FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. --Last time the Falcons held mini camp here the buzz centered on a future Hall of Fame tight end catching his first passes with a new team. This year, Tony Gonzalez returns to the lineup of a team that finished 9-7 but missed the playoffs a season ago.
Now the buzz is on expectations.
"Camp starts tomorrow," Gonzalez posted on his Twitter account Thursday morning. "Falcons will be going for greatness this year."
Gonzalez, a 10-time Pro Bowler and all-time leader in almost every statistical category for tight ends, knows what he's talking about. The Falcons were slowed by injury in 2009, losing first- and second-round draft picks (Peria Jerry and William Moore) to season-ending injuries. The team also went for stretches without running back Michael Turner and quarterback Matt Ryan.
The Falcons also lost starting cornerback Brian Williams in the first half of the season, forcing younger players into the lineup in the secondary.
With manpower recovered, Atlanta's focus is on building a team that can take the next step.
It starts this weekend at mini camp, where fans can also get a look at the buzz in 2010, including the first look at first-round pick Sean Weatherspoon and Dunta Robinson -- a free agent addition.
Some interesting facts as the Falcons take the field for mini camp Friday-Sunday (Saturday is open to the public).
A total of 83 players are on the roster as of Thursday afternoon
Four quarterbacks * Seven running backs (one rookie) * 11 wide receivers (four rookies) * Six tight ends (three rookies) * 14 offensive linemen (two rookies) * 12 defensive linemen (two rookies) * Nine linebackers (three rookies) * 14 defensive backs (five rookies, one free agent) * Six specialists (kickers, punters and long snappers, two rookies)
- Six players have 10 or more years experience, led by Gonzalez (14) * Alabama, Cal, LSU and Wake Forest are the most-represented schools (three players each). * 16 players played SEC football * Atlanta returns every starter -- offense and defense -- from Week 17 of last year * At the close of 2009 there were 15 new starters on the roster than in 2007
MORE ON MINI CAMP:**
ROSTERS: Click here for the updated Falcons roster * PRINTABLE ROSTERS:Alphabetical (PDF) | Numerical (PDF) | Position (PDF) * 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