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Embracing Leadership


Something funny happened along the way as Roddy White became one of the best receivers in the game. He's also become one of the least selfish players to play a position widely regarded as boasting the highest ratio of divas per team.

White's got the accolades. He's got the numbers. He's frequently mentioned among the league's elite. One of the best-kept secrets, however, is the kind of leader the Pro Bowl receiver has become.

At 29 and entering what should be his prime, White is the elder statesman of the receiver crew, leading a young pack of guys like Harry Douglas and Kerry Meier. Eric Weems, at 26, is the next oldest, but he's young in experience in the league and is just coming into his own as a receiver with the Falcons, used primarily as a return man in recent years.

Roddy White sets an example for his crew by first displaying a desire and appreciation for simply practicing each day. Few guys appear to be having more fun than him each day on the field. Ask White and he'll tell you he's not crazy about training camp and the games that accompany it, but he knows it's part of the job.

"I really don't care for them, but we've got to go out there and certain things have to get timed out," he said on Monday. "Me and Matt (Ryan) have certain timing routes. We've got to go out there and run and get the ball out and get everything timed up. They're useful in that aspect but other than that, I can't wait for September 11 when we go up to Chicago and get it going."

His work ethic has become second to none and he sets the bar for the guys that follow in his footsteps. He works hard to stay in shape, maintaining a frame that won two South Carolina high school state wrestling championships. That frame allows him to fend off pesky cornerbacks who try to snatch passes away.

It also allows him to stay physical as a blocker in the run game, something Atlanta's offense requires of its receivers. The example is set by the Pro Bowler and the rest make sure they're able to stay as physical.

Roddy White is one of the leaders of the Falcons' offense. He's content to do what he can to help the team win, knowing his presence on the field means other guys will get open. He's searching for rings now, not receptions.

On Monday, he shared his vision of the offense, one that is based on reads by Ryan, scanning the field prior to the snap and looking for the best matchups. White will rarely have those favorable matchups and he's okay with that. Being the best player on the field has a price and while his numbers may take a hit, there are other receivers capable of putting up some numbers, too.

For proof of what can happen even when White's not a key part of the offense, look no further than the first quarter of last Friday's preseason game.

"Harry did a good job in the game," White said. "E. Weems caught a lot of balls in the game and Julio (Jones) did a good job, too. We need our young guys to get going real early in the preseason and catch a lot of balls so when we get to the regular season games everything is kind of kosher and you can just cruise through."

White has embraced the fact that he knows this offense as well as he knows the way home. All he needs, as he said, is to make sure his timing is on point with Ryan. The rest of the time, he's spending getting everybody else up to speed.

"I had some opportunities to get the ball (Friday), but I didn't get it thrown to me, but that's not my concern right now," White said. "I'm just kind of easing the young guys in and the young guys are making a lot of plays right now."

As long as the young guys are making plays, everything will be fine. White knows he'll get his. "His" may be a little harder to come by this year, but he's ready for a fight.

He's also ready to lead. He seems to know that leading may be his best way to the rings he's seeking.

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