Falcons players focused on continuing to ‘gel’ together as a team
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (CBS46) - Veteran Falcons defensive tackle Grady Jarrett and rookie receiver Drake London were among the many players who addressed the media during day 2 of training camp held at the team facility in Flowery Branch on Thursday.
Rookies and veterans for the Atlanta Falcons reported for day 1 of training camp together at the team facility in Flowery Branch on Wednesday.
The message that Jarrett, who enters his eighth season with the Falcons, has mentioned, is accountability and continuing to ”gel together” as a team.
“I definitely feel like the camaraderie has been good so far and we’ve been collectively coming together. That’s really important,” Jarrett said. “We really need to take advantage of the opportunities we’re given. We’ve had two practices and it’s an exciting time. We’re gelling but we need to also hold each other accountable and work together. Competition brings out the best in you. I’m trying to be the best leader and the best player that I can be.”
One new change at practice this week wasn’t the new players trying to make their mark on the team. It was what many of the players were wearing on top of their helmets.
Officials say all offensive linemen, defensive linemen, tight ends and linebackers for all 32 NFL teams are required to wear guardian caps in all 2022 preseason practices until the second preseason game in an effort to improve player safety.
The guardian cap, according to NFL.com officials, is a padded covering that goes over the shell of a helmet. It is used to reduce the severity of impact NFL players make during contact.
It is something that Jarrett says is something NFL players will have to adjust to.
“It’s really comfortable,” he said. “You’ve just got to do what you gotta do. Try to find positives in everything and get well adjusted to the heat. Down here, you really can’t run away from the heat It is what it is. Player safety is important. Our DB’s [defensive backs] are the group that really doesn’t want to wear it because they’re all about their swag.”
“It’s a mandatory thing,” said head coach Arthur Smith. “It’s an effort to improve the health and safety of our players.”
One of the players to watch as training camp continues to heat up is rookie receiver Drake London, selected with the No. 8 overall pick in 2022. London has already captured the attention of not only his offensive teammates, but one of the main leaders on the team in Jarrett.
“You can see why he was the first receiver taken in 2022,” said Jarrett. “He’s definitely been making plays in practice. Now we’re in camp and we’ve got to ramp it up.”
“I definitely feel like I’ve grown and matured in the past few months,” said London.
Former Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota was signed to the team after 2016 NFL MVP quarterback Matt Ryan was traded to the Indianapolis Colts earlier this offseason. While the Falcons selected quarterback Desmond Ridder in the third round of the 2022 NFL draft, competition at the quarterback position is likely to heat up in the coming weeks.
“[Mariotta and Ridder] are two mobile quarterbacks who can run anytime they want to, but also have a great pocket presence,” said London. “I’m loving the grind. They’re always in my ear and making sure I always get the right tips. Little things here and there.
London has been learning from his veteran teammates and hopes to add everything he’s learning as the Falcons prepare to host their first training camp practice in front of fans on Friday.
“The DB room is deep and being able to go against those guys, it’s going to help me in the long run,” London said. “We’re gelling pretty well, pretty quickly. We can adjust to things better in our ways.”
While the Falcons finished third in the NFC South in 2021, the Buccaneers, led by quarterback Tom Brady, just added new weapons in veteran tight end Kyle Rudolph and former Falcons receiver Julio Jones.
The Falcons knows they will need to do more than talk about gelling together if they hope to compete in the NFC South in 2022.
“Expectations should always be high,” Jarrett said. “But at the end of the day, we’ve got to work hard. I think it can be a misconception if you work hard and it doesn’t show up on paper. I’ve worked with some competitive, hard-nosed dudes in my career, but we’ve got to come together as a group. We’ve got to hold ourselves accountable and that’s with coaches as well.”
The Falcons recently announced the schedule for training camp practices and joint practices open to the public.
Rookies first reported to camp on July 19.
The team will welcome fans to watch them practice beginning on Friday morning.
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