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Atlanta Falcons pick up pace of minicamp under Quinn
Rookies learning new system, while battling heat in south Hall
Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn works with his players during the first day of rookie minicamp Friday in Flowery Branch. - photo by John Bazemore | Associated Press

FLOWERY BRANCH — Justin Hardy doesn’t know yet where he will fit in with the Atlanta Falcons. He’s learning that whomever the team deploys next fall had better be ready to work quickly.

New Falcons head coach Dan Quinn wants to pick up the pace.

Hardy is not known for his speed, yet that’s not why the rookie wide receiver had hard time keeping up Saturday in the second day of the Falcons’ rookie mini-camp.

It was warm and humid at the Falcons’ headquarters outside of Atlanta, and Hardy — a fourth-round draft choice out of East Carolina who set an NCAA career record with 387 career receptions — and other players were made to work at a brisk pace. Quinn and new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan don’t want to waste time.

“It’s definitely fast. I guess that’s the tempo of the NFL,” said Hardy, who caught a whopping 121 passes for 1,494 yards last season for ECU.

The temperature was around 83 degrees Saturday with 49 percent humidity as nearly five dozen recently drafted players, college free agents and tryout players worked out for two hours without pads.

One player missed the workout after being taken to the hospital on Friday.

Former Louisville safety Terell Floyd, who left practice a day earlier when he became dehydrated, was held out and will not participate today.

At 5-feet-10, 192 pounds, Hardy does not cut an imposing figure, yet he believes that that his skill set will make him a capable accomplice to Atlanta starting wide receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White in the slot.

If asked to work on the flanks, Hardy said he can handle his business outside. The Falcons’ second-round draft choice, former LSU defensive back Jalen Collins, was held out again seven weeks after surgery to repair a broken bone in his foot.

Defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, whom the Falcons traded up to take with the first pick of the fifth round, is settling in. Eight days earlier, as he and several dozen family members and friends were watching the draft, his home caught fire.

A significant part of the house where he grew up outside of Atlanta was destroyed, and he lost clothing and memorabilia from his days at Clemson.

“It’s great to be here with a defense-minded head coach,” he said. “(The house fire) is a difficult situation, but everybody is safe and that’s the most important thing. With all the things going on, and (Sunday) being Mother’s Day . . . I’m just trying to do what I can, focus on getting better.” Perhaps the Falcons’ two most far-flung draft choices endured the most.’

Offensive tackle Jake Rodgers said he spent about 16 hours traveling from Spokane, Washington, when the seventh-rounder from Eastern Washington suffered flight delays, and said the pace came as a surprise.

Defensive back Akeem Rodgers of San Jose State, another seventh rounder who grew up in Nipomo, California, agreed.
“I’m from Cali, so at some point the humidity kicks in,” he said.

Quinn was pleased with the second of three workouts, especially since tryout quarterbacks Caleb Berry of Lamar and Austin Dodge of Southern Oregon were better taking snaps from under center - unlike in their college careers.

“I really felt the effort. We had a terrific day,” said Quinn, the former defensive coordinator who helped guide Seattle to back-to-back Super Bowls in two seasons with the Seahawks. “Defensively, the effort was better, the speed to the ball.

We were really emphasizing that this morning in meetings.”

NOTES: Quinn, who was defensive coordinator and line coach at the University of Florida in 2011-’12, called former Florida defensive end Dante Fowler Jr., the No. 3 overall pick of the draft, after Fowler tore an anterior cruciate knee ligament Friday in the Jaguars’ rookie workout. “I let him know I’m thinking about him,” said Quinn, who helped recruit Fowler in 2012. “His attitude was terrific. I know how tough he is, and how hard he’ll rehab. He’ll come back stronger and better.” . . . Five of the Falcons’ seven draft choices — Collins, Hardy, Jarrett, Rodgers and King — have agreed to contracts, leaving defensive end Vic Beasley (first round) and running back Tevin Coleman (third) yet to sign. . . . Quinn said that Floyd underwent testing, and is expected to join the Falcons’ offseason workout program Monday.

05/09/15 17:27

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