The Falcons are officially back as 2014 XFINITY Atlanta Falcons Training Camp began Friday. Fans gathered on the hill to watch their favorite players practice.
1. White Locked In: In the days of free agency, it's so rare to see a player spend his entire career with one team, but that's the way things are shaping up for WR Julio Jones, who penned his name to a four-year contract extension just before XFINITY® Atlanta Falcons Training Camp kicked off. White had a little zip in his step during the first session of camp Friday and it was likely a product of getting some big business out of the way. "When I first actually got to the league, I just wanted to play five years. It's crazy. It's just over time, you get to this point, it's been really, really good, man. We've won a lot of games, especially since (head coach Mike) Smith got here. It's been a heck of a ride, and I just hope it continues to be this way and we just continue to win games."
2. Waiving Johnson Opens Up WR Spot: The announcement Friday just before the first session of camp that the Falcons have parted ways with WR Darius Johnson means that the door for young wide receivers has swung wide open. Smith wouldn't give any reasoning behind the move to waive Johnson, but said that there is a huge opportunity now for players like Bernard Reedy, an impressive undrafted WR, as well as some of his teammates: "I think that opens that up to a lot of competition. I think there's a number of positions that there's gonna be some very intense competition and I think that back end of the wide receiver position now is wide open. I think there'll be a couple of young guys that probably weren't in the mix that are probably going to get into the mix now."
3. Passion Shows in Biermann and Matthews: We usually get to the dog days of camp before there's an on-field scuffle, but fans didn't have to wait long as defensive end Kroy Biermann and rookie offensive tackle Jake Matthews traded a few jabs around the midway point of Day 1. Biermann and Matthews were on each other all day and a push turned into a shove, and so on. For Biermann, there was the excitement of having some true contact for the first time since his Achilles injury. For Matthews, it was a chance to prove that there's not anyone he'll back down from. Overall, Smith expects to see more of that: "I imagine we'll have some of those types of battles all through training camp. Those things are good. I think it keeps it spirited, and we're gonna have spirited football practices here in Flowery Branch up to the start of the first game."
4. Clap It Up for Julio: Friday marked the much-heralded return of Julio Jones to the field since he was lost for the 2013 season after a Week 4 injury, and fans were eager to see him. There were many occasions when fans found themselves applauding each of Jones' accomplishments on the field Friday, from the easiest catch to a couple of impressive moves. He's on a schedule of on-again, off-again as his action at camp will be throttled to save him for the season, but Smith said it was good to see him back again: "I thought it was very good. You guys saw it. He was running routes very well. I thought the timing between he and Matt was very good. We have a plan, a prescription that we're going to try to stay by for the first couple of weeks and then we'll make an evaluation after that."
5. Falcons Will Pad Up This Weekend: The day you've all been waiting for is Sunday, July 27, and that's when the Falcons will finally come out to practice in full pads. As the offensive and defensive lines have garnered plenty of attention this offseason, the pads will give fans a good chance to truly evaluate some of the new — and big — additions up front.