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Bair: Grady Jarrett's play, authentic leadership sets proper defensive tone

Arthur Smith calls defensive tackle 'a real dude,' great example for young Falcons

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Atlanta Falcons defensive tackle Grady Jarrett #97 during joint practice with the Miami Dolphins on Wednesday August 18, 2021. (Photo by Kara Durrette/Atlanta Falcons)

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – The Falcons defensive front had two solid joint practices with the Miami Dolphins, opening a window for Grady Jarrett to shower his position group with praise Thursday after the sessions wrapped.

He didn't use it.

The star defensive tackle didn't mention how dominant he was or how his teammates at times overwhelmed the Miami offensive front on Wednesday especially.

"Obviously, the successes make you feel good, but teams make adjustments, and we need to make adjustments to get better," Jarrett said. "It was good to have some success, but it definitely wasn't a perfect showing for us over the past two days. There's always room to get better."

That wasn't just player-speak. It wasn't designed strictly as something coaches would want to hear. It was the truth, an honest assessment accounting for both the good and the bad. That's exactly how a team leader should act both in public and around his teammates when fans aren't watching.

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"Grady's a real dude, and I mean that as the highest possible compliment," Falcons head coach Arthur Smith said on Wednesday. "He comes out here and works, competes and gets better. He doesn't rest on anything that he has done in the past. He tries to prove it every year."

That's sky-high praise from Smith, who values authenticity in his leadership core. Smith accurately believes players can see right through the rah-rah speeches if they aren't supported with substance, or that demands to work hard ring hollow if the speaker doesn't follow the same code.

He's right on both counts.

Smith nailed it by saying Jarrett's a real dude, a point crystal clear during a conversation about his leadership style. To borrow Jarrett's phrase from earlier this camp, "there ain't no fluff" in it.

"I always say that, in leadership role, I can't ask anything of anybody that I'm unwilling to do myself," Jarrett said. "I want to work hard day in and day out, to be that example. Whether it's going good or going bad, I always know I'm going to show up. I want to be that steady thing guys can look to. There are no excuses with me, and that you always go to work hard."

That's a good tone to set with a defensive front consisting largely of new players or young ones. He's the mainstay around here someone who has experienced highs and lows with this franchise. He has reached great individual success, especially over consecutive Pro Bowl seasons leading into the 2021 campaign.

He's the defensive line's best player but doesn't act like it, instead still searching for ways to get better as a player and position-group leader.

"I'm trying to learn how I can best serve my teammates and what I can do to make myself better as well," Jarrett said. "That's about being self-critical before I criticize somebody else. I want to keep the focus on bringing people up over bringing them down."

The Atlanta Falcons are in Miami participating in joint practices with the Dolphins leading up to the second preseason game on Saturday.

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