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Falcons turn page on offseason




Flowery Branch, Ga -- When the Falcons players walked out the door of the team's Flowery Branch facility on Thursday, concluding the 2010 OTAs, they didn't carelessly throw the pages of their playbooks in the air.

School's out for the summer, but the players won't get the traditional three-month break.

They've been encouraged to disconnect from the playbook that has been introduced and installed in the past five weeks from early May's minicamp to May and June's four weeks of OTAs.

Thursday's conclusion to the 2010 offseason represents the end of the first phase of the upcoming season and Head Coach Mike Smith said he and his staff are ready to put a bow on that portion and move to the next.

"We're ready to put a nail in it and finish off the offseason Thursday with a good practice," said Smith on Wednesday.

Few changes in that playbook will occur in the coming weeks, according to Smith. Some tweaks will come in the week following OTAs, but barring any significant injuries or unlikely philosophy adjustments, the team's 2010 game plan is etched in stone.

"Our playbook is set," Smith said. "We'll make some adjustments on what happens in the next week and a half, but for the most part I'd say it's 99% done."

With the players departed, Atlanta's staff will spend next week finishing up player evaluation in addition to the minor playbook tweaks before taking some much-needed rest of their own. Just as he has with his players, Smith has asked that his coaching contingent unplug as well.

In short, he's told them to turn off the film projectors, close the books, and take a vacation. July 30 is quickly approaching and after that come games where all the previous months' hard work will pay off.

In Smith's mind the offseason was a success, on and off the field.

The acquisition of free-agent cornerback Dunta Robinson will shore up a pass defense that ranked 28th in yards allowed last year.

The addition of first-round linebacker Sean Weatherspoon and the other draft picks bring youth and depth to a team that struggled through an injury-riddled 2009 season.

Up to now, all the team's work has been about preparation for training camp, a phase of the season that is as real as actual games, when players compete for roster roles and starting spots.

May and June is about mental preparation. July and August is about physical exertion.

The training camp story has been written and come July, it will be up to the players to briing to life the enormous volume of plays detailed in their thick black binders.

"We've got over 1,475 snaps that we'll be running in training camp," said Smith. "They've all been scripted."

Training camp will begin in less than 45 days.

The season begins in fewer than 90 days.

It's officially time to remove the "off" from "off-season."

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