1. Julio's Evaluation:Julio Jones' first practice in pads of the 2014 season took place on Tuesday, followed by Wednesday's day off; Thursday, Jones practiced again in pads and then met with the media, providing an update on his health, the team and more.
"AJ (Neibel) and Marty (Lauzon) did a great job, during the offseason working with me just to get that confidence back, first of all, before I stepped on the field, not having doubts out there," Jones said. "I can just go out there and go full speed. It was a process, they did a great job and I'm ready to go now. I feel great; I feel great, but we don't want to rush anything."
2. Players Back at Work: Following their first day off since beginning the 2014 XFINITY® Atlanta Falcons Training Camp, the players returned to work on Thursday, hoping for better execution. Falcons head coach Mike Smith said on Tuesday that the club was making 'lots of mistakes structurally, but will get them cleaned up;' when practice ended Thursday, he praised the team's effort and intensity.
"Guys had the day off (Wednesday), so we wanted to have some physical play out there, which took place in our goal-line and short-yardage (situations) in our install, so it kind of worked out really good for us to go out and bang," Smith said. "I thought it was competitive; one session was won by the offense, one session was won by the defense and that's what you really want at this point in time. They were competing."
3. Prince Shembo's Instant Energy:Among the seven rookie linebackers on the team's roster, Shembo continues to shine. After taking reps at inside linebacker, a spot he hasn't played since the ninth grade, Shembo continues to embrace all that comes with the position, including the mental part of the game, according to Falcons LBs coach Glenn Pires.
"He's an active guy; that's just his personality," Pires said of Shembo. "He's a busy guy, a lot of energy, but now, he's just going through the learning curve; he's doing some good things, but he's going through a lot of learning. He's an active, physical guy, but the mental part is where he's fighting through right now, which is where all the other rookies are too."
4. Trufant and Alford 'Never Satisfied': Last season, the dyanmic-duo CBs, Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford, jumped onto the scene in their rookie campaigns. In year two, expectations are raised by both players, who look even better than they did in 2013. Falcons defensive backs coach Joe Danna appreciates the work ethic of both stars, saying it benefits the entire team.
"They're both still young, but definitely way ahead of where they were in their rookie year," Danna said. "They both played a ton of snaps last year and I think that's really paying off for them. What I like about those two is they're never satisfied; they're always trying to get better. They work extremely hard, which is great for the whole crew to see is that when you have two of your better players that are always out there competing and working hard; we like that."
5. Peria Jerry Retires:Not long before Thursday's practice began, the Falcons made the announcement that DT Peria Jerry decided to retire from the NFL. The former first-round pick of the 2009 NFL Draft leaves the game, following five years, 79 tackles (46 solo), 5.5 sacks, once forced fumble, two fumble recoveries and three passes defensed. The announcement opens up a spot on the team's defensive line, only to be filled by the player most capable of meeting the high expectations of Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan and defensive line coach Bryan Cox.
Extra Notes: Smith said there is no further update on LB Pat Angerer (head injury), who is currently undergoing leauge-mandated protocol for such injuries. As for rookie DB Dezmen Southward (knee injury), Smith says it's nothing serious and he'll miss about a week of practice time, but will be able to participate in some walkthrough work with the team.