Sean Weatherspoon was clearly excited to be back on the field during the Falcons' recent minicamp after being sidelined for all of OTAs with rehab. Falcons head coach Mike Smith said the return of Weatherspoon and Stephen Nicholas, who was also out rehabbing, was welcomed. Though young linebackers got some valuable time in their absence, Smith said the veterans are important to what the Falcons are trying to accomplish on defense.
Weatherspoon, who enters his fourth season, expects to step into a heightened leadership role in his second year under coordinator Mike Nolan. Smith said the linebacker is an "an integral part of the team" and Weatherspoon himself said he will continue to do everything he can to help the team, including being a leader if necessary.
"I feel like it's my fourth year," Weatherspoon said. "I'm becoming a vet so you've got to go out there and apply yourself like a vet. If the leadership role is where I need to be then that's where I'm going to be. Whatever I can do to help this is all I'm focused on."
This year, the Falcons spent six draft picks addressing the defense and they appear in the early stages to be good fits with the team and its veterans. The defense may land at least one starter in either of their first two picks, Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford, and some of the other picks are expected to provide valuable depth and be prepared to step on the field in case of an injury or emergency.
Never one to lack enthusiasm, Weatherspoon said he has welcomed the new Falcons in the short time he's watched them practice and worked with them, he likes what he sees from a football-playing standpoint, as well as their energy.
"They're awesome," Weatherspoon said about the rookies. "Young guys, they always just come out, they inspire me just because of the way they're working. It's the first time to go out there and show us what they can actually do. It's exciting to watch. I look forward to seeing what they can do to help us."