Flowery Branch, GA -Entering the first full week of practice with pads, the days at Falcons training camp can start to run together. The heat, the repetition and the pressure can begin to wear on anyone. Sometimes it's tough to remember what day it is.
But Sean Weatherspoon knows what day it is. He's stayed sharp on and off the field through the first five days of camp and he's managed to keep his energy level high. The 2010 first-round draft pick knows the franchise brought him to Atlanta because of his on-field enthusiasm and he understands there's an expectation, even though he's a rookie, to bring it every day.
"When they sat down at the Combine and back at Missouri when I did my workout, one thing they liked about me was my enthusiasm and my character," Weatherspoon said Monday afternoon. "I feel like it's my job to come out here and be excited. I mean a lot of people would want to do what we get to do each and every day. Some people can look at it a certain way. I always look at it in a positive way, because I would much rather be doing this than be back at college going to class. I'm definitely excited all the time when I'm out here."
On Monday the excitement got the best of Weatherspoon. During team drills, the linebacker tackled running back Antone Smith. The only problem with the tackle was that he wasn't allowed to tackle. Although the players were in pads, they were only allowed to "thud," a hit against a player, but not a traditional tackle.
Weatherspoon wasn't trying to do anything wrong; he was simply thudding as he is used to.
"That's what linebackers do, you have to hit," Weatherspoon said. "That one drill where I accidentally hit a guy, it was pretty much because that's the way we did tempo at Missouri in that drill. Coach said it was a "thud" and that's the way we used to thud, so I didn't know that's what the drill was. The pros pulled me to the side and told me there's a certain way you do things in the NFL. So I learned my lesson. You're always excited when you get out there and have those pads on, you want to hit people."
Head coach Mike Smith agreed his young rookie learned his lesson and got a little chuckle out of the exchange between Weatherspoon and the offensive players defending their own.
"He didn't know," Smith said. "When he made that hit he thought we were in a thud situation. We weren't really in a thud situation. But he's learned it from day one to day two, not only from me talking with him but some of the guys that were wearing the other color jerseys talking to him. That's all part of it, we'll make sure that they know what the tempo is in practice."
It wasn't the first time Weatherspoon heard from the coaches. He's regularly being coached by defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder, often when mistakes are made, but he knows it's all for the best.
"It makes me feel like he's really counting on me," said Weatherspoon. "He wants me to come along. Whenever I make a good play, I probably won't hear anything, that's how he does things. Whenever I'm out there messing up, he's right on me, coaching me up, and that's going to help me become a better play. I think the way he handles me will definitely make me stronger mentally and out there on the field."
Injury update:The Falcons continue to stay relatively healthy during training camp. Brian Williams, Peria Jerry and Harry Douglas continue to work themselves back up to full speed.
Wide receiver Brian Finneran returned to the field Monday after missing a few days with back spasms.
Cornerback Dunta Robinson missed another day of practice with what Smith described as tightness in his hamstring.
Fifth-year running back Jerious Norwood missed practice with a hip flexor suffered in practice Sunday and wasn't on the practice field.
Smith said the injury is to the same hip that he dealt with last season, but the injury was of a different nature.
Rookie tight end Colin Peek continues to be absent from practice.
"Like I said the other day, it's going to be a while," said Smith of Peek's return to the field. "When I say it'll be a while before he gets back out here. Right now we're keeping him in, getting as much treatment as we can."
A Bear in camp:Rookie linebacker Bear Woods noticed from day one the biggest difference in the NFL and his time as a standout at Troy University is the workmanlike atmosphere.
"It's hard work," Woods said following Monday's afternoon practice. "...We're here for a lot of hours in the day. Every meeting we're in is focused. Every practice, everybody's focused. It's very professional."
According to Woods the meetings are longer, the playbook is bigger and the preparation is tougher. Before every meeting and practice, he takes a moment to collect himself and remind himself of what he's doing.
"I try to collect my thoughts," said Woods. "I try to say, 'Hey, I'm here, let me just play football.' At the end of the day, you're still playing football."
There's still a learning curve for every rookie, Woods acknowledges, but he believes playing with great players will make him better. He also appreciates the challenge of competing with players like Curtis Lofton and Mike Peterson.
"I just like testing myself and see how I stack up," said Woods.
The 6-foot, 233-pound linebacker believes he stacks up well against the pro game because of the approach he brings to practice. The pro game is tough and Woods is just as tough.
"I'm intense," he said. "When I put on the pads, I'm intense. Right now, I'm still in the learning process, having to learn what I've got to do before I can become the same player I was in college. I bring intensity and I have a very passionate love for the game."