FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Keeping fans happy has become a Falcons tradition in the Thomas Dimitroff-Mike Smith Era, as evidenced by the team's 13-3 record at the Georgia Dome over the last two seasons.
Saturday was no exception, as e than 2,000 fans came to the team's training facility in Flowery Branch to watch morning and afternoon practices on Day Two of the 2010 Mini Camp.
"We come out here every year to see what the new players are doing, the rookies, some of the undrafted guys, hopefully some of the guys that were injured," said John Tillman of Lawrenceville, a season-ticket holder of 15 years and a fan for 40. His son, John Jr., donned a red Matt Ryan jersey "We're always here for at least one [practice] a day whenever they have it open."
Fans are eager to get a look at the team, which is looking to make history by recording back-to-back-to-back winning seasons. Having gotten the back-to-back winning seasons monkey off its back, the team is me relaxed with raised expectations for a deep playoff run in 2010.
"There is a lot of optimism and I think everyone is excited," Ryan said. "It was great for the organization to knock off the back-to-back winning seasons, but we want more. We want to be in the playoffs and have an opportunity to play late in the season. We are working hard to get there."
Some of that hard work was on display for the fans in the form of agility and technical drills. There was plenty of spirited play, which boiled over a couple of times, resulting in extra-curricular pushing and shoving. There were also some amazing displays of speed, power and precision. Then the unexpected brilliant plays like the leaping catch in the left corner of the end zone during red-zone drills by 2010 fifth-round draft pick Kerry Meier, which brought the crowd to its feet.
"I wanted to come out here and see the Falcons up close," said DeMeakey Williams, who recently moved to Albany, Ga. from Tampa but whose love of the Falcons dates back to the Deion Sanders days. "I love defense, the big defensive end (Jamaal Anderson), I like to see him. I love Matt Ryan, I think he's a great quarterback and I'd love to see what the cornerbacks and the secondary have to offer this year. They made some good [draft] choices and I'm eager to see how it's going to work out for them this season."
The defensive intensity was obvious throughout camp's first two days and the unit plans to send a message to the rest of the league.
"[Defensive Coordinator Brian] VanGorder put up the  rankings. We see where we finished last year," said rookie linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, the Falcons' first-round pick in the 2010 Draft. "Our goal is to become one of those defenses that you don't want to play."
Sunny skies, mid-70s temperatures and a steady breeze -- a stark contrast to the humid, high 80s temps of Friday -- made for comfortable viewing for fans packing the areas along the left sideline and behind the end zone as well as those that spread out on the hill next to the field.
"The kids are Falcons fans and it's beautiful weather so it sounded like a fun thing to do," said Mike Curtin of Roswell, a Michael Turner fan, who brought his two daughters, his eldest wearing a Ryan jersey, his youngest wearing a Falcons logo face-painted on her cheek. "My 7-year-old has been a Falcons fan for about seven years, me for about 20. Coming off of last year, I think if some of their key players remain healthy it's going to be a great season."
Turner, who looked very quick, and fully recovered from the sprained right ankle that slowed him over the final eight games of last season (five of which he sat) was excited to be doing his thing again.
"I feel great being back because I didn't finish the season last year," said Turner. "It seems like everybody's more excited this year. [9-7] wasn't our main goal but after all the things we went through, to finish with a 9-7 record, we feel pretty good about that. We have a chance to do something special."
For Rachel B. of Woodstock, who brought her two sons and daughter, special has a simple meaning.
"I want them to beat Dallas (which will have to wait until postseason, as the Cowboys aren't on the 2010 regular season schedule), but don't tell my husband that, he's a Cowboys fan," she said with a laugh. "I want them to beat the Panthers, twice, too, and the Saints. They need to beat everybody in the NFC South. 9-7 was great. So I expect them to win more games, Playoffs definitely. Super Bowl, we'll see."
MORE ON MINI CAMP:**
ROSTERS: Click here for the updated Falcons roster * PRINTABLE ROSTERS:Alphabetical (PDF) | Numerical (PDF) | Position (PDF) * BLOG: J. Michael Moore's updates on Falcons mini camp * NEWS:News updates on Falcons mini camp * PHOTOS:Images from Falcons mini camp * DRAFT:Click here for 2010 Draft coverage from AF.com * HOMEPAGE: Mini camp information and news archive * FAQ:Common questions about attending Mini Camp * DIRECTIONS:Info and directions to Flowery Branch * TWITTER: Updates on weather if necessary during mini camp