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One Simple Goal


All the players on the field for the Falcons' rookie minicamp aren't rookies. Six of the 46 present were around for last season, either on the practice squad or the regular roster at various points during the season.

Matt Hansen is one of them and he spent an offseason preparing to accomplish one simple goal.

"My goal is to make the active roster and get on special teams," he said. "That's it, that's my goal. There's nothing else. I'd be cool with the practice squad again, but I want to make the active roster."

Hansen's first season as a professional football player wasn't typical. He never saw the field beyond the practice squad, he experienced a position change to safety and he even got cut before re-signing with the team later in the year. This year he's back and he's back at linebacker, his natural position.

"I played linebacker in college," Hansen said. "It's been really good. It's good to be back down in the box. I feel more instinctive and can just play. I was thinking a lot back there (at safety). I feel good there."

Watching practice, it doesn't take much to notice the former Rhode Island standout. He looks the part of a physical linebacker and he's flying around the field like every good linebacker should. Hansen made one of the few stand-up-and-notice plays on Friday. While dropping into coverage, he took advantage of a pass thrown in his direction. He leaped and came down with the only interception during full-team drills on the day.

Hansen said he spent the offseason working hard, focusing on his goal. He's added about five pounds of muscle and he's ready to cash in all that hard work. He's currently working as an outside linebacker, both the strong side and the weak side. He says he anticipates getting some reps in nickel and sub packages and with a few more interceptions like Friday's, that's a strong possibility.

With another year under his belt, he's comfortable around the facility, the coaches and most importantly in his own skin as a player. His workouts during the offseason included other NFL players, including Cleveland's big defensive tackle Phil Taylor. Their relationship goes back to before the draft last season. While Taylor was working on taking the next step after a four-sack rookie season, Hansen just focused on his goal of making the team.

And how does he plan to do that? The extra weight helps. The increased level of comfort is always a positive. But Hansen knows he'll make the Falcons with his work on special teams.

"I've got to do well on special teams this year," he said. "That's what separates guys like me. That's what separates the backups. I'm not looking to start or play, but I'm looking to get out there on special teams."

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