Pushing Through

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It's easy to appreciate players who have to work for everything they get.

As an undrafted free agent last season, tight end Michael Palmer knew his chances were possibly found somewhere between slim and none. Never mind that he was playing the position that a future Hall-of-Famer plays.

But Palmer put his head down, came into camp and made the team. Everything that happened to him last season has made his second turn through camp a little easier than the last.

"The biggest difference is just knowing the offense," Palmer said Sunday. "It's a whole lot easier to come out here and practice. I don't have to think as much. I can just react and play football. Last year being an undrafted guy, you're just constantly out here pushing and pushing, trying to prove something, that you're worthy of playing here."

The tight end from Clemson made the most of his roster spot last season, finding himself active for 15 games and catching five passes. By far the highlight of his rookie year was catching a touchdown pass inside the Georgia Dome. It didn't hurt the moment with him being a native of Stone Mountain and growing up a fan of the team who employs him.

"It was awesome. It's really a dream come true," he said. "You grow up going to Falcons games and being a Falcons fan. Then you're in there with Matt Ryan. Tony (Gonzalez) and Roddy (White) clear out the side pretty much and Matt throws me a nice easy ball."

His Week 9 score against Tampa Bay was the culmination of a portion of his football journey, just a mile marker on what he hopes is a long journey. Learning under two highly-skilled veterans like Gonzalez and backup Justin Peelle will help him down the line.

Each tight end has a different skill set they're able to share with Palmer and he soaks up everything he can.

"Everybody knows Tony; he's one of the greatest, if not the greatest tight end to ever play," he said. "Just watching him out here, watching him run routes, it's really special and you can see why he's the greatest. Peelle does a lot of things in this offense that people don't realize. Being able to learn from him. He's kind of the unsung hero of the tight end group. The things that he does, I've been able to learn from him. They've both been great to me, teaching me a lot, making sure I know what to do on every play."

Palmer took his rookie season momentum and feedback from the coaching staff into the offseason. He was given two specific pieces of feedback and all things considered, he wasn't asked to do much. There's a sense that Atlanta may have found yet another undrafted free agent diamond in the rough.

"I just had to get a little bit stronger and play with a little bit more sense of urgency," he said. "It's two things that are very easily correctable in my mind. It was something I worked on really hard in the offseason, just getting stronger and getting my legs stronger. Coming out here, I can really see the dividends now."

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