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Local players, teams learn from Falcons' practices
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Thousands of fans will convene on the Atlanta Falcons’ training facility in Flowery Branch today as the Falcons open their 2013 training camp. Among those spectators taking in practice will be members of various high school football programs – players looking to gain some knowledge and insight as to how the professional players prepare for the upcoming season.

Among the teams that will have players in attendance this week is Gainesville, which has several players working for the Falcons during training camp.

“They are helping as managers,” said Red Elephants coach Bruce Miller, who acknowledged the players were connected with the Falcons through the Boys and Girls Club.

“They come back all the time talking about things they’ve seen or things they have observed and it is really neat to see the influence (the Falcons) have on our guys.”

With the Falcons’ training facility being located in Hall County, which is home to nine high school football programs, players and coaches are able to attend practices and learn from the professionals, observing how drills are conducted in the NFL and how they can be conducted at the high school level.

“We’ve talked about how they practice. Those guys are professionals, they know what it takes to be at that level,” said East Hall head coach Bryan Gray, who does not have plans on taking his team to Falcons camp this season, but has in the past.

“I do remember hearing them on the bus, on the way back to the school, talking about it and later bringing up things they did. It helped validate the drills we did because we were doing the same things.”

Among the things coaches stress to their players when watching the Falcons is the pace at which professional practices are conducted, a thing often missing from high school football practices, says Riverside head coach Gary Downs, who was a fullback on the Falcons’ 1998 NFC championship team.

“The main thing is the speed of play and the precision to the attention of details the pros have,” said Downs, whose team begins camp Aug. 7. “The kids don’t know how a certain route should be run or how quickly some of these guys react. But when you get to the pros, they can see how quickly the players react and how well these guys know their jobs.

“And also, in between drills, the pros move from drill to drill so precisely. These guys are fighting for a job and you have to love the intensity and effort. You want your kids to see that.”

Today’s Falcons practice is one of 15 that is open to the general public. Among those open to the public is the annual Friday Night Lights full-squad scrimmage, which will be held at Gainesville’s City Park Stadium on Aug. 2.

The event is expected to draw a capacity crowd, and will be attended by every member of Gainesville’s football team.

The experience of having an NFL team practicing on the Red Elephants’ home field will be one that Miller hopes his younger plays learn from.

“Anytime you get a chance to observe those guys and what those guys go through, it is such an influence of the younger guy because those are some of the guys that are their heroes,” Miller said.

Of the practices open to the public, two will be combined practices against the Cincinnati Bengals, Aug. 5-6, leading up to their preseason game inside the Georgia Dome on Aug. 8., the Falcons’ first preseason game of the season.

Atlanta enter this year’s training camp as the favorite to repeat as NFC South division champion and possibly a favorite to win this season’s Super Bowl, which will be held at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. on Feb. 2, 2014.

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