Fans joined the Falcons at Buford High School in Buford, Ga., Friday night for the Falcons' annual Kia Motors Friday Night Lights practice.
Buford Brings It: A large crowd produced an electric atmosphere at Buford High School, where locals filled the stadium long before practice began. The offensive linemen did a great job pumping up the crowd to get the night started — especially rookie Valerian Ume-Ezeoke, whose cartwheeling ability proved to be a hit.
"It was good to have everybody out there tonight," said head coach Dan Quinn. "To be in this stadium where football, high school football is so important … You can imagine how proud I am to be a part of it."
Fan Favorites Shine: A number of Atlanta's more popular players had great nights, including Desmond Trufant and Antone Smith. Trufant dominated throughout one-on-one drills and hauled in a difficult interception; Smith, who got a lot of reps with Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman on the shelf, exploded for a few long runs to the outside.
"It was great to see 'Tone just really come into life," said Quinn. "For him to have an injury and come back and battle the way he did, the rehab, I was so thrilled for him tonight. I really felt that burst. It was a draw, it was an outside run, catching the ball — I thought a terrific night by him. Kind of a way to say, 'I'm back.' "
Special Teams: As Dave Archer told the crowd, Atlanta's kick and punt return units have been among the NFL's best throughout Keith Armstrong's coaching tenure. That doesn't figure to change any time soon.
STs have looked good from the start of camp, and with a lot of new, high-energy players in the mix, Armstrong is feeling especially optimistic about his group.
"The young guys are really into it. They're hungry," Armstrong said. "They're coming up for extra meetings; we're not having to go to them. That's a great thing. They have a really good attitude … I don't want to just single one guy out because everybody's done a really good job."
Beasley, Hardy, Asamoah Return: Vic Beasley, Jr., Justin Hardy and Jon Asamoah returned to the field after missing Thursday morning's workout with stomach bugs. Hardy looked especially good during one-on-one drills and stole the show during the final scrimmage, when he made three big receptions — the last of which resulted in a TD that ended the night.
"You know I was really thrilled with Justin," Quinn said. "One of the things with him is he has terrific hands. So for him to go and catch the deep ball — sometimes you think of his as a slot and the inside guy — so for him to go get a deep one and then here in the two-minute (drill) to go get the game-winner, that's a competitor."
Injury Update: Brooks Reed (hip/groin), Tevin Coleman (hamstring), Devonta Freeman (hamstring) and Cliff Matthews (ankle) were held out. Charles Godfrey left early because of a cut on his forehead but isn't expected to miss time. Quinn said there are no timetables for Coleman and Freeman's returns, but he hopes they'll be able to participate in individual drills next week.