Falcons defensive lineman Grady Jarrett still remembers his first day of mandatory minicamp as a rookie. He recalls the game moving faster, the days going longer and the desire inside him to make an immediate impact on the team.
So when he met brand new Falcons rookie John Cominsky Tuesday on the first day of minicamp at the team facility in Flowery Branch, Jarrett knew what was going through the young defensive lineman’s head, and he knew exactly what to say.
“Like I was telling (Cominsky), it doesn’t happen overnight,” Jarrett said. “… It just takes a lot more focus. Especially for the young guys, the best thing to do is just come out, give 100% effort, know your job and responsibilities, and at the end of the day make corrections.”
Cominsky is one of a group of 23 rookies that got their first chance to make an impression on the team as a whole Tuesday, as this week marks the first set of offseason practices veteran players are required to attend. And while star players such as Julio Jones and Matt Ryan will be at the facility for the minicamp sessions this Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, Falcons head coach Dan Quinn said the focus will be more on the younger players and those closer to the borderline of securing a regular season roster spot.
Coming off of last month’s rookie minicamp, each of the new players had his own set of assignments to work on.
“Before the minicamp started, we had individual meetings with each new player; coming in after nine practices, this is where you’re at,” Quinn said. “These are the things that need some improvement, or these are some of the things that you’re doing well. So we identified in each of the 23 rookies and some of the veteran free agents that are here, that here are a couple of things we’d like to see in these next three days.”
One day in, Quinn said he was relatively happy with what he’s seen.
On the defensive side of the ball, Cominsky — an apparent beneficiary of Jarrett’s advice — as well as second-year player Deadrin Senat were two that stood out in particular according to Quinn. Among offensive players, he liked what he saw out of backup quarterback Kurt Benkert as well as rookie Qadree Ollison.
Quinn also had good things to say about one rookie and a pair of free agent signees along the offensive line.
“Up front, we mixed a number of the guys on the offensive line, Jamon (Brown), James (Carpenter), McGary, all those guys got a good bit of work in today,” he said. “Those are the few that jumped out right off the bat.”
The new group of players also made an early impression on Jones, who was donning a Falcons bucket hat in lieu of a helmet Tuesday as he rehabs a foot injury.
The veteran receiver said he’s used to playing a mentor role for incoming players, and from his conversations with the rookies so far, this class seems particularly ready to make its mark.
“As far as the receiver group, I made my rounds,” he said. "In time, I’ll speak to everybody. But we just had a great rookie class in. They seem hungry.”
Each new player will have two more days at minicamp to make an impression on the coaching staff and the team before the more intense training camp sessions start in July.
And while the youngest Falcons remain eager to earn starting spots as soon as possible, Jarrett said he’s been advising them not to sweat the little errors that are bound to happen as the rookies get used to a professional schedule.
His advice to the class as a whole was simple, but effective.
“Control the controllables,” he said. “You’re going to make mistakes.”