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Notebook: August 17


Training camp can get monotonous for a football player.

You wake up at the same time. You eat at the same time. You practice at the same time. You go to meetings at the same time.

You get the idea.

Head coach Mike Smith is a fan of breaking up that monotony any way he can to keep his players mentally fresh, and one of his favorite ways of accomplishing that is to get together with another team for combined practice sessions.

The Falcons flew to Jacksonville on Tuesday night for a combined practice session Wednesday under the Florida night sky.

The two teams practiced for about two hours, and the intensity was as high as its been during camp — with the Falcons' defense really setting the tone with excitement and jawing. More on that in a bit.

Smith held combined practices with two teams last season in Flowery Branch. The New England Patriots came for two sessions and the Jaguars came for four.

"I really think that you want to work with other teams if you can, especially if you go to a two-preseason schedule and I don't know if that's going to happen or if that's even in the works," Smith said after Wednesday's practice. "That was one of the reasons we wanted to do that last year, start working with other teams.

"I think it's good. It's great for the players. I think it's great for the coaches. You can get into a rut in training camp, even if you're only practicing once a day. That's still tough on you not only physically, but mentally."

Injury Update: Smith gave an update on some injured players after Wednesday's practice.

Cornerback Dunta Robinson will not play in Friday's preseason game against Jacksonville after injuring himself during camp earlier this week. He traveled with the team to Jacksonville.

Linebacker Robert James is also injured, but will be a Friday decision as to whether or not he plays against Jacksonville.

Center Todd McClure will not play against the Jaguars, but that's only for rest purposes. McClure is not injured.

Coming Back Slowly: In the mix to possibly make his Falcons debut Friday night is defensive end Ray Edwards.

Edwards underwent a minor knee procedure during the offseason and the Falcons coaching staff is bringing him along slowly.

Edwards participated fully Wednesday for the first time since arriving with the Falcons.

"It felt pretty good getting out there and getting some full contact," Edwards said after practice.

Asked if he knew about whether he would play Friday, Edwards said it was up to Smith.

Bringing the Excitement: You'd be hard pressed to find a more excitable bunch than the Falcons defense.

The unit started out Wednesday night jawing at the Jaguars — during stretches.

As the session wore on, the defense started to get more and more intense and into the practice, until it culminated with a complete celebration when safety Rafael Bush intercepted a pass during a two-minute drill to end the session.

"We're just out there having fun and doing what we love to do," Bush said. "As long as we're having fun and doing what we love to do, we'll all be happy."

Offense Rolls: The Falcons defense wasn't the only unit showing up to play Wednesday night.

The Falcons offense also created some big plays, especially during the combined team period and two-minute drill. Quarterback Matt Ryan led the offense on a great drive to end the practice that finished up with him finding Eric Weems in the end zone for a touchdown.

Weems' catch came right over the middle between two defenders. Had the play been full contact, Weems likely would have gotten clobbered, but he held on to the ball for the six-point play.

"That was good," Ryan said. "We were efficient, both with our first unit and second unit. We were efficient getting the ball down the field, making the smart plays in those types of situations. Sometimes you've got to throw it away, sometimes you've got to check it down, but I thought, on the whole, we all did a really good job."

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