FLOWERY BRANCH — Chris Owens isn’t kidding about the informational overload facing most NFL rookies.
It’s not just that they must practice, study, condition, eat and sleep the right way. They also must excel in their roles on special teams.
For Owens, an Atlanta cornerback and a third-round draft pick from San Jose State, winning a starting job in the Falcons’ base defense isn’t his only goal.
"I’m on kickoff coverage, kickoff return, I’m the gunner on punt and I’m the hold-up guy on punt return," Owens said Tuesday with a big smile. "It’s more fun than I can explain."
To average fans, it might seem more glamorous to line up opposite Steve Smith or Randy Moss in man coverage, but Owens knows his new coaches expect much more.
Owens doesn’t know if he will start Friday when the Falcons (0-1) visit St. Louis (1-0) in a preseason matchup. His objective at this early stage of his career is cross-training.
"The capacity of information they give you, mentally and physically, is taxing," Owens said. "But what makes this so exciting and fun is that, in another way, it’s easy. I love the game, and that’s what I do. If you love the game, it’s easy."
Coach Mike Smith indicated earlier this week that Atlanta has yet to settle on a starter at left cornerback, a position Domonique Foxworth held last year before signing as an unrestricted free agent with Baltimore.
Von Hutchins, who signed a three-year deal with the Falcons in March 2008, missed all of last season with a foot injury. Brent Grimes, who’s trying to win the job breaking camp for the second straight year, is another possibility.
Owens, though, could win the job with a good preseason, and if does, he will credit his morning regimen.
"Every day it’s something different on the field and in the meeting room, but I have a routine that helps me a lot," he said. "Waking up, eating the same thing for breakfast and then going to bed at a certain time, all that helps me max out a routine.
"Three eggs scrambled well with cheese on top. Pineapples and strawberries and other berries. That’s the ticket."
Hutchins also intends to win the left-side job after getting signed as a free agent with Atlanta following a 2007 season of starting 15 of 16 games in Houston two years ago.
A big part of earning snaps in the secondary, however, is proving your value "across the roster," which Hutchins is showing in phases of special teams.
"They expect everything out of you, and you should expect even more from yourself," Hutchins said. "The kid Owens can do a lot, but so can a few other guys out here. My goal is to win a job (at left corner) and to do anything else that’s asked of me as a football player."
The Falcons have starting right cornerback Chris Houston out with a strained hamstring, so Chevis Jackson, a third-round draft pick last year from LSU, is expecting to take snaps at that spot against the Rams.
"I’m just going to go out and make some plays," Jackson said. "You never know what’s going to be asked of you, either on defense or on special teams."