Vic Beasley rarely turned the corner to see Clemson coach Dabo Swinney lined up in the backfield, so it was a fun change for him to see Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn batting down his blocks Friday on the first day of training camp.
Quinn, who’s entering his first year as a head coach with Atlanta, showed the same high energy at practice that he’s been preaching this offseason for his players as he slipped on blocking pads to join in a few drills at the team’s facility in Flowery Branch. It’s a hands-on approach that has several Falcons, including rookie Beasley, excited about their prospects in 2015.
“It says a lot,” said Beasley (VIDEO), after a nearly two-hour practice. “We’re happy to be with him, that he’s involved. It’s high-energy, high motor, getting ready for the season, you could tell everyone was ready to go.”
Quinn was brought in to Atlanta after helping to lead the Seattle Seahawks to back-to-back Super Bowl appearances as a defensive coordinator, and wasted no time in setting an intense game atmosphere in practice. Between loud music blaring over the facility’s speakers and a relaxed demeanor on the sidelines, Falcons wide receiver Roddy White called the first day’s practice “very energetic.”
Several players cheered a skillful catch by receiver Leonard Hankerson through the middle, then later heckled cornerback Robert Alford for whiffing on what would have been a simple interception on the edge.
“I felt like everyone was on their assignments,” said White (VIDEO). “You don’t want to make any mental errors, but we were ready to go.”
Quinn came to Atlanta after the Falcons (6-10 in 2014) gave up the most total yards and yards passing in the league last season, but said Friday that his adjustments will take effect sooner than later.
Capturing the same intensity as the team showed in mini-camps and OTAs will be crucial, according to rookie running back Tevin Coleman. Coleman spent time working out with fellow backs Matt Forte of the Chicago Bears and Le’Veon Bell of the Pittsburgh Steelers in South Florida over the summer, and said he learned a lot.
“Just have confidence and keep on finishing,” he said of their advice. “Working hard every rep and going through it.”
There are 14 more scheduled training camp practices throughout the next three weeks that fans can attend, not including an Aug. 14 preseason game against the Tennessee Titans at the Georgia Dome. In an offseason full of firsts for Quinn, the head coach said he was eager to get his full team out on the field.
Friday’s practice session largely focused on special teams drills, but occasionally saw quarterback Matt Ryan take a few long passes down the sidelines to Hankerson or handing off to second-year rusher Devonta Freeman.
Wide receiver Julio Jones looked sprightly, and showed a few impressive cuts in his routes. The two-time Pro Bowler had his foot re-taped halfway through practice, and said afterward that he felt fine.
“It’s kind of like we are all waiting for the holiday Christmas to get here ... This is not a rebuild in any way,” said Quinn (VIDEO), decked out in long black sleeves despite high temperatures reaching into the 90s. “Everything we’re doing is for right now. We just want to have the best camp we can.”