It hasn’t taken Osi Umenyiora a long time to blend in with the Falcons.
“Osi fit in right away,” Falcons defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux said after Wednesday’s OTA. “He has an outgoing personality. You can talk to him about just about anything. As each day goes by, I think he’s getting more and more comfortable.”
Umenyiora, 31, a two-time Super Bowl champion from his days with the New York Giants, is the Falcons’ major offseason pickup on defense. He signed a two-year, $8.5 million contract March 27 and will be counted on to replace John Abraham, who was not re-signed and is searching for a new team.
In Wednesday’s second OTA session, Umenyiora lined up at right and left end as the Falcons flashed in and out of 3-4 and 4-3 base alignments.
“It’s been awesome,” Umenyiora said. “The whole team has welcomed me with open arms. It’s just been a wonderful feeling coming out there with these guys. It’s a great football team.”
Abraham led the Falcons with 68.5 sacks over the past seven seasons. He had double-digit sacks in four seasons, including 10 last season.
Umenyiora played in 16 games (four starts) with the Giants last season and had 55 tackles, six sacks, five tackles for loss and one forced fumble. Umenyiora was named to the Pro Bowl in 2005 and 2007.
Umenyiora has 75 career sacks and 31 forced fumbles in 129 games over 10 seasons. His 75 sacks rank ninth in the NFL among active players.
“John Abraham was a hell of a player, and Osi has kind of come in to fill that role,” Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said. “But every player is different and to say who’s better or not, some of it has to do with how that person fits in with the guys around him. Sometimes it’s a little better chemistry-wise.”
Umenyiora is adjusting quickly to the Falcons’ scheme, which may require him to drop into coverage periodically.
“It’s different, but the coaches do a great job of explaining everything to me,” Umenyiora said. “Defense is really defense. As long as you get that down pat and understand what it is that they are asking of you.”
Umenyiora, an earlier riser who normally is one of the first players in the building, has been careful about how he plans to take on a leadership role with his new team.
“They have veteran guys here, and the coaching staff is a veteran coaching staff,” Umenyiora said. “For me, I just want to lead by example for now and let the guys get to know me, better and better, then I’ll become more vocal. For now, I’m just out here doing my job and whatever the coaches ask me to do. The leadership aspect will take place later on.”
Umenyiora, 6-foot-3 and 255 pounds, appears to be rejuvenated by signing with the Falcons.
“This is a new chapter in my life, and I’m so happy to be here,” he said. “I am happy to be with this winning franchise, and I’m going to do everything I can to help them keep winning.”
Umenyiora isn’t putting too much stock in the OTAs, which are non-contact practices basically used to install and perfect the defense and offensive schemes. Once the season starts, he wants to gauge the intensity in practice.
“That will be a more telling sign of how things are going to go,” Umenyiora said.
He is using the offseason wisely and putting in extra time to learn the schemes.
“At the end of the day, it’s called different things, and all you have to do is make that transition in your brain from calling it one thing to calling it another,” Umenyiora said.
Umenyiora hopes to revive his career with the Falcons after being a rotational player with the Giants over the past two seasons.
“These guys didn’t bring me in here off of what I did last year in New York,” Umenyiora said. “They are bringing me in because of what they think I can do for them.
“For me, I have to start all over again and show them exactly what I’m capable of. Nobody cares what I did for the New York Giants. It’s what can I do for the Atlanta Falcons, and they expect big things from me. I expect even bigger things from myself.”