Opportunities Abound for Falcons' Fill-Ins

A wide smile flashes across Harland Gunn's face as he sits in his new, bigger locker assigned to active roster players Wednesday when he's asked about getting the call-up.

He's not happy with the way it happened, with two key offensive line starters heading to season-ending injured reserve, but the smile comes from the thought of having another opportunity to show his abilities if called upon.

Gunn started the 2014 on the Falcons' practice squad after having a solid training camp and preseason. Seemingly a victim of roster numbers, Gunn now has a second chance at keeping a precious 53-man roster spot.

His path to this point is not like teammates named Julio Jones or Matt Ryan. Starting spots haven't been waiting for him at each of his previous stops, which include Dallas and New Orleans. Riding out the ups and downs since entering the league in 2012 as a college free agent, Gunn seems to be back on the upswing.

"I'm excited. I played in some big games last year. That was pretty good for me," Gunn said of his path. "I did well against the Niners and the Panthers, so I've got that experience under my belt. Now I get another opportunity — just like any opportunity in the league, you've got to take advantage."

Several other active roster additions echoed the same senitments Wednesday: The opportunity is great, but taking advantage is the hard part.

For new offensive tackle Cameron Bradfield, the climb is an uphill one from here. A veteran with 41 games and 27 starters to his credit, Bradfield has some learning to do. Despite having some experience with offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter in Jacksonville, Bradfield said that he has a lot of terminology to learn as he could be relied on should the worst continue to happen along the O-line on the injury front.

"I think the challenge for me right now is just learning the offense on the run," Bradfield said Wednesday. "This is Week 5. Everybody has a pretty good grasp of what's going on, so that's my job right now is to pick up everything so I can be part of everything."

While Gunn and Bradfield's services might not be needed Sunday, those who could contribute to special teams are taking the challenge head-on.

Safety Sean Baker had a strong preseason, as well, and landed on the practice squad for a second year. He's now an active roster member and, with Kemal Ishmael serving as the starting safety in place of William Moore, Baker could be a candidate to fill in on some special teams duties if he's active Sunday.

"It's fun, but it doesn't mean much if you don't take advantage of it," Baker said. "I'm just going to continue to work hard and do what I've been doing since last year and hope for the best."

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