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Key quotes from interview with Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot

Terry Fontenot sat down with Tori McElhaney the day after the Falcons trimmed their active roster down to 53 men to talk all things roster construction and the 2023 season ahead.

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – In an exclusive interview with, Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot sat down to discuss all things roster construction on the day that followed the Falcons initial 53-man roster announcement.

You can watch Wednesday evening's conversation in full above, but here are some of the key quotes from Fontenot about this 2023 roster as it currently stands a week out from the start of the 2023 season.

On the Falcons 53-man roster being a difficult one to make in 2023…

Fontenot: "It was challenging. Now, you look at it and we have 14 players on the practice squad, and we will continue to build up our practice squad (as of Thursday, the unit has reached its 16-player max), but the players on the practice squad, they are going to help us win this year because they are good players in the NFL. That was hard, because we had to sit down and go through the cut process with them and expose them to the other teams. I think it's a testament to -- when you look at our practice squad and the guys who have gone on there and you look at our roster at the 53-man from top to bottom -- every one of those players can go out there and help us win.

"We look at it like it's a 53(-man) plus 16, but it was a challenging roster to make. It was challenging to go through the process of making those cuts. We know that every single one of those players that were here, and also some players that were not here right now -- because we're always looking -- they're going to help us have a sustained winner this year."

On starting quarterback Desmond Ridder and how Fontenot has seen him evolve…

Fontenot: "He continues to grow. He continues to get better in all areas of his game. When you play that position, it's not always about the physical talent -- we know he has physical talent. And yet, you see a lot of guys with physical talent (who) don't quite handle everything the right way. It's between the ears, it's right here in your chest. It's everything that he's about, because there are going to be some ups and downs. There are going to be challenging moments. The season is almost like a rollercoaster, and you better be prepared for that. You better be able to handle the pressure. You better be able to handle the tough times. And to not only handle the failures but to handle the success. When you're doing really well, you have to handle it the right way. We believe in Desmond in those areas.

"Obviously, he has the physical talent, and we like all of those factors, but it's about who he is as well and how he's going to handle the ups and downs of the season -- the successes, the failures. You have to have someone who can really handle that adversity to get to where we're going."

On the "rare maturity" Fontenot has seen Bijan Robinson exude…

Fontenot: "It's very impressive the way he's handled himself, because it is (a lot). He has a lot put on him, and I know the coaches and this staff (have) a plan of exactly how to go through it, but he's handled everything in stride. When you have a player like that, there are a lot of pressures in every area as you talk about handling adversity. When you talk about handling ups and downs, you have to be able to handle off-the-field stuff. But I would say he has a rare maturity about himself. The first time we met him, and I think back to when we spent time with him in Austin, Texas, you saw a rare maturity. You've seen someone who has handled everything in stride. We fully expect him to handle things (in Atlanta) the same way.

"But he has an intensity about him, too. Everybody sees the nice smile, but he can lock in and go to that dark place. He can lock in to do whatever he has to do to get the job done, whether you're talking about in the building, on the practice field, and we know it's going to carry over to the games, too. So, a rare maturity, but he can flip that switch and go to work."

On how the mindset of the defensive coaching staff has permeated to the defensive unit as a whole…

Fontenot: "(Ryan Nielsen) is the defensive coordinator, so it starts with him, but you go down that staff and, whether you talk about (Dave) Huxtable, Jerry (Gray) or (Steve) Jackson, Frank Bush, you go through that whole (group) and that attack, aggressive (mindset), the violence, the competitiveness that permeates through that whole defensive staff. That's the way that whole staff is wired.

"Then, the players. We love our coaches and in regard to that mentality, the teaching aspect, and yet, you better bring in the right types of guys. If we want to be an attacking, aggressive, violent football team, you have to have the right types of players or they're not going to fit. They're not going to work in the weight room in the way we need to. They're not going to work on the field and it's not going to carry over unless you bring in the right guys. So, that's why you appreciate that. You appreciate the players that we have here."

On coming out of the salary cap constraints of the last two years to get the cap to a healthy level, and keeping it that way in the long term….

Fontenot: "You have to have consistency in what you do. You always have to think long term. You can never just be a prisoner of the moment and just do whatever you can do for today. You have to think long term. We never say, 'We're just trying to win this game.' We are trying to have a sustained winner, and we're building a championship roster one player at a time, but not just for one year. We want a sustained winner. You see it all the time, not just in football but in any sport or any walk of life, when you're just thinking in the moment you're making decisions just about right now. Sometimes you have to make sacrifices in everything we do for right now that's going to help you later, having that discipline. So, we have to be consistent and have discipline in the way we make decisions. If we do that, then we can consistently continue to win right now, but then, also, we're not putting (ourselves) in a tough situation in the future. So, I would say we just have to be consistent and have discipline."

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