FLOWERY BRANCH, GA —Anyone who spends any time with rookie safety Shann Schillinger gets the sense that he's a polite, friendly, humble guy; the kind that you're as likely to find helping you in the aisle at Home Depot as you are on the football field.
So the question is: How does a guy like that play such a violent game and play it well?
It's a matter of switches.
"Football is a very violent sport," Schillinger said Tuesday afternoon. "It can be hard; you've got to be able to turn the light on and off. When you're on the field you've got to have a different mentality from when you're off. That's just kind of the way it is. I'm very competitive. I don't like to lose. I feel like I have that pretty well and I think a lot of people on this team do as well."
If you watch him play for a moment, however, you'll notice his effort and work ethic, more than his violent play, and you realize that any success the 2010 sixth-round pick from Montana has is because of the way he approaches the practice field each day.
He can also put things behind him, and as a rookie in the NFL, learning numerous new plays, schemes and techniques daily, that's a valuable skill to have. Everyone knows the mistakes will come, but it's how you deal with them — or manage them that makes all the difference.
"The coaches tell us every day that every play is a new opportunity," Schillinger said. "A new opportunity to make something happen. So if you do screw up, you're going to have another opportunity. You try to get a positive for the next play. It can be frustrating to keep screwing up, but I've always thought about it like this: I've got another chance on the next play to make it up and you've got to try to put it behind you. It can be hard to do, but if you let one play pull you down it's going to be a long day so just try to move on."
One of the key areas Schillinger recognizes as a way for him to impact and make the team is on special teams. He knows the team takes it seriously, so he must as well. It's a point of pride for him.
"A lot of times special teams are the edge in winning games, controlling field position and doing those types of things," he said. "I've got to perform well in them. Hopefully I can go out and continue to do better on them and play well in the preseason."
Special teams practice:Tuesday afternoon's practice was a brief one. The practice, lasting from 3:45 p.m. to 4:40 p.m., was focused solely on special teams play.
Offensive linemen and defensive linemen were not present for the drills, staying inside to work out in the weight room.
The team plans to have such an abbreviated practice around every fifth day to focus on the third phase of the game. Also because this work takes place on the back two fields, the first field, which receives a lot of wear and tear, can rejuvenate.
All other position groups were present for the practice, working on alignments on kickoff and coverage teams. During these types of practices, there are also one-on-one drills where a player will practice the art of blocking a mobile player running at full speed.
For many players on the Falcons training camp roster, their play on special teams will make every difference in them making the team or not.
Schillinger believes it's not just during preseason games that special teams makes the difference between making the roster or not. There's a lot a player can do at practices like these to win a job.
"You have to go hard in the drills," Schillinger said. "You try to be detailed, special teams are very detailed, alignment-wise. If you're a yard off here or there it can really screw you up because we play at such a fast pace. Try to do the drills right. Show them that you're into it and this is part of my job and I want to do it. That's kind of the mindset I've been taking."