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Camp report: Marcus Mariota leadership style shines through as offensive chemistry builds, Michael Vick stops by, plus other news and notes

Feleipe Franks stands out both at tight end and quarterback during Wednesday's practice

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Quarterback Marcus Mariota is still new to the Falcons organization, working through his first training camp in Atlanta. Even though he's familiar with Arthur Smith and his scheme from their days together in Tennessee, chemistry has to be built with his lineman and receivers.

That takes time. And reps. And learning from mistakes.


Mariota is one who doesn't want to wait before fixing them, digging into the issues right away so they don't grow into larger concerns.

"You have to be able to go up there and communicate and talk through certain situations and talk through the scenario, what happened, talk through what you saw, what we can get better at," Mariota said. "I really believe in constant communication and, at the same time, I think it's just a little bit of encouragement.

"Sometimes guys get a little down if they're not getting the ball, I think they understand that it is a competition but if you put out great routes and you practice hard, that's all that we're asking from you."

That provides a small window into Mariota's leadership style, which contains constructive criticism sprinkled with a dash of encouragement. Or maybe a little more than that.

Mariota isn't Matt Ryan and doesn't need to be. Even if you don't hear about Mariota fired up commanding teammates or quizzing them during down time, that doesn't mean he's not impactful getting the team focused on improving as a unit and growing together.

Arthur Smith prizes authentic leadership as much as anything. Mariota is being himself, putting his unique stamp on the Falcons in his own way.

"Offensively, he runs everything. He's in charge of everything," tight end Kyle Pitts said. "So, if he sees us slacking a little bit, he's going to pick us back up. He wants consistency and improvement on a daily basis.

"He's a mixture of being vocal and leading by example. He sets the tone and everybody picks up on that."

Mariota has set a proper tone in this Falcons training camp, which has led to improvement as an offense. It hasn't been a hard job, Mariota says, because he's just being himself and the teamwide culture is really strong.

"There are no cliques. Everybody hangs out," Mariota told NFL Network. "There's competitive ping pong in there. There are cards being dealt. I enjoy it because, when you have guys who enjoy being around each other, it shows up on the practice field and makes a difference. Guys are willing to work for each other. Everyone's talented across the league, it comes down to the relationships you have and the chemistry you build."

That's how Mariota likes the team to work together as a cohesive unit. We've discussed how he problem solves. What about as an offensive field general?

"The way he approaches things, the way he takes control of the huddle," running back Cordarrelle Patterson said. "He gives us what we need. He's a leader, man. You can tell the way he carries himself. We all have high standards for that guy. He knows that and we go as he goes."


Michael Vick in the house

Falcons legend Michael Vick was at Falcons training camp on Wednesday. He toured his old paying facility, did some media, watched practice with general manager Terry Fontenot and spoke to this year's team after Wednesday's practice.

Head coach Arthur Smith has enjoyed seeing Falcons legends come through Flowery Branch and was particularly fond of Vick stopping by.

"For anyone born pre-1990s, he was probably one of the most electric football players you'd ever see," Smith said. "It has been cool getting to know Michael and all of our former players. We welcome those guys back with open arms. Those guys are important to me and important to this franchise."

Preseason playing time

Smith has said that most everyone healthy will play in the preseason, including frontline starters. That could happen as soon as Friday in Detroit. Lions head coach Dan Campbell said that he spoke to Smith about "starters" playing in the preseason opener. That sounds like a real possibility, though how long is ultimately anyone's guess.

No. 1 quarterback Marcus Mariota is ready to play if needed. So is Kyle Pitts. So is Grady Jarrett. And Cordarrelle Patterson. It's fair to expect at least a cameo for most of them as we kickstart the preseason. If a player isn't healthy, then they could well sit.

Getting closer to Detroit! #RiseUp

Injury updates

Defensive lineman Marlon Davidson missed a second straight day of practice on Wednesday, though Smith said nothing to indicate that it's a serious matter.

Nose tackle Anthony Rush and linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski also missed Wednesday's work.

Safety Jaylinn Hawkins pulled up awkwardly in a special teams drill, with an apparently bothered left leg/ankle. Trainers attended to him after the incident. While he didn't leave the field, he didn't jump back into team drills. He watched the rest of practice from the sideline instead.

More news and notes

QB Marcus Mariota had another good day on Wednesday, with a few top-level throws. Desmond Ridder has struggled at times, seemingly with inaccuracy. One such pass was underthrown and intercepted by Dee Alford.

Feleipe Franks continues to work at quarterback for certain periods and has made some really nice throws despite spending most of camp working at tight end. He had a late pick as well, though, intercepted by Cornell Armstrong.

Do you want to know that Drew Dalman was at center and that the daily rotation with Matt Hennessy continues? If so, it did.

Jared Bernhardt made a nice play near the sidelines during one-on-one drills but ended up crashing into A.J. Terrell who was watching the play. Terrell initially fell but popped back up feeling fine. It was a tense moment there, but no harm, no foul.


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