Heading into Thursday's preseason opener, Desmond Trufant still has a hold on the starting cornerback position across from , but the Falcons' other rookie cornerback, Robert Alford, isn't going quietly into the night.
Going quietly isn't the style of either of these two rookie corners, and one of Atlanta's most verbal players approves of the rookies' approach on the field. Roddy White said last week that Trufant and Alford have impressed him with their competitive spirit and desire to go after Atlanta's talented receiver corp.
Both players have learned a lot from the lessons through the first 10 days of camp going against White and Julio Jones. They know what it means to get burned in the NFL. They understand the necessity of a short memory at their position. Trufant said he learned proper mechanics is the only way to beat top-level players.
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"You've just got to be (focused on your) technique first," Trufant said. "You can't try to make plays without doing your technique. It's technique first and then the plays will come after that. That's the biggest thing I've learned."
When the pads came on at practices a week ago, the physical play of Alford became much more noticeable. While Trufant was penciled in as starter since the Falcons hit the field, even during OTAs, Alford has kept up the competition, continuing to gun for that top spot. He's been told he didn't have what it takes for a long time and he used that as motivation. He still brings that attitude onto the field in the NFL.
"I came from a small school and a lot of people told me I couldn't make it," Alford said. "I have a big chip on my shoulder and I knew I had to prove myself. I carried it onto into the NFL now. Just because I got drafted high doesn't mean I'm going to let my chip fall. I still have to go out here every day, compete and keep carrying that chip on my shoulder."
Both rookies are still learning to adapt to the NFL game. Alford continues to harness his physical play, toeing the line of flag-inducing play and game-changing play. Trufant has steadily improved during his short time as a Falcon. He's had days when he's been tested physically and mentally, but he's continued to get better each day. Both players say they continue to help each other get better and the cornerback position group helps everyone.
Thursday will be both players' first NFL game and while they're excited, they're reminding themselves of the lessons they've learned so far so they can play as impressively as they have under the bright lights of the Georgia Dome as they have at the practice facility in Flowery Branch.
"I'm definitely excited for the first game," Trufant said. "It's my first NFL game. I'm just going to be aggressive and go out there and play anxiety-free."
Alford, who is a whirlwind of energy, looks forward to taking the competition of camp to the next level, facing off against true opponents, but a different color jersey doesn't mean a change in attitude. Physical play got him to where he is and it will continue.
"It doesn't matter who is in front of me, I'm going to be physical," he said. "That's just my style of play."