FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Today's Early Bird Report includes the Falcons having a presence in Dallas for the draft as well as the retirement of one of the NFL's best defenders.
Before we get to some of the headlines from over the weekend, it's important to note that today marks the beginning of offseason workouts for the Falcons. Participation is not mandatory for Falcons players until June 12, which is the beginning of mandatory minicamp, but the team has had full participation in the voluntary workouts for each of the past three seasons.
Players will not begin on-field activities for a little while longer, however. For the first two weeks of the offseason program, activities are limited to strength and conditioning as well as physical rehabilitation.
After those first two weeks, players then have three weeks of individual on-field drills or team practice held on a "separate" basis – no offense vs. defense or live contact is permitted.
Finally, after those three weeks, the Falcons will begin organized team activities (OTAs) on May 21, which will take place over the next four weeks. During this time, there is still no live contact allowed, but the team can go offense vs. defense in the form of 7-on-7, 9-on-9 or 11-on-11 drills.
But the first step towards preparing for the 2018 season begins today, and the Falcons are back in Flowery Branch ready for the journey ahead.
Now, back to your regularly-scheduled Early Bird Report programming, Enjoy!
FALCONS HEADLINES FROM AROUND THE COUNTRY
Associated Press: NFL Draft: Big D is about something other than Dallas
This year, the NFL Draft is headed to Jerry World for what is sure to be a spectacular display. The NFL has taken the draft on the road in recent years, with last year's event being held at the Philadelphia Art Museum with the famed "Rocky" statue looking on from nearby.
The league hasn't been afraid to experiment with the draft recently, and Barry Wilner of The Associated Press reports that this year will include cheering sections for each of the 32 fan bases.
"To that end, this draft will include specific cheering (and, yes, some will become booing) sections for all 32 teams," Wilner writes. "Modeled somewhat on how political convention floors look, each "Inner Circle" will have 50 fans of that club, with team signage and colors. Cheeseheads and Terrible Towels aren't likely to be optional for the Packers and Steelers fans, of course."
Atlanta will also be represented in Dallas, as Wilner reports that members of the "ATL Cast" will be in attendance with a little help from the organization.
"The Falcons are sending members of their independent supporters group 'The Cast,'" Wilner writes. "Cast members are responsible for their own travel and expenses; the team blocked hotel rooms for them. At their Inner Circle will be Fatheads and drums.
"Atlanta is sending cheerleaders, too."
So, who exactly are The ATL Cast? After being identified through team surveys, The ATL Cast became a coalition of the most energetic and passionate Falcons fans. They have since organized meetings and game day activities to help create a football atmosphere the city of Atlanta can be proud of. Recently, the Falcons named The ATL Cast the team's official supporters club.
For more information about The ATL Cast, you can view their official Facebook page, here.
Here are more articles for Falcons fans:
BIGGEST NEWS FROM AROUND THE NFL
NFL.com: Steelers great James Harrison announces retirement
One of the best defenders over the last decade-and-a-half is calling it a career. James Harrison, 39, announced on Instagram Monday morning his decision to retire after playing 15 seasons in the NFL.
After going undrafted in 2002, Harrison spent a year playing for NFL Europe's Rhein Fire in 2003. After getting his shot in the league, Harrison became a dominant defender for the Pittsburgh Steelers. In his first 10 years with the Steelers, Harrison was named an NFL Defensive Player of the Year, a five-time Pro Bowler and a two-time first-team All Pro while becoming the team's all-time sack leader with 80.5 sacks.
Here are some more articles from around the league: