FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Calvin Ridley was on the practice field Thursday afternoon to start Atlanta Falcons AT&T Training Camp. He wasn't observing from the sidelines in a t-shirt and bucket hat, nor was he doing side work with trainers. Even better news regarding his health: Ridley wasn't inside, stuck on the physically unable to perform list.
The fourth-year receiver was running routes and catching passes with his teammates a sign of normalcy constituting good news about his recovery from offseason foot surgery. While he wasn't involved much, Ridley was active.
That's a positive development for a Falcons team needing him healthy and productive to start this season.
While Ridley's not currently full-go, he's working toward that status with zero rush to get there.
"We'll bring him along," head coach Arthur Smith said. "It's good to see him out there. He obviously didn't go on PUP. He's out there working, and now we've got to build him up."
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Offensive line missing key pieces early in camp
While Smith didn't set a timetable for McGary's return, the incumbent starting right tackle might not be gone too long.
"It could be sooner rather than later," Smith said. "We're just being smart here."
Third-round NFL draft pick Jalen Mayfield should work extensively at right tackle, given the circumstances. While many believe he could be an NFL guard, he played outside in college and has a shot to compete for time at tackle as well.
While McGary's a favorite to retain his starting spot, it isn't his no matter what. He may have to parry a challenge from Mayfield with a solid camp once he gets back.
Smith said Gono won't work in camp, but the team placed him on PUP hoping he can return at some point this season. The swing tackle had surgery during the offseason, per ESPN, and could miss significant time. He will get evaluated again soon.
Defensive lineman Deadrin Senat is also on PUP, and Smith said the Falcons won't see him practice during the preseason.
Dante Fowler out to start camp, must 'earn a role'
Edge rusher Dante Fowler has started training camp on the COVID-19 list, one of five Falcons placed on that reserve sheet this week. It's uncertain how much time he'll miss, but he'll have to prove himself in practice.
"We'll have to assess it when he gets back," Smith said. "It is what it is. It's like an injury. You hope he's healthy and when he gets back, we'll [evaluate] him. He has to go out there and earn a role. He knows that."
The Falcons need Fowler circa 2019, when he had 11.5 sacks while operating at the height of his powers. Last season was a setback, as he struggled to find proper form with a new team. Grady Jarrett needs help generating a pass rush, with Fowler the team's biggest threat off the edge. If he can't get going upon return, that would be bad news for an already thin pass rush. If he's dominant, the Falcons defense gets better in a hurry.
The Atlanta Falcons kicked off 2021 AT&T Atlanta Falcons Training Camp in Flowery Branch. Here are the best images from Day 1.