The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 08/15/06
Flowery Branch â€” Pads cracked, coaches got riled and tempers flared.
In the eyes of coach Jim Mora, that resulted in the Falcons having one of their best practices of training camp at the first of two workouts Monday.
"I loved the way they worked today," Mora said. "We had a little ruckus, which we hadn't had since the first week of camp. They're tired; they know camp is winding down, and they want to get their work in. These guys have a lot of pride. It was just a good, physical practice."
Two heated skirmishes occurred, the first between cornerback DeAngelo Hall and wide receiver Adam Jennings, the second involving a cluster of players â€” including Hall again â€” after tackle Todd Weiner and safety Lawyer Milloy tussled to the ground.
Hall didn't take part in the evening practice and had his left wrist and thumb bandaged.
They were pretty typical of training camp flare-ups, but these were seasoned with some hot sauce. Emotions carried over through several drills, in which high tempo and effort replaced tempers.
"It was intense," Mora said. "They were into it."
Possibly setting the tone, the Falcons broke out a new full-contact drill where coaches were relentless in their open critiques of players. Mora didn't say whether the drill was in response to some of the struggles defenders had getting off blocks in Friday's 26-23 victory over New England in the opening exhibition, claiming it was more, "to get the pads going."
Deion lends hand to accomplished staff
Former Falcons cornerback Deion Sanders, an eight-time Pro Bowl selection, worked with the defensive backs at practice for the second straight day. Mora said that was a bonus, but that the staff's secondary coaches shouldn't be slighted.
Co-secondary coach Emmitt Thomas, who mainly handles cornerbacks, has just as many career NFL interceptions as Sanders (58) and played in five Pro Bowls. Co-secondary coach Brett Maxie, who mainly coaches safeties and played for 13 seasons in the NFL, had 23 interceptions. Coaching intern Ashley Ambrose had 42 career picks.
"That's a lot of interceptions back there," Mora said. "There's four really good NFL players [including Sanders] working with those guys, and that's good. All four have worked well together."
Former defender Maryland pays visit
Former NFL defensive lineman Russell Maryland was the latest former pro athlete to attend practice and address Falcons players over the past few days. Maryland arrived during the morning practice and spoke to players between sessions.
Former NBA great Magic Johnson and Sanders have spoken to players over the past few days about life on and off the field.
Newton, Turnbull to get closer look
Backup safeties Cam Newton and Nick Turnbull will be tested at length in Saturday's exhibition at Green Bay. The Falcons must evaluate whether they need to pursue help outside their roster or if they feel comfortable with these small-school products as insurance for Milloy and Chris Crocker, Mora said.
Newton, a second-year undrafted free agent from Furman, and Turnbull, an undrafted rookie from Florida International, played fairly well against New England but need some polish, Mora said.
"Neither of them played a ton of football at this level," Mora said. "They're both athletic, they're physical and they both work hard. They have potential."
Veteran Kevin Mathis likely will be the main backup to Crocker, but he could be held out of his second straight exhibition to avoid aggravating his surgically repaired knee.