FLOWERY BRANCH, GA — Tony Gonzalez will be facing a very familiar opponent as the Falcons take the field for Friday night's first preseason game. Across the sideline from Gonzalez will be the Kansas City Chiefs — a team he spent 12 seasons with before being traded to the Falcons before the 2009 season.
Gonzalez will no doubt see a lot of familiar faces on the opposite side of the field, but he's still approaching Friday's game just like any other.
"Any time you step on the field, you've got to bring it," Gonzalez said Wednesday. "I know they're not going to slow down for me just because I want to sit back and enjoy myself because I'm playing my old team. I've got to go out there and try to get better and try to help this team get better."
Even as a 14-year veteran, Gonzalez is excited about getting preseason games underway. While it's unknown how long he will actually plan Friday, he's looking forward to the opportunity to get back out on the field.
"It's good to go out and get that game speed again, and get that timing with everyone else," he said. "It's an exhibition game. That's what it's all about."
Under a good wing: Rookie wide receiver Kerry Meier has tried to soak in as much as he can from the veterans at his position. None has helped him more than Brian Finneran.
Finneran, who is working in at the No. 2 receiver spot for the injured Michael Jenkins, has always made it a point to help others on the team — especially the rookies.
"My dad always tells me just to come out here and not make any friends because it's a competition and you don't want to help them too much because they're trying to take your job," Finneran said. "But guys like Kerry who work so hard — and he's a fifth round pick so he's going to be here — there's no point in not trying to help a guy like that who's working hard and trying to do all the right things and has a really good chance in being a football player in this league."
Finneran knows what it's like to be the new guy on the team. He started out in Seattle before spending some time with the Barcelona Dragons of the now-defunct NFL Europe. He then spent a few months with the Eagles before finding a home in Atlanta.
One of the first things he did when he got here was try to get help from the veterans, much like Meier is doing.
"When I first came here in 1999, there was a guy on the team, Ronnie Harris, who helped me quite a bit and took me under his wing and showed me some different things, along with Terance Mathis and a few guys like that," Finneran said. "It's almost like a pay-it-forward type of deal. Give back to the guys like those guys gave to you and keep it going."
Keying on the QBs: During the preseason, backup quarterbacks see a good amount of time on the field, mainly to keep the starter healthy, but also to prepare them should they ever be needed.
Chris Redman and John Parker Wilson are expected to get plenty of playing time Friday night, and head coach Mike Smith is eager to see the two perform.
"I think it's very important for Chris and JP simply because the backup quarterback, once the season starts, does not get a whole lot of repetitions in practice. We're not able to do that," head coach Mike Smith said. "This is very important. I think you get a feel for how the backup quarterback can handle certain situations. I hope to get them in as many situations as possible."