Monday marked the first day of practice with full pads for the Falcons. There was also a nice breeze at the branch for the fourth day of 2014 XFINITY Atlanta Falcons Training Camp.
1. Pads Go On: The first padded practice of 2014 XFINITY Atlanta Falcons Training Camp was high in energy and spirit, but head coach Mike Smith called it "OK" when asked following the session. He guessed that, after watching tape of the session, he'd notice a lot of high pad levels and technique issues, but that's what he expects out of his team on the first day of wearing pads. "That's something that we can correct, easily," Smith said. "The effort was outstanding, and the energy was very good, but some of the technical things we've got to make sure that we get corrected on tape."
2. Oklahoma!: For the first time under Smith the Falcons ran the Oklahoma drill, and if you're unfamiliar, it was a sight to behold as the crack of pads filled the air for about 10 minutes at the start of Monday's session. Inside a 5-yard wide box, two offensive players (one of which is a ball-carrier), battle a defensive player, who's job it is to shed the block and make the tackle. It was live hitting all around and the intensity was high during this session. "There was some great competition with the Oklahoma drills," safety Dwight Lowery said. "There was competition but it was also fun. We had a good time. When you get to knock each other around a little bit and not run around in shorts, it's a lot more fun."
3. Chippy Practice Session: The first padded practice didn't come without its skirmishes. There were several to speak of during Monday's practice and, while Smith likes to see the intensity, his message to his players is all about being smart about their physicality: "You're wasting a lot of energy when you're fighting, but it's expected. Guys are competing. They're fighting for jobs, but that's not the way to fight for a job. The way to fight for a job is to do it between the whistles, and I anticipate, as I said early on last April, that (practices) will be a little bit different."
4. Hageman Gets First Taste of NFL Physicality: Defensve end Ra'Shede Hageman cuts an imposing figure on the field but when he adds a full set of pads, he's downright monstrous. He got his first look at what it's like to get a little physical in the NFL and he came away feeling a bit rusty. The pace of training camp is something that he hasn't had to adjust much to. He is completely focused on the game of football and improving his craft and he feels like he's been taking full advantage of it: "It's a full-time job. I don't have any responsibilities right now. I'm usually on Facebook and Instagram or I'm in my playbook, so really I don't have any responsibilities besides (maintaining) my position, maintaining my job."
5. Rookie Club Starting to Shine: Asked if there was any one player that was standing out above the rest as a surprise, Smith pointed to his entire 2014 Rookie Club. Usually at this point in camp, the heads are still swimming, but Smith likes what he sees out of the group through four practices: "I think that the whole (Rookie Club) shows a lot of good qualities. I think, thus far, they've had a good understanding of what we're trying to do. I think our first- and second-round picks are outstanding players that are going to help us. They're on a fast track to have lots of playing time."