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Hansen Continues To Impress At Linebacker Through Offseason


If you want to go out, go out with a bang.

Thursday's minicamp practice wrapped up the Falcons' offseason activities and linebacker Matt Hansen made the final big play of the day. Dropping into coverage during a redzone drill, Hansen came down with an interception after dropping one during the previous day's practice.

"I've got to give credit to the DBs coach, Coach (Tim) Lewis, because we'd been over that route before," Hansen said after practice. "I recognized the route and jumped it. He threw it right to me and I luckily caught it."

The interception wrapped up a very successful offseason for the young linebacker. Hansen was with the Falcons during last training camp, trying to make the cut as a safety after being signed as a college free agent. He was part of the final cuts, but returned to the team as a practice squad member late in the season, that time as a linebacker, his natural position.

The linebacker position suits him and his comfort level in the defense at the position is evident as you watch him practice. Invited to May's rookie minicamp, he put up another solid performance, grabbing another interception during a practice and being all over the field at all practices.

Thursday's interception was a great way to wrap up an exciting offseason for Hansen.

"The last day, you want to make an impression," he said. "You're going to be gone for a month and you've got to keep your name in these coaches minds, that felt good."

During rookie minicamp Hansen said his primary goal this season was to earn a roster spot and he knew performing well on special teams was a part of that puzzle. With an injury to Stephen Nicholas keeping the outside linebacker off the field for OTAs, Hansen has benefited from the extra work at linebacker, as have Spencer Adkins and Robert James. Hansen is learning both strong and weakside linebacker positions in an effort to be as versatile as he can be for the coaching staff. The work he's put in during the offseason has left him feeling positive heading into the month-long break before training camp.

"I definitely feel like I fit in somewhere," he said. "I'm not exactly sure where yet. Like I said after rookie minicamp, I feel a lot more comfortable at linebacker and a lot more instinctive. I think I'm going to have a good shot to make a roster spot if I keep playing well. I'm looking forward to it."

For players with something to prove, the break between OTAs and training camp can be challenging. They want to continue to learn and work with the coaches to show them what they're capable of. Hansen said he'll return to his workouts in Rhode Island and possibly Florida with a focus on speed. He'll also work with the study sheets he's been given to keep the plays fresh in his mind. The emphasis in Mike Nolan's defense is speed and much of that is accomplished by knowing the playbook like the back of your hand. Those are his two focuses during the break.

"That's why I think this year was so important to me because you can't play fast if you don't know what you're doing," he said. "If you don't know what you're doing, you're just running around. That's what I think is most important for me. I know what I'm doing and that's how you make plays. Other than that, I'm going to try to keep the weight on and get a little faster. Speed in this game, especially with everybody passing so much, you need to be fast."

The one thing he said he won't do is take much time away from his notes. Too long of a break and he thinks he'll be starting from scratch once camp begins and he's come too far for that.

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