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Transcript: Mike Smith post-practice interview


Opening statement

"I hope everybody had a good summer. It is definitely summer here in Flowery Branch right now with the heat, but I hope you guys had a good summer. I am excited to be back out here practicing, seeing our entire 2010 team out here with us. With us getting [LB] Sean [Weatherspoon] signed yesterday, we had full participation today."

What are your goals and objectives at the beginning of Training Camp?

"Well, the biggest thing for us is to stay healthy, especially in the first 10 days of training camp. We want to make sure that we're doing everything we can for our guys, in terms of hydration and tempo in practice. I think it's going to be very important that we stay healthy and that's one of our main objectives. The other thing is, we have to continue to advance both offensively and defensively what we do schematically and we've made a lot of subtle adjustments. Again in year three, the playbooks have gotten bigger so we have to continue to work in those areas. Those are really the two big things, but the first one being getting these guys healthy through the first week. I think you'll see throughout the league as you watch there's going to be a lot of guys missing practice time. The thing we want to have is guys on our field."

What did you think about DT Peria Jerry's return to the field this morning?

"I thought Peria looked very good this morning. We put him through individual drills. Our plan is to not only manage Peria, but also [WR] Harry [Douglas] and [DB] Brian Williams, and I thought all three of those guys moved around very well. This will be a big afternoon for us to see how they handled the workload and then as we go through the offseason, we will continue to add to that workload and see what these guys can do."

How are you planning to handle Peria Jerry, Harry Douglas, and Brian Williams?

"The plan is, right now, for them to practice once a day and they will come out and do walkthroughs in the afternoon practice. They will be out and they'll spend the afternoon doing walkthroughs and then hopefully we'll come back tomorrow and be able to get another practice out of them like we did today. Hopefully by next week, we'll continue to advance their workload."

Have you tweaked the offensive game plan to give QB Matt Ryan more options?

"I think it's part of the process that we've set out. We're in year three right now so we should advance what we want to do. Of course, the quarterback is the guy that runs the offense, so Matt has gotten to a point where we feel very comfortable with what we've done so far and we plan on adding things this season."

What is your philosophy on two-a-days?

"My philosophy on two-a-days is that we want to get out here and get some work. But some of those two-a-days are really only one-a-days because they're special teams practices. Every fifth practice is a special teams practice. What that does is, it's a 45 minute practice where we solely work on special teams. The players that aren't involved in special teams actually don't come out on the field so they get a complete practice off. It's a philosophy that started back with Bill Walsh and Denny Green so that's where it came from. We did it in Baltimore. We did it in Jacksonville. Then the way we practice I think is different. As you see, 20 to 25 minutes of every practice, our players are without their helmets and they're doing a lot of coaching and speed work."

What did you think about the defense's performance in practice today?

"The first day, I don't think that you want to get too excited if you have a whole bunch of plays by the defense or the offense. It's the first practice out and I thought that there was great energy throughout the practice the entire day."

How do you feel about the players competing for the starting cornerback spots?

"I think it's going to be one of the most competitive position battles that we have. Obviously, CB Dunta [Robinson] will be one starter but we've got three guys that are obviously going to be competing, with Brian Williams, [CB] Brent Grimes, and [CB] Christopher Owens. You also have to throw in Chevis Jackson and Dominique Franks. It's going to be a big battle but you can never have too much depth in the secondary. Those guys know that they're in battles and they're going to come out each and every day and work. We're going to pick, in our judgment, who we think is going to be the best guy."

What is the emphasis that you put on special teams?

"Special teams is an area that we spend a lot of time on. We'll take six practices in camp this year that will be specifically for special teams. We spend every day working on special teams when we're not having special teams practice. [S] Matt [Giordano] has been a very good special teams player in this league and he's also a guy that is very adept at learning and not getting a whole lot of reps. He's a guy that's played both strong and free safety in this league, so he's a guy that's going to have an opportunity to compete with the rest of our safeties. It is a big plus that he's a special teams player. Any of your backups have to be able to contribute on special teams."

Do you feel as if the disappointment of last season set the tone during the offseason?

"When we were in camp in January, I told our guys that this was not the last game in the 2009 season but that it was the first game of the 2010 season because it was the calendar year. It was 2010 and we needed to start 2010 off in the right fashion. Those guys, I thought, went out and played very well down there in Tampa. We were able to get the outcome that we wanted and, of course, got us over the hump in terms of having back-to-back winning seasons. That being said, we were very disappointed with the final results of the season last year because our internal goals were much, much higher than just having a winning season."

What was your message to the team before the start of camp?

"It was no different than any other start of camp. A lot of logistical things that you have to talk to your team about and just reiterating the message that we gave back in March. The things that we need to do and where we're headed as a football team. "

What is the state of Peria Jerry's conditioning?

"Peria has been working all summer with our athletic performance group as well as Harry and Brian Williams. They've all been here all summer long. He's in good shape conditioning-wise, in terms of running sprints and running gassers. Obviously, he is probably not, nor are any of our guys really, in football shape. It's a completely different type of conditioning that you have to do to get in playing shape. Again, we're going to manage him and bring him along. With all three of those guys, our philosophy is to make sure that they meet certain milestones that are set by our doctor first and athletic performance and then ask his coaches. We're going to be very careful on the workload that we give these guys, especially through these first two weeks of practice."

What is the dynamic between LB Mike Peterson and Weatherspoon?

"We talk about mentoring all the time on our football team. Every guy on our team, I tell them, can be either a mentor or a mentee or both. Mike has a lot of experience. Not only can he help Sean, but he can help [LB] Curtis [Lofton]. He can also help [LB] Stephen [Nicholas]. We know it's going to be a very competitive battle for the outside linebacker positions. You've got Mike, Stephen, Sean, [LB] Coy Wire, and [LB] Spencer Adkins that we're all feeling very good about their abilities. It's going to be a very competitive battle for the outside linebacker position. I think competition is healthy. I think that it's very healthy for our entire football team. I think it brings out the best in everybody."

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