In Backup Role, Michael Palmer Settling In


When you hold a few receiving records at your college, you might take issue with being told you're going to be a part of your new professional football team, but not primarily as a receiver.

Fortunately for the Falcons, Michael Palmer doesn't feel this way, but he doesn't hide the fact that he'd like to catch some more passes in his third season in the NFL, all as a backup behind future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez.

"It's very cliché, I know that, but whatever they need me to do, I'm going to do," Palmer said. "At the same time I'm going to continue to learn from Tony. I'd be lying to you if I told you I wanted to block my entire career; I don't. I want to catch the ball and score touchdowns. … Whenever I get the opportunity to catch passes, I'm going to make the most of it."

Palmer enters the season as a solid backup for the Falcons at tight end. Through the first week of camp, he's penciled in as the primary backup to Gonzalez and will fill the Y-tight end role, a block-first and receiver second role that suits the young tight end well. Head coach Mike Smith is very comfortable with that role for Palmer.

"Michael's made some very nice catches (in training camp)," Smith said. "Michael's very athletic. He's had the opportunity to be mentored by, in my mind, the greatest tight end to ever play the game. Michael is getting better in his blocking. I think he's got very good hands. He's understanding how to sit down in zones. … He's a guy that is, right now, our number one Y."

Palmer thinks more pass-catching opportunities will come for him in Dirk Koetter's offense. Primarily a receiving option while at Clemson, he set single-season reception records as a tight end when he was a senior. Catching passes is something he says he enjoys doing and something he wants to continue to do more of.

He agrees with his head coach that he will continue to improve his blocking. Studious and committed, he credits tight ends coach Chris Scelfo, who is also a former offensive line coach, as being a primary influence on blocking improvement. He's excited about more of a dual blocking and catching role in Koetter's offense in 2012.

"That's not to say Tony can't block because he can, he's a good blocker," Palmer said. "We need another guy that can go in and block. The great thing about this system is that you need a guy that can block, but also a guy that can catch. I feel like that's something I can do, but I need to continue to work on my blocks."

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