During a three-day time period when rookies are put through the mental gauntlet of meetings, playbook dissections and practices, Desmond Ridder's head should be spinning. However, he was very adamant on the second day of the Falcons rookie minicamp that it's not. He's confident, and he's confident because of... poker chips?
Ridder got the Falcons playbook a week and a half ago, and as soon as he did he went to work. Recently, Ridder picked up a new study habit: Using poker chips to learn formations and proper positioning of the offense. His trainer, Jordan Palmer, shared this hands-on learning trick with him. And it's not just Ridder doing this, but Drake London, too.
"Drake has them in his room using them because he trains with (Palmer), too," Ridder said. "Being able to use them, move them around that's what helped me pick up the information of the offense."
After the personal work, it was a week's worth of Zoom meetings with Falcons quarterbacks coach Charles London diagnosing overall offensive concepts, how film is broken down in-house and going over keys to defensive recognition. By the time Ridder got out to Flowery Branch on Thursday, he felt good about the knowledge he'd already stored up.
And truth be told, that's what he wanted. Ridder wanted to showcase that he can lead right away. He wanted to be the person other players came to if they had questions about the playbook. Being under prepared was not an option for Ridder.
"I'm in the playbook 24/7," he said. "I have it down pretty good. So, when they're coming over to me, asking questions, being able to fire it back at them real quick. And they understand I have a good grasp and knowledge of the offense. That builds trust within the offense and our relationships within each other."
It would seem that foundation of trust has already been laid, with his dorm mates, especially.
John FitzPatrick called Ridder a leader. Tyler Allgeier said the quarterback is a genius in the playbook. London said he's someone players gravitate towards, someone guys want to be around. All-in-all it's been nothing but high praise for Ridder through just two days of rookie minicamp.
More so, though, when Ridder met with the media for the first time in-person as a Falcon, he said and did everything right. He had answers prepped and ready.
He didn't gloss over the topic of Marcus Mariota, either. When asked how he balances wanting to learn from a player like Mariota vs. pushing for that starting spot, Ridder said without so much as a breath that it's all about respect.
"I think that's the biggest things," Ridder explained. "Marcus is a guy who's played a lot of games in the NFL, and obviously, had a tremendous college career. You have to give respect where respect is due... but at the end of the day - and he knows, too - it's obviously a competition or else we wouldn't be here."
It's a spot Ridder wants. It's a spot Ridder believes he can be a fit for. And so far, that confident mindset has been evident in the way Ridder carries himself at rookie minicamp.
It's a mindset that - he believes - will carry him even farther.
"I want to win every single game. You can't go into a game thinking 1) a team is better than you and 2) that you're not going to go out there and be the best. I try to get in the mindset that every time I get on the field I am going to be the best player on the field. That's when you have to have a crooked mind sometimes," Ridder said. "Physically, mentally, you might not be the best on the field, but you have to tell yourself that (you are)."
The 2022 rookie class has arrived in Flowery Branch, and they got right to work.
Observations and notes from Day 2 of rookie minicamp:
- Early bird catches the worm: Fun fact. Ridder is a morning person. FitzPatrick said Ridder is the first person up every morning in their dorm. He's loud, too. "Like a bull in a china shop," FitzPatrick laughed. Ridder said he likes being the first person in the building every morning. He laughed that offensive lineman Tyler Vrabel beat him to the building on Saturday morning, though. It should be noted that Vrabel is Titans head coach Mike Vrabel's son. The apple probably doesn't fall too far from the tree.
- Mentals matter: Arthur Smith was honest on Saturday that because rookie minicamp is such a short amount of time he puts more emphasis on evaluating how they take what they're being thrown in meetings and retain it on the field. The coaches know what these players physical measurements are, Smith said, now they want to measure their mental capacity during this two-day span. That's what coaches mainly take from the weekend.
- UGA connection: FitzPatrick said he wasn't going to lie, his head was spinning after Day 1 of rookie minicamp. Once he got into the routine of camp, though, he settled in. He said he attributes that to the schedule Kirby Smart kept the players on at Georgia. FitzPatrick noted the way the Falcons schedule out their days mimics what he did at UGA.
- Lee Smith's legacy: One more note on FitzPatrick is that - as a blocking tight end - he really valued watching Smith last year with the Falcons. The rookie tight end said Smith's technique was something he really absorbed and wanted to translate to his game. Smith - the player and the person - was highly valued in Atlanta during his one year here. If Arthur Smith wanted to find someone with a similar type of play to replace him, FitzPatrick is a good start.
- Sizing up: The Falcons traded for another big-bodied receiver on Friday afternoon, sending a fifth-round pick to the Raiders for 6-foot-3 Bryan Edwards. When asked about adding size to the receiver room, Arthur Smith slyly said he doesn't discriminate against receivers under 6-feet, noting he loves Olamide Zaccheaus. "One of my favorite players to coach," he added. Still, there's something to be said about Edwards joining Drake London, Kyle Pitts, Auden Tate and Cordarrelle Patterson in the receiving-weapon-over-6-foot-2 club.