The exit of former Falcon Michael Koenen to Tampa Bay signaled a changing of the guard for Atlanta at punter.
Exit the veteran, enter Ken Parrish and Matt Bosher.
Bosher, a sixth-round pick this season out of Miami, is recognized for his strong leg and Parrish spent the last season in the UFL, getting reps at the professional level. Both players are working through one of the quiet training camp battles of the season and the coaching staff is impressed with what they've seen.
During an interview at Friday Night Lights, special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong shared his positive opinions on both kickers. On Sunday morning, head coach Mike Smith shared a similar opinion, including an evaluation of how they did Friday evening.
"Parrish is a free agent we brought in from East Stroudsberg University," Smith said. "We brought him in and we signed him early before we went into the lockout. Of course, we drafted Bosher from Miami. I thought for the first time Friday night when we had them kicking in front of a crowd they did a nice job. Matt, who is going to work in handling our placements for Josh Harris, did a good job in that area, as well. "
Smith thinks once the preseason games begin, he will be able to begin to truly assess who has the leg up on the punter job. Next Friday night's home game at the Georgia Dome should be a date circled on both Bosher and Parrish's calendar. On Sunday the two punters had an opportunity to get more work in practice than they normally do.
"It's going to be real interesting when we punt this weekend in the Dome to see how those guys handle the pressure," Smith said. "We've been trying to put pressure on them here in training camp, but there's nothing like doing it in a real game. I thought they both punted well this morning. It was a big emphasis, we were working on punt return. The guys probably had the most kicks they've had in training camp this morning. I thought both of them did well."
More on Parrish:It might be safe to say the only reason Parrish is in the NFL right now is because of a high school ACL tear.
Prior to the midpoint of the football season in Parrish's senior year, he'd never even touched a football. He was a life-long soccer player, but when the school's punter went down with an ACL injury, Parrish, a strong-legged sweeper on the soccer team, was asked to come over and give it a shot.
His directions were simple: just try to get the ball down field as best you can.
He did well enough that he was offered an opportunity to walk on at East Stroudsburgh University, a local college present at his final high school game.
Parrish road to the NFL includes stops in San Francisco and Philadelphia and a stint last year in the UFL with the Florida Tuskers. A successful season there has landed him back in the NFL. He believes his time in the UFL allowed him to keep kicking and gathering film.
"The biggest thing was the experience and getting some games and film," he said. "The biggest thing about the kicking position is not necessarily who is across the line, it's about getting out in front of people and showing that you can do it. Getting some games under my best and waiting for my chance here in the NFL."
Now in camp with the Falcons, looking a job square in the face, he's drawing on the advice he's received along the way and he tries to continue to remind himself why he's doing this. Each step, it seems, was critical to getting him to this point.
"I just started off like everybody else, chasing the dream," Parrish said. "I've landed in a place which I've been lucky to have been a part of. I was always told as long as you're moving forward and making accomplishments every year and getting closer to that goal, you might as well keep chasing it. Coaches keep telling me that I have what it takes, I just have to wait for that opportunity when it's there for me to go out and seize it."
Kicking in the NFL can be a head game and he's made it this far by not putting too much pressure on himself to do what he's doing. He's a soccer player turned kicker happy to have an opportunity. He doesn't spend much time thinking about the fact that he's got a real shot to realize his dream, finally.
"I don't really try to look at that," he said. "It can get in your head and be a big head game. I'm just trying to go out there every single day and do what I can do and show this organization that I can be an asset to them."
Official Meeting:Before every season, the NFL sends out its game officials to team facilities to cover rule changes and updates with players and coaches and in separate meetings with the local media.
Officials were on hand on Sunday clarifying a few of the rule changes present in the league this year. The officials and the video the league creates for this purpose was clear in pointing out the rule adjustments are to ensure the safety of the players, the league's most valuable asset.
Some of the rule changes for the upcoming season include:
- Rule 6-1-2, 3 - On kickoffs, the kicking team restraining line has been moved to the 35-yard line, and no kicking team player (except the kicker) can be lined up more than five years behind its restraining line after the ball has been made ready for play.
- Rule 12-2-8 - Prohibits illegal "launching" into a defenseless opponent.
- Rule 12-2-9 - Incorporates all rules regarding "defenseless players" into new article and standardizes their protection. Extends the protection for a receiver who has completed a catch so that he is a "defenseless player" until he has had time to protect himself or has clearly become a runner.
- Rule 12-2-13 – Hits to the head of a passer by an opponent's hands, arms, or other parts of the body will not be fouls unless they are forcible blows.
- Rule 15-9 – Replay Official will initiate review of all scoring plays throughout the game. The Replay Official cannot initiate a review for a team, and a team is prevented from challenging a play, if that team commits a foul that prevents the next snap.
The officials offered a few points of clarification on a few of the rules as well. The completing-the-catch requirements include a firm grip on the ball and two feet or some part of the body other than the hands on the ground. The receiver must also maintain control of the ball in order to "commit an act common to the game", always known as a "football move".
Player safety is critical to the league and the video they shared reminded players of such, specifically pointing out rules around face mask penalties, horse-collar tackles and low blocks.
"We want to make sure we keep the NFL exciting for our fans and safe for our players," Ray Anderson, the NFL's Executive Vice President of Football Operations, said on the video.
Last season saw the second-highest total number of unnecessary roughness penalties in the league since 1987 (238). The league's aggressive approach to protecting the safety of the players was clear in the video and the officials' presentation.