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Atlanta Falcons Blog

Atlanta Falcons blog by D. Orlando Ledbetter, the pro football and Atlanta Falcons reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Cover 9@9: The Toughness Crusade continues


(Welcome all! With the NFL becoming more of a passing league, the “Cover 9” blog will become all of the rage. You can read it here every Wednesday at 9 a.m. throughout the season. We’ll try to get to everything about the Atlanta Falcons. Here’s my second installment of Cover 9@9. – D. Orlando Ledbetter)  

1. The Toughness Crusade: The Falcons unofficial “Toughness Crusade” took a hit on Tuesday when running back Steven Jackson tweaked his hamstring during the first padded practice of training camp.

Also, linebacker Pat Angerger, who’s trying to battle back from a microfacture surgery, left the field and did not return.

The “Toughness Crusade” has extended all the way to the quarterback position.

After tossing an interception to cornerback Robert Alford, quarterback Matt Ryan made the tackle – a form tackle – and took Alford to the ground.

However, Ryan doesn’t plan to throw his helmet into the ring for the starting free safety position.

“There has been no talk of that (moving to free safety),” Ryan said. “It was just one of those things, first day in pads. (When) we started off with the Oklahoma drill and Smitty kind of made the point that we needed to be a little bit more physical. In good nature, I took Robert to the ground.

“But that was just some of the fun that you have during training camp. He made a great play. … one of the things that gets lost in the shuffle is that I threw a pick. He made a good play, but it was fun.”

2. Absolutely not!: BTW, don’t mention the “Toughness Crusade” to head coach Mike Smith.

While we haven’t heard him say, “Absolutely Not” yet, he got the media straight at the hint of the team trying to get tougher.

“Guys, everybody wants to talk about toughness,” Smith said. “If you play in the National Football League you are a tough person. It’s about being resilient. It’s about being strong. It’s about being physical.

“Everybody that plays in the NFL is tough, and I can’t tell you that I’ve ever been around a player that plays in the National Football League that’s not tough. To throw his body around, and put his body through what he puts it through, but in terms of being physical, we have to be a more physical football team. That’s what we’ve been talking about since the very beginning of this offseason, and the end of last offseason is being a more physical football team. You just don’t turn it on when you go out on the field and play a game. You have to work on it on the practice field, and we’re going to make sure everybody understands what we’re trying to get done.”

3. Glanville on toughness: We caught up with Jerry Glanville the other day to talk about Claude Humphrey’s enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday. Unsolicited, he brought up the Falcons’ “Toughness Crusade."

“I heard the owner say our team has got to get tougher. We’ve got to hit harder. You think anybody in the NFL or Atlanta, Georgia said that about that group (the 1977 Grits Blitz defense?)

“Could you imagine that team simply saying I wish Claude Humphrey and those guys would hit harder. That never came out of anybody’s mouth. Everybody that played us, pretty well knew before the game started that physically they were in for a butt-kicking.

“What was amazing when we gave up 129 points, on offense our longest run was the huddle break. We had no help. Leeman Bennett could coach, but he didn’t have any players over there and Steve (Bartkowski) got hurt. He went to surgery.

“Our MVP for that season was our punter.”

4. Robertson is shining: One of the early stars of training champ has been nose tackle Travian Robertson. He’s won several battles and is an incredible bull-rusher. He trying to earn him

some snaps as Paul Soliai's backup.

5. Weatherspoon update: Ryan is room mates with linebacker Sean Weatherspoon. He gave us an update on Spoon, who’s recovering from a ruptured Achilles surgery and has not come outside during the open practices.

“He’s in good spirits,” Ryan said. “He’s always in good spirits. He’s a positive guy. I know that it hurts him. It stings that he’s going to miss this season.”

Weatherspoon has been present at the linebacker meetings and has helped Paul Worrilow get used to calling the signals.

“The hardest thing is that it’s part of the deal,” Ryan said. “Injuries creep in. He’s been positive and upbeat. He’s always encouraging folks when he’s around.”

6. Martino’s crew: Wide receiver Freddie Martino, a NCAA Division II record-setting receiver, played at North Greenville University, a tiny Christian school in Tigerville, S.C.

He was a four-year starter and caught 296 passes for 3,766 yards and 26 touchdowns. Last season he set the NCAA Division II record with 146 catches and a school-record with 1,680 yards receiving.

He had some visitors from the NGU coaching staff on Tuesday. It’s always nice for the players to see some familiar faces.

7. The Godfather on Attaochu: Caught up with the "Godfather" Gil Brandt to talk about Claude Humphrey, too.

The Godfather is out on his radio tour with SiriusXM NFL Radio. One of his stops was in San Diego to see the Chargers.

“San Diego has a chance,” Brandt said. “If (quarterback Philip) Rivers plays good, like he did last year, they could be pretty good. They really helped their team a lot.”

He had this to say about former Georgia Tech standout Jeremiah “Jerry” Attaochu.

“Outstanding! Outstanding!,” Brandt said when asked how Attaochu looked. “He was the 50th  player picked, I think it was, cause I was interested to see where he was with the guy the Cowboys gave up a third (round pick) to move up to get (ASIDE: DeMarcus Lawrence went to Dallas with the 34th pick and was carted off the field on Tuesday).  I’ll tell you want, that guy is a football player. He had a 1.50, 10-yard time. That’s spectacular and you see it with how he moves around out there. Boy, he’s a quality guy. What did he have, 13 sacks last year? I think he’s going to be . . .you can got into my twitter account. I think he and the first round pick, (cornerback Jason) Verrett are going to really help the defense.”

Brandt and Alex Marvez will be in Flowery Branch on Monday.

8: Worrilow at D-QB: Falcons coach Mike Smith believes that the defensive signals are in good hands with linebacker Paul Worrilow.

“Paul is a student of the game,” Smith said. “From day one he was being cross-trained to play all three positions. He was able to pick it up and handle the work load we were giving him. It showed in his play. He's not only a good physical player, but he has a great command and understanding of what he's doing.”

Smith acknowledged that Coach Weatherspoon is helping Worrilow.

“Our group of linebackers is a very young group so Paul has had to ascend up the ladder very quickly,” Smith said. “With Spoon not being out there on the field, he has to be the leader on the field. But Spoon is around and still is going to help us win a lot of football games in terms of what he can do in helping the young linebackers.”

9. Extra points: Falcons owner Arthur Blank, who was intensely watching practices on Monday and

Tuesday, will speak at a breakfast at 7 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 20 at Maggiano’s Little Italy restaurant on 3368 Peachtree Road NE. The conversation with Atlanta magazine’s editor-in-chief, Steve Fennessy, will be from 8-9 a.m. and will cover the upcoming Falcons season, progress on the New Atlanta Stadium and information regarding the MLS team coming to Atlanta in 2017. Tickets for the event are $25 per person or $200 per table. …I asked one of my friends, who’s a Georgia alum and football supporter, if the Bulldogs need to do more “character-based” recruiting. He responded, “We do have high standards, but the program is not doing enough to train the guys to become men.” . …The Falcons did have one arrest this offseason. Wide receiver Darius Johnson was still on the roster when he was arrested May 24. … Former Falcons defensive end John Abraham was arrested at 4:09 p.m. on June 29 while leaving the Pink Pony strip club. The scary part is that he fell asleep at the wheel of his Dodge Challenger in the middle of the street. Several people called 911 before the Brookhaven police responded. ...Former Falcons defensive tackle Grady Jackson was at practice on Sunday and Monday. ... Good to hear Brandt ring the bell twice on his show for Attorney June McKenzie, wife of Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie.


Osi Umenyiora tells us where's the pass rush going to come from

Dwight Lowery fitting in at free safety

Left tackle Sam Baker is off to strong start

Steven Jackson: "I kind of believed my own hype"

Roddy White not worried about his legacy, he wants Super Bowl rings



WR 11 Julio Jones, 15 Courtney Roby, 89 Bernard Reedy, 18 Freddie Martino, 8 Jabin Sambrano

LT 72 Sam Baker, 76 Lamar Holmes, 74 Terren Jones

LG 63 Justin Blalock, 68 Gabe Carimi, 67 Adam Replogle

C 61 Joe Hawley, 66 Peter Konz, 62 James Stone, 69 Harland Gunn

RG 75 Jon Asamoah, 69 Harland Gunn

RT 70 Jake Matthews, 79 Mike Johnson 73 Ryan Schrader

TE 80 Levine Toilolo, 86 Bear Pascoe, 82 Mickey Shuler, 81 Jacob Pedersen, 49 Brian Wozniak

WR 84 Roddy White, 83 Harry Douglas, 14 Geraldo Boldewijn, 16 Julian Jones, 87 Tramaine Thompson, 7 Jeremy Ebert,

QB 2 Matt Ryan, 13 T.J. Yates, 12 Sean Renfree, 9 Jeff Mathews

RB 39 Steven Jackson, 32 Jacquizz Rodgers, 35 Antone Smith, 33 Devonta Freeman, 30 Josh Vaughan, 34 Jerome Smith

FB  42 Patrick DiMarco, 45 Maurice Hagens, 43 Roosevelt Nix

3-4 DEFENSIVE FRONT (We just have the two-deep so far)

LOLB – 71 Kroy Biermann, 49 Tyler Starr

LDE – 99 Tyson Jackson, 97 Peria Jerry

NT – 96 Paul Soliai, 92 Travian Robertson

RDE – 95 Jonathan Babineaux , 93 Malliciah Goodman

ROLB – 94 Jonathan Massaquoi , 50, Osi Umenyioria/90 Stansly Maponga

ILB – 59 Joplo Bartu, 53 Prince Shembo

ILB – 55 Paul Worrilow, 44 Pat Angerer


RE 95 Jonathan Babineaux, 50 Osi Umenyiora, 96 Jonathan Massaquoi, 90 Stansly Maponga

DT 99 Tyson Jackson, 97 Peria Jerry, 65 Donte Rumph

DT 96 Paul Soliai, 92 Travian Robertson, 98 Cliff Matthews, *91 Corey Peters

LE 77 Ra’Shede Hageman, 93 Malliciah Goodman, 49 Tyler Starr, 64 Nosa Equae

OLB 71 Kroy Biermann, 48 Brenden Daley, 45 Jacques Smith

MLB 55 Paul Worrilow, 44 Pat Angerer, 52 Tim Dobbins, 54 Yawin Smallwood

OLB 59 Joplo Bartu, 53 Prince Shembo, 51 Marquis Spruill, 46 Walker May,


RCB 21 Desmond Trufant, 28 Javier Arenas, 37 Ricardo Allen,

NB 26 Josh Wilson, 27 Robert McClain, 28 Javier Arenas, 41 Dezmen Southward

LCB 23 Robert Alford, 24 Jordan Mabin, 43 Devonta Glover-Wright

SS 25 William Moore, 36 Kemal Ishmael, 40 Kimario McFadden, 22 Zeke Motta

FS 20 Dwight Lowery, 41 Dezmen Southward, 29 Sean Baker


K 3 Matt Bryant, 6 Sergio Castillo

KO 5 Matt Bosher

P 5 Matt Bosher

KR 17 Devin Hester, 28 Javier Arenas, 14 Courtney Roby

PR  17 Devin Hester, 27 Robert McClain, 28 Javier Arenas

LS  47 Josh Harris

 H 5 Matt Bosher


Date                                                      Practice Times (public availability)

Wednesday, July 30                        Players’ Day Off (No Media Availability)

Thursday, July 31                              Practice 3:30 – 6:05 p.m. (open to the public)

Friday, August 1                              “Friday Night Lights” at Archer High School (Lawrenceville)

                                                            6:45 – 9:10 p.m. (open to the public)

Saturday, August 2                          Practice 3:30 – 5:30 p.m. (open to the public)

Sunday, August 3                             Practice 3:30 – 6:05 p.m. (open to the public)

Monday, August 4                           Combined Practice w/Tennessee  3-5:30 p.m.                                                (open to the public)

Tuesday, August 5                           Players’ Day Off (No Media Availability)

Wednesday, August 6                    Practice 3:30 – 6:05 p.m. (open to the public)

Thursday, August 7                         Pregame Walkthrough (No Media Availability)

Friday, August 8                                Falcons vs. Miami Dolphins

                                                                Georgia Dome

                                                                7:00 p.m. ET – CW69

 Saturday, August 9                          Practice 4:30 – 5:45 p.m. (open to the public)

 Sunday, August 10                           Players’ Day Off (No Media Availability)

 Monday, August 11                         Practice 3:30 – 5:50 p.m. (open to the public)

 Tuesday, August 12                         Practice 10:00 a.m. – 12:35 p.m. (open to the public)

 Wednesday, August 13                 Combined Practice w/ Houston Texans (Houston, TX)

Thursday, August 14                       Combined Practice w/ Houston Texans (Houston, TX)

Friday, August 15                             Pregame Walkthrough (No Media Availability)

Saturday, August 16                        Falcons at Houston Texans

                                                                NRG Stadium

                                                                8:00 p.m. ET – CW69

 Sunday, August 17                           Players’ Day Off (No Media Availability)

Monday, August 18                         Practice 10:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. (closed to the public)

                                                                Break Camp

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About the Author

D. Orlando Ledbetter is the Atlanta Falcons beat writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.