Ray will play.
Those words have resonated with Falcons fans over the last few days as they've learned that the new pass rusher in town, Ray Edwards, has been cleared to play in Saturday's preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Edwards began working into full participation last week with the team and after missing the first two preseason games, he's ready to play this Saturday.
"I'm just ready to go," he said Thursday. "I'm ready to go out there and play with my guys and have that camaraderie on the field now."
Head coach Mike Smith said Edwards will be fully unleashed against Pittsburgh. The team has an idea for how long they want their starters to go, typically it's into the third quarter, but that could all change within the parameters of the game. Smith said Edwards is not on a limited snap count Saturday.
"The situation with Ray is he's going to get some plays," Smith said. "We're going to make sure we're smart in what we're doing in terms of this being his first exposure. If he's feeling comfortable and it's going well, we'll make a decision during the ball game."
The Falcons will closely monitor his performance during the game, watching to see how he holds up, but beyond that, he will be expected to play as much as any other projected starter.
Edwards said once he began getting back into the swing of practice and getting reps he was pretty confident he'd play against the Steelers. Chemistry with his fellow defensive linemen is something he's been working on and he's excited to go into Pittsburgh and put some things into action.
"It's going to be a great game," he said. "They're going to bring it and we're going to bring it so it should be a good game with competition."
Decision Time:Following Saturday's game, the first round of roster cuts are looming Tuesday.
The expansion of rosters to 90 this year means even more difficult decisions and cuts. The Falcons released four players on Wednesday and still have six more decisions to make before before Tuesday's deadline of 80 roster players is due.
"It's always difficult because everyone that's on our team right now is working extremely hard," Smith said. "We've got some tough decisions that we have to make. We've got to pare this roster down to 80 and then down to 53. There's going to be some tough decisions. This is an important game for a lot of guys. They may not get as many snaps as they have gotten in previous preseason games because in the third preseason game we play our first team a little bit longer."
Veterans usually have an edge over younger players during the time of year, but they can never take anything for granted. Being wiser doesn't always make up for some age-related decencies, so every practice and game still matters. Backup linebacker and special teams ace Coy Wire is a guy that knows he's still in a fight.
"You'd be crazy not to, no matter how hard you've played this game or what your situation is," he said. "You have to fight as if it's your last year or your last opportunity. That's what's kept me around, having the attitude of never being content and just always striving to be the best you can be at every moment because you never know when it could be your last."
The deadline for teams to reduce their roster to the final 53-man roster is Saturday, Sept. 3.
Who We Are:There's been a lot of talk about a change in philosophy in Atlanta this season.
The "E" word has come up often and it's usually in regards to the Falcons offense, which features a stable of playmakers.
Smith reminded everyone on Thursday that game-changing explosive plays can happen in all three phases of the game and that's what the Falcons are searching for.
But while on the subject of the offense, Smith deduced that Atlanta's main goal is to score more points than the opponent. Then he broke down their philosophy a little more clearly.
"At the core of what we believe, we are a team that is going to be a team that is physical and we want to impose our will on our opponent," Smith said. "We're going to impose it any way that we can. The way we do it is going to be dependent on how people try to defend us."
Injury Updates:On Thursday, Smith updated the injury situation for Saturday's game. Defensive tackle Corey Peters, defensive end Lawrence Sidbury and cornerback Dunta Robinson will not play.
Cornerback Chris Owens and linebacker Akeem Dent will be game-time decisions. Smith said Dent has been practicing the last few days and they'd like to get him a look.
In the even that Owens can not go, the coach said Dominique Franks would get starter's snaps and rookie corner Darrin Walls would work out of the slot.
Linebacker Robert James has been cleared to play.