It's Time to Rise Up! 7

A Conversation with Our Atlanta Falcons: SFL goes to Flowery Branch to toss a few questions to the Big Names and Guys with Georgia Ties

As they do every year, the Atlanta Falcons began training camp in Flowery Branch with practices that are open to the general public before the season kicks off. Hip hop from Fetty Wap so loud it almost shakes the ground sets the tone. After an 8-8 season, Head Coach Dan Quinn will be looking to make major improvements in his second year and hopefully a playoff run. Justin Hardy made some impressive catches. Atlanta star running back Davonta Freeman, out of Florida State,  also had a good catch. It is difficult to judge how good the team is looking because the players aren’t going full speed at this point. Players won’t be practicing in full pads until right before preseason begins. There will be a lot of competition amongst the offensive line as well the linebacker core.

When asked about the teams or players he looks forward to playing the most, Davonta Freeman, he gave the diplomatic answer instead of offering the obvious answer of our rival the New Orleans Saints, saying he just treats every opponent the same. Freeman puts his highest effort into each game rather than looking at the schedule or singling out any players or teams because against every team he wants the same result,  to win.

The Sure Thing

Philip Wheeler is a veteran linebacker who before joining Atlanta in 2015 spent his years playing for Indianapolis, Oakland and Miami. Wheeler went to Georgia Tech.

SFL: How has training camp been and what are you trying to do to earn a starting spot?

A: It’s just the first day but I’m just trying to do the best I can, whatever the coach asks me and more. I’m just trying to get on the field, learn every play and play whatever position the want me to play. I just want to ball out.

SFL: So how is playing for this team from what you’ve experienced in the past?

A: I feel like we’re different because we’re all in it together. Some teams I’ve been on the past haven’t been together. Here everybody is that guy so you don’t know who is going to make plays.

The Longshot

Arthur Lynch played tight end at UGA and was just signed to the Falcons last week. Let’s hope he’s a Falcon into the regular season.

SFL: How excited are you about training camp? What are you looking forward to?

A: I’m just happy to be back out here.  I was interviewing for corporate jobs about two weeks ago in New York and Boston so I though football really might have passed me by. I wasn’t disappointed because I think there comes a day that comes for everybody and you just have to be ready for it.  The fact that they called me, the fact that it was Atlanta, the fact that I’m in Flowery Branch and Athens is about 25 minutes up the road was only fitting. Hopefully I’ll do everything in my power and work my [rear] off to try to make this football team. I’m just happy to be here and I going to compete everyday to make this team better and myself better.

The Hometown Guy

Grady Jarrett, a Clemson grad who happened to attend the Rockdale High School with me while I was there, discussed his transition to nose tackle, which in his opinion was going well.

When the player interviews were finished, I had the opportunity to speak with representatives from the Rally Foundation for Childhood Cancer Research.  Their mission is to empower volunteers across the country to raise awareness and funds for childhood cancer, not only to fulfill their ultimate goal, which is to find cures but also better treatments. They raise money all year long and they are great partners with the Falcons and they help run their Rally I the Runway event in the Spring, which is a fashion show. Vic Beasley is the chair for that event as well as a spokesperson.

It should be noted that Julio Jones left the field early after tweaking his leg. Coaches reported that it was just a precaution but it would be a serious detriment for the Falcons to lose their best player to injury, especially weeks before the season even starts. Perhaps the best Wide Receiver in the league, Jones had 136 catches for over 1800 yards last season. What might be even more impressive than the catches he makes over double coverage is ability to gain yards after the catch. Last year he led all Receivers with 679 YAC. He returned to practice the next day.