemes are the same," Jones said. "I just have to catch on to the different terminology."

As a junior last season, Jones caught 78 passes for 1,133 yards and seven touchdowns. In Atlanta, the role of No. 1 receiver belongs to Roddy White, who has yet to meet Jones in person. But the rookie is excited to have a four-time Pro Bowl wideout as his teammate.

"It's good just to be out here and shake all these guys' hands," Jones said after speaking to receiver Michael Jenkins. "We're ready to get to work."

Jones knows expectations are high after the Falcons acquired him by trading up 21 spots and sending four draft picks to the Cleveland Browns. Atlanta believed it was imperative to have another weapon to win a Super Bowl.

The Falcons earned the NFC's top seed last season before suffering a lopsided home playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers, who didn't have any trouble defending Pro Bowlers Ryan, White and running back Michael Turner and tight end Tony Gonzalez.

Some NFL teams were surprised at the combine when Jones ran the 40-yard dash in 4.34 seconds, even though no one, including the receiver himself, knew he had a stress fracture.

Because of the injury and his new surroundings, Jones likes taking the steady pace.

"It's very hard being an athlete to dial it down like that, but I'm not in a race," he said. "These guys know my foot was hurt. I have to be ready for the season. I'm just going to try to work my way back up now."

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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