Fans joined the Falcons at Archer High School in Lawrenceville, Ga., Friday night for the Falcons' annual Kia Motors Friday Night Lights practice.
1. Back to School: Falcons head coach Mike Smith said Thursday that the Kia Motors Friday Night Lights practice means, "You're going back to your roots, when you go back and play on a high school field. The atmosphere at a high school stadium is completely different than any other venue, and I think our guys that have never done it will enjoy it. I know the guys that have been doing it for a while; it's one of their favorite parts of training camp." Minutes after the well-attended event ended on Friday night, coach Smith's assessment echoed his preview:
"I really wanted to expose our young players to what it's going to be like next Friday night," Smith said. "They're going to see more intensity next week, but I think it's going to be similar. This event is one of my favorite events. I'm very familiar with high school football in the state of Georgia and Atlanta. I spent about 14 years recruiting Atlanta; I know a lot of head coaches, a lot of coaches in this area and there's nothing like a Friday night in the late fall in Atlanta."
2. Prince Shembo's Night:The rookie LB from Notre Dame walked off the field Friday night, after an unofficial five-tackle performance, admitting that he can't wait to get right back into the film room.
"I have to watch the film," Shembo said, when asked to evaluate his performance. "I just run after the ball, that's what I like to do. I had a lot of fun and it's a lot easier, when you get to go full speed. I just want to keep learning and getting better."
Smith was pleased with Shembo's continual improvement, including tonight's production.
"I thought Prince did a very nice job," Smith said. "I think he's on a fast track to learning multiple positions, very similar to what we did with Sean Weatherspoon, when Sean was a rookie."
3. Play of the Night: Smith said that during the scrimmage portion of Friday's practice, players would be allowed to tackle to the ground, allowing for some 'true evaluation' of the younger players, including rookie WR Tramaine Thompson, who closed out the entire night with a drive-winning TD on the final play of the scrimmage.
Thompson described the TD, following the practice.
"It was just a little flat route," Thompson said. "We had a check-down at the last minute and (QB Sean) Renfree gave me a chance, I happened to make the guy miss and made a good play. It was exciting being here as I haven't been in this type of an atmosphere in nearly five years and to come back, especially in the cool atmosphere like it was tonight; it was awesome."
4. Game-Ball Award:While Friday's game ball could've easily been given to several players, the nod goes to rookie WR Bernard Reedy. The former Toledo star began his impressive night with multiple TDs during 1-on-1 work. Later, Reedy also showed fearlessness, going across the middle with no second thoughts, hauling in a pass from Matt Ryan. He's been a hit at XFINITY® Atlanta Falcons Training Camp and his stock continues to rise.
5. Final Thoughts: First things first, the intensified practice from Thursday carried over into tonight's Kia Motors Friday Night Lights practice, which shouldn't be a surprise as the players are essentially auditioning for jobs. Next, the Falcons fan base continues to show its passion for the team, showing up in huge numbers to watch practices, cheering on the squad, truly believing that 2014 is going to be an unforgettable turnaround season.
Extra Notes: During Friday night's practice, Falcons S Dwight Lowery walked off the field with trainers, after a hit against RB Jacquizz Rodgers. Smith said he will likely have a full report on Lowery's health in the morning.