One of the players that turned some heads as Atlanta's recent minicamp progressed was wide receiver Kerry Meier. It's rare to truly be excited about a fourth wide receiver, which technically, as far as depth charts go, is what Meier is behind Roddy White, Julio Jones and Harry Douglas, but Meier's development into a contributing piece at wide receiver behind the big three in front of him is intriguing because of the additional versatility he can provide the offense.
Meier enters his second season removed from a knee injury that caused him to miss his entire rookie season. Earlier in the minicamp he said he's back to feeling great about his health and looks to play multiple roles in Atlanta's new offense under coordinator Dirk Koetter.
Facing rehab as a rookie was a challenge for Meier, a player that has remained healthy throughout his entire playing career. It gave him insight into who he is as a player on and off the field. Throughout his physical training in recovery, he began working on ways to sharpen his mind as well. The result is a physically capable player on the football field and a mentally tough one capable of facing any challenge that is thrown his way.
Throughout his rehab and beyond, he focused on approaching each day with a positive mindset to get him through each road block that pops up for a player facing a year-long recovery process.
"If I can get up (every morning) with the right mindset to do what I need to do personally for that day and that day only, then I'll be a success," he said. "If you can string a bunch of those together, you're doing good things for your life."
For Meier, that mindset has extended well beyond football. He has chosen a mindset to approach each day like it can be his very best and do whatever is necessary to ensure that happens. Of course, a mind frame like that can enable great things to happen on the field as well. Meier had a great three days of minicamp, catching nearly every pass thrown his way, including some difficult ones, making him someone that will be hard for the coaches to ignore once training camp rolls around.
"I think the most important part of the day is the minute you wake up," Meier said. "From the minute you wake up, you have a choice as to what you want to do with your day. You can wake up in a great mood. What I've learned is each day is crucial. You can do the littlest thing and affect no one or you can do the littlest thing and affect a lot of people."
When Meier was drafted an immediate comparison was made to a wide receiver already on Atlanta's roster, Brian Finneran. Many expected Meier to replace Finneran as the do-everything receiver and special teams ace. Meier's injury slowed his progress and Finneran finished a 12-year career, 11 with the Falcons, after the 2010 season, Meier's rookie year.
Finneran knew a little about knee injuries and the rehab necessary to come back. Finneran missed the 2006 and 2007 seasons with knee injuries to opposite knees. When many thought he was done after the second injury, he fought his way back for three final seasons.
Meier credits Finneran as an early voice in his recovery.
"The one guy that really helped me out was Finn," Meier said. "He was the first in in every situation on or off the field and the offseason. He would go out of his way to approach me to see if everything was going well or to see if I needed something. That's something that I really paid attention to."
With Meier appearing to have a strong lock as the team's fourth receiver, the spots after No. 4 remain wide open. The Falcons may elect to carry five or six receivers on the roster into the 2012 season and the competition is fierce. The Falcons have seven players fighting for those final roster spots.
Meier hopes to be a voice of encouragement for the young players, five of whom are rookies, as they acclimate to the NFL and facing a job that is theirs for the taking.
"I know what it's like to be in their shoes," he said. "One thing I always wanted was for a guy to look down upon me and show me the way. For me to be one of those guys in their eyes, to help them out in any way possible, I'm more than willing to do that. Personally it actually makes me feel pretty good for younger guys to ask me about something. It's all about fighting for the same goal. Wide receivers are competing and earning jobs, but ultimately we're all in the same boat, fighting for the same prize, to win a Super Bowl."