The Atlanta Falcons have heard the talk about low expectations and a poor overall roster, and it seems like they’re taking it personally at training camp this week.
“That was by far one of the most competitive practices since I’ve been here,” said Falcons head coach Arthur Smith after practice on Saturday.
With nearly every job on the line, tempers can flare in the Georgia heat, but being able to control that emotion is an aspect that Smith is looking for during camp.
“These guys are competing, and you go to the edge and there’s learning experiences and nobody did anything really that dumb,” said Smith, “but if someone takes a swing on the air then you throw them out. They went inside with Stall [Thomas Stallworth] and that’s what happens.”
“I told you, in a game they fine you and if you don’t have that emotional control then you won’t be here, but I was very encouraged by today. That was probably the most competitive practice that we’ve had since I’ve been the coach here.”
Smith admits the team is ready to put the on the pads Monday and begin hitting.
“Absolutely,” said Smith. “I’d much rather have people you need to pull back then people that you’ve got to push. This team is competitive as hell and that’s a fun group to coach.”
“This teams got a chip on its shoulder and we’re ready to go out there and prove ourselves.”
The competitiveness and emotion is coming from all over the team, including new quarterback Marcus Mariota.
“That’s probably a little bit more emotion than I’ve seen from him in a while,” said Smith. “Like a lot of these guys, he wants to go out there and improve. He’s had some big moments in this league, and it’s been an interesting journey to this point, but he’s high in talent, and he’s won some big games in this league.”
Mariota’s success will be key to this Falcons team exceeding expectations. Smith said after practice that they targeted players in free agency with competitive makeup (a couple dozen one-year contracts certainly help).
Mariota like dozens of his teammates want to prove they belong… want to show everyone including national and local media that they’re better than their individual parts.
And so far, they’ve been getting after it in practice like a team that wants to win, not a team that wants the No. 1 draft pick in 2023.