FLOWERY BRANCH, GA —During the morning session Monday, rookie linebacker Sean Weatherspoon saw three-year veteran Curtis Lofton and gave him a brand new nickname.
With Lofton wearing the number 50 on his jersey, Weatherspoon interpreted it as five-o, a term popularized by the television show "Hawaii Five-O." At that moment, Lofton became known as "The Police."
"You can't run from The Police," Weatherspoon said with a big smile after Monday's afternoon session.
On Tuesday, Lofton had a chance to respond to the new branding.
"I like it," Lofton said after Tuesday morning's session finished inside the fieldhouse. "You can't run from the police because they've got the helicopter in the sky and they always catch whoever they're trying to get. I like that."
If the nickname wasn't fitting enough because of Lofton's number, it's fitting in the level of enforcement Lofton plans on putting into effect this season.
Going into his third season — a year largely considered pivotal in a player's career — Lofton has high expectations for himself. Some of those expectations include playing a bigger role in pass defense.
"I've gotta take it to another level. It's not just about making tackles and stopping the run," Lofton said. "For me, it's about getting plays in the passing game, getting tackles, interceptions and just stepping up my leadership."
He's got a good mentor if he's looking to learn leadership. Veteran linebacker Mike Peterson has been overseeing the progress and production of the linebacking corps since he arrived in Atlanta last year. Under his watchful eye, his fellow linebackers are learning to see things differently and think about their play in a way they hadn't before.
That's been helping to strengthen the type of mental reps the linebackers have been taking in camp, especially practices without pads.
"It's great. We call him Mufasa. He's an older guy. He's been in the league 12 years and he's seen it all and done it all, so little things in practice, he just helps us out with little tips here and there, and it's just great having him," Lofton said. "We'll be in film room ... he's like, 'Curtis, I know you see it like this, but if you look at it like this, you'll get to the ball a lot faster,' just the little things that help me become a more complete player."
The type of leadership, mentality and intensity that is exhibited by the group of linebackers is becoming viral around the defensive side of the ball.
Much has been made of the tempo level on defense throughout camp, and the linebackers are getting credit for getting things started.
"We do have some great personalities in the linebacking corps," safety Erik Coleman said. "Mike Peterson, Curtis Lofton, all those guys, Stephen Nicholas and the rookie Weatherspoon, they all are crazy. They love the game of football. They love hitting. It's contagious."