ATLANTA – When the Falcons drafted Drake London at No. 8 overall in the 2022 NFL Draft, GM Terry Fontenot saw him as the perfect fit for the team's ethos for what the franchise is building. In his NFL debut against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, London led the Falcons receiving core with 74 yards on five receptions, averaging 14.8 yards per catch, with his longest being a 31-yarder late in the second quarter after connecting on a strike from quarterback Marcus Mariota. When asked about what he'll remember most about his first NFL game, the answer was simple.
"The whole thing," London said laughing. "Every little part of it. Just being out there in front of the fans, the crowd, hearing them scream. It was really really cool being that I haven't played in the preseason, really just one play. It was cool to be out there just to feel that."
London has been in rehab until he started practicing on Monday, working to recover from a knee injury he suffered his first preseason game against the Detroit Lions. He missed the remainder of training camp and returned to practice for the first regular season game after being limited all week. During that time of recovery, London said it was a straightforward process for him as he worked quickly to get back in the Falcons rotation.
"Just trying to be able to run, that's pretty much it," London said. "Rehab and staying mentally focused and locked into the playbook."
On Sunday, he played all four quarters, seeing significant minutes as a contributing factor for the Falcons offense. The chemistry between Mariota and London was clear all game. London caught five of seven catches. His speed and physicality played a vital role in forcing him as a threat for the Saints' secondary, but Mariota knows that's the expectation for the rookie wideout.
"I thought he had a great game," Mariota said in Sunday's post-game press conference. "For us, it's no surprise. We've seen that throughout camp, we've seen that in OTAs, so I think it's a great stepping stone but that's expectation. That's the standard we're going to hold him to."
As the Falcons head into Week 2 against the Los Angeles Rams, this first game for London is something he looks to build upon moving forward in his rookie campaign.
"A lot of things to learn from," London said. "For me personally, us as a unit, us as a team. So just going back and watching film, trying to perfect my craft and perfect our craft as well so that doesn't happen again."
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