“Meet the Rookies”
Brian Cox is in awe of Jake Matthews. “I think Jake is one of the best technicians out there”, Cox says in amazement. “He’s the guy I noticed most. He’s bred to be that (an offensive tackle).” Mike Tice is thoroughly impressed, too. “He’s a man of few words. He goes out and takes care of business. He’s very mature for his age.” Matthews is just taking everything in one day at a time. “I’m realizing that it’s a job now; it’s football everyday. I’m enjoying it, having a good time, and learning a lot.” He’s looked awfully good in the process, as well.
Tyler Starr is checking into his dorm, enjoying the amenities the NFL lifestyle has to offer. He hopes for good roommates, but doesn’t forget about the loved ones he left back home: his family. Starr unpacks his belongings, and among them is a small photo album made for him by his fiancée. Starr slowly flips through each picture, reminiscing on time well spent with his son and soon-to-be wife. The photo album will “keep the motivation close”, says Starr.
Jacques Smith is fighting for his coaches’ attention, among other things, and Outside Linebackers Coach Mark Collins has taken notice. “You want a bunch of tough, competitive guys that want to mix it up on a daily basis. He’s a tough guy that doesn’t back down from anybody.” Smith claims to have one quality that was missing from the Falcons last season. “I’m very, very, very, very, very physical.” Smith is then shown beating Terren Jones with a vicious rip move. On not being drafted, Smith was disappointed, but grateful to be a Falcon. “You wait for your reward after working so hard for so many years, and you don’t get your name called. It’s like, where does reality set me now? I’m glad I’m here.”
Ricardo Allen had a hard time finding his dorm room. “They got me back here in the woods”, he laughed. On the field, Allen is joking with teammates about a “misprint” on his player profile that lists him at 5’9’’; Allen cheekily thinks he’s closer to 6-foot-2. Allen checks with Pat Angerer to get his opinion on the subject, and Angerer agrees. “You’re a good teammate!” chuckles Allen. Exhaustion from a brutal training camp evidently hit Allen pretty hard. “I couldn’t even talk to my girl. I just texted her ‘goodnight baby, too tired.’ ”
Devonta Freeman apparently has a catchword that he uses for everything he likes: “wavy.” If he thinks something is cool or smooth, it’s wavy. Steven Jackson seems to think the rookie is making waves in his first training camp. “He’s very explosive. He gets to his top gear pretty fast.”
“Friends and Rivals”
Roddy White, Harry Douglas, and Julio Jones are inseparable off of the football field. “We’re like family”, said an appreciative White. Douglas calls White the big brother he’s always wanted. “Roddy’s been on my side 100 percent”, he proclaims. But don’t call Douglas the little brother. “I’m the middle child. Julio’s the little brother”, he declares. “They always gang up on the middle child.” Wide Receivers Coach Terry Robiskie gave his opinion, and he may know the triumvirate better than anyone does. Robiskie likened Douglas to a kid that runs and hides after doing something bad, White to a “wild guy” that’s gone off the deep end, and Jones to someone who tries to fit in but is always looking over his shoulder as if his mother were watching. Offensive Coordinator Dirk Koetter may have put it best when he said, “The three stooges come to mind. They’re funny and they’re smart.” Jones further illustrated the group’s tight bond. “We’re not gonna let each other down. If Matt (Ryan) throws one of those guys the ball and I’m open, I’m happy with that decision because I know those guys are gonna make that play.”
William Moore and Roddy White have a fierce, but friendly rivalry. Moore claims White always has excuses, and that he likes to amp White up a little bit. Coach Robiskie claims that Moore and White both talk trash, though they rarely compete against each other. Yet when they do, they both “shut up and be quiet”, snickered Robiskie. When Head Coach Mike Smith asked White to break the team down after practice, White conceded to Moore, and the way their quirky friendship works became more evident.
“Camp time sleepover!” shouted an enthusiastic Gabe Carimi. Carimi and Peter Konz were roommates for a few years at the University of Wisconsin, so it’s no surprise to see the two rooming together once again, this time as Falcons. “We’re like bears. We’re a good family together”, said Carimi. Carimi called Konz during free agency and said that he had interest from some teams. Konz quipped, “There’s only one team to look at.” Carimi then explained how the two compete for everything. “We compete over who gets to put the weights away, because we want to get that extra work”, said Carimi with a smirk. But the pair’s rivalry is more like a brotherhood than anything. “When it comes to family like Gabe, I do care, and we won’t let each other take shortcuts”, stated Konz. Konz and his wife had a child just four days before camp started, and he was visibly thrilled to see them both after a sweltering practice. Carimi and Konz both have infant children to care for, and that bond has brought the two closer. “We’re on the same page in our lives”, Konz said.
It’s not too difficult to guess Jacques Smith’s favorite drill: that’s right, the Oklahoma drill. “Whoever want it!” shouted Smith as he challenged anyone to face him in the mano-a-mano test of will. Ryan Schraeder stepped up to the plate, much to the delight of coaches and teammates. Schraeder proceeded to plow through Smith and was showered in praise by Mike Tice and his fellow offensive linemen. Smith may have lost that particular battle, but he had good things to say afterward. “I just wanted to go out there and look for another competition. We have a very talented offensive line. (Schraeder)’s a tough guy.” Smith reiterated how physical and tough of a player he believes himself to be. “If I get into an altercation with someone, it’s not going to end well.”