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Breaking Camp


That's a wrap.

Sunday evening's walkthrough officially closed 2011's training camp, and what a camp it's been.

This year's training camp featured league-imposed rule changes making it feel a lot different from years past and while physically the players had it a little easier, the lack of an offseason and the limited reps on the field meant their mental capacities were stretched and pushed to extremes.

Head coach Mike Smith never once complained about the lack of practice time for his players. He's not one to dwell on things that don't go his way. He just gets to work, corrects what's needed and finds the positives.

"It was a different camp in terms of no two-a-days, but the energy has been very good for our team," Smith said.

Perhaps the energy came from an appreciation of being back on the field. In the first few days of camp, all the players talked about how happy they were to be back to football on the team's facility. Of course, the rule changes designed to impact player health didn't hurt either.

"It went great," Todd McClure, center and team veteran, said. "It was a little different than everything I've been through, with the changes and the camp schedule, the padded practice and then the walkthrough. I think I can get used to it."

Veterans like McClure welcome the end of camp. As the sun set Sunday evening on the team's Flowery Branch facility, the veterans were pulling out in their vehicles, headed home. Asked how happy they were to get back to their own homes, many players said they couldn't even explain their enthusiasm.

For the rookies, they'll remain under the watchful eye of the team through the rest of the preseason, continuing to live at the facility. Rookies sticking around is just one of the signs that preseason is still very different from the regular season. Smith said there's still a lot of work left to do to get ready for the regular season.

"We've still got a lot of installation that we have to get in place over the next two weeks before we really get into our preparation mode for our opener," he said. "Even though training camp technically ends today, we're still in camp mode in terms of what we're trying to do in terms of installation."

Even though they've worked hard, they've always made time for fun. Safety William Moore said he couldn't believe how fast training camp went by. He blinked and it was over. Wide receiver Harry Douglas is 100 percent healthy and has had an usually good time.

"This was actually the first camp I've been through where we had a lot of fun," Douglas said. "We got a lot of work done. We did a lot of great things. We've still got a couple of things to work on, but this is the first camp that I can honestly say I enjoyed actually being in camp."

The Falcons will continue to practice and while no more practices will be open to the public, the team's fans had numerous chances to see the new-look birds up close and personal. Jeanna Thomas of Braselton took her family to camp more than a few times and are all the more excited for the 2011 season because of it.

"To sit just yards away and personally witness even this small portion of their efforts to prepare for a successful season is beyond exciting," Thomas said on Sunday. "It is a pretty special experience for a fan to get to see Matt Ryan discussing routes with Roddy White and Julio Jones, or Tony Gonzalez imparting some blocking wisdom to the other tight ends. My daughters' favorite part of training camp is always interacting with players, and even (owner & CEO) Mr. Arthur Blank, as they sign autographs after practice. I feel much more invested in, and excited about, the coming season after seeing first hand how hard the team is working and how prepared they will be."

So with that the door closes on another year of training camp in Atlanta. But every time one door closes, another opens and this one is the door into Week 3 of the preseason, an all-important week when game planning begins and the final preparations for the regular season are made.

And Harry thought he was having fun before . . .

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