FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – It didn't take long for the topic of Julio Jones to come up at the Falcons' pre-training camp press conference on Thursday.
Following Wednesday night's announcement that Jones would attend training camp after an adjustment to his contract, there was plenty of questions for general manager Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Dan Quinn to answer.
"We felt like we came to a good agreement, we were very creative with how we put this together," This adjustment is cap neutral, as has been mentioned, it still allows us to continue to focus on the other players that we're focused on signing in the relatively near future. We feel like we're in a really good spot right now."
Although fans and media members were left in the dark as to whether the Falcons' star receiver would report for training camp with the rest of the team, Quinn said he wasn't too worried.
"I probably didn't feel the same stress that you and the fan base had," Quinn said. "I know there were some reports out regarding him not coming [but] I've known he was coming to camp for a while. That's part of the good communication with players and coaches."
The contract talks with Julio did not turn contentious
The Falcons have maintained throughout the entire negotiating process with Jones that the two parties remained amicable with one another and that message was reiterated during the press conference.
"Honestly, I didn't feel like it was – it was never contentious at all," Dimitroff said. "At least from our perspective it wasn't, and I never got that feeling from Jimmy Sexton, to be honest with you, in my discussions with Julio's representation… You can have win-win solutions, they don't have to be contentious. And, in the end, this worked out."
Dimitroff finished his thought by saying that they will return to the discussions with Jones and his representation after the "2018-slash-19 season" and continue to look at a long-term solution.
Having Julio back 'makes you feel a hell of a lot better at night'
Obviously the return of Jones, arguably the most talented receiver in the NFL, is important for the Falcons' prospects this season. When asked what the difference was between having Jones on the team and not having Jones on the team, Quinn had an answer most fans might agree with.
"It makes you feel a hell of a lot better at night," Quinn said. "He's just such a competitor and he's got such rare stuff about him. As coaches, you really admire the guys that really put out and have their stuff together. And sometimes there's the rare guy that has all the talent and the work ethic to go with it… When those two things are in alignment, and the competitor is right, some of the special stuff happens."
Jones has often let his play do the talking, and his game certainly speaks for itself, but Quinn explained that just because he isn't the most outspoken person doesn't mean he isn't an important voice in the locker room.
"He's not necessarily a vocal guy outside the walls, but he knows when to speak up and inside the rooms, he is," Quinn said. "He's not afraid to have the uncomfortable conversation with a teammate, which is always a good sign of a leader. One of the things that I respect and admire about him as a leader is this: His walk matches his talk."
The relationship between Quinn and Dimitroff remains very strong
Julio's contract wasn't the only contract discussed. With Quinn and Dimitroff each receiving three-year contract extensions recently, their connection as co-team builders remains strong.
"The clarity of communication between Q and I from working together as we have – going into our fourth season – it's fantastic and it really helps," Dimitroff said. "It's always about thinking about the team together and always being mindful in where we are in our approach together. We talk about brotherhood with the team, the brotherhood that we have as a partnership within the departments on the management side and the personnel side with the coaching side – I know you guys get sick and tired of hearing about it – but it's legit, it's real. Humbly, we get calls from people from other organizations, other GMs, other head coaches who are asking about 'how do you groove with that?' That's always something that I always feel very good and encouraged by."
Dimitroff explained that from the very beginning of their partnership they talked about how important it was to be in sync and working together as a head coach and general manager. He said Quinn came into the team understanding how important their relationship would be, a sentiment Quinn echoed.
"It was important for me to have a relationship, from a general manager side, that had experience," Quinn said. "For me, of course I was going to have some on-the-job training to become a head coach. Thomas has been through that. For him and Arthur [Blank], I needed to have somebody I could ask questions to. I hope my development never stops as a coach, and I continue to grow. I feel like I'm a much better coach than when I stepped in here in 2015, but that was important to me."
Quinn names two areas where the Falcons fell short in 2017
For the Falcons to get where they want to go, there are a couple of areas in which they can improve upon their 2017 performance. When asked if there was one area in particular where they fell short last season, Quinn named both turnover margin and overall consistency.
"We finished in the minus in turnover ratio and that's hard to do and play really good football," Quinn said. "So that's not just one side of the ball turning it over, it's the whole thing. The defense creating the takeaways and giving the ball to the offense for more opportunities to go. When you're in like the double-digits – in plus-10, plus-11 – you're having a pretty good year. When you're in the minus or right around zero or one, man, you're as average as can be."
To see what else Quinn had so say about the improvements he's looking to make from last season, click here.