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'I want to be more of a factor': How Richie Grant plans to elevate his game, make significant strides in third season

Safety also details how he's building a rapport with Jessie Bates III

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Arthur Smith wants Richie Grant to be more active on social media.

"Maybe I'll tell him to be more of a social media star and he'll get more hype," Smith said Thursday, "but he's a damn good football player."

One thing to note about the Falcons head coach that doesn't come across in print. His humor is often deadpan. Smith is so good at delivering a straight-faced punchline it takes even those who know him a beat to tell if he's joking or not.


In this case, he was. Trust me. Tongue was firmly planted in cheek. I've been through enough interactions to know. Smith doesn't love "Instagram stars," guys who put their work out there for pats on the back. He likes players who work hardest when no one's looking.

Grant is one of those guys. Smith was also trying to make a point with the quote above. Folks might be sleeping on the third-year safety from Central Florida.

The Falcons, however, know what they've got in Grant.

"Richie has made a pretty big impact here and he'll continue to get better," Smith said. "He has a knack for the ball. He's a fun player to coach."

Then he dropped a mention of Grant being a gosh darn good football player.

Grant absorbed the compliments with a smile in a subsequent interview, but wouldn't be down to raise his light social media presence even if Smith was series (which, again, he wasn't).

"I appreciate Coach for saying that, but I think it just comes from the preparation and hard work and putting good stuff on film," Grant said. "Whatever I see, I try to react to it the right way. If I'm making plays, that's good for the team."

Grant made some plays for his team during his first year as starting safety, with two interceptions, including one that sealed a win in Seattle, and five passes defensed. In Grant's mind, that's not nearly enough.

"I want to be more of a factor," Grant said. "I want to be aggressive and play smart and make big plays. I have trust in my teammates. I want them to have trust in me."

Trust that he's going to be in the right spot. Trust that he's going to help where needed. Trust that he's going to be consistent and bring the energy every day. And trust that, when the time is right, he'll make a big play.

Grant is also working to build trust and rapport with top-tier new safety Jessie Bates III, who joined the Falcons on a big free-agent contract. While he makes no assumptions that he's got the starting gig, despite him taking first-unit reps with Bates. He has too much respect for Jaylinn Hawkins and even Micah Abernathy for to claim ownership of a starting spot.

He would say, however, that he's putting in extra time with Bates to make sure they're in lockstep.

"A lot people look at what happens on the field, but it goes way beyond that," Grant said. "It starts in the film room with chatter about what you see and how you'd react. The coaches can coach you, but we're the ones out there playing. We have to make the scheme come to life. He's always throwing out little tips and I'm listening to them. If I have some feedback, then we just bounce ideas off each other. Then we come out (on the field) and we do it."

Chemistry is important on the back end. So is communication between levels of the defense. It's getting better each day as the first team comes together during camp.

"That trust factor is growing," Grant said. "There's a lot of experience in this group. We all listen to each other and believe in each other. That's important."

Take a look as the Atlanta Falcons put in the work in Flowery Branch during the 2023 AT&T Training Camp.

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