White showing strong progression

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FLOWERY BRANCH, GA — In between two practice fields at the Falcons training camp facility stood a stack of large red garbage cans. Piled on top of each other, the cans stood around 5 feet tall when stacked together.

As the horn blew to signal to players it was time to stretch during Friday's afternoon practice, wide receiver Roddy White jogged from one field over to the next. On his way, he took a detour, heading straight toward the stack of garbage cans, picking up speed and leapfrogging over them with room to spare.

The feat was met with some amazed looks.

"I was just having fun, man," White said with a laugh after Saturday's morning session. "I was getting excited."

The type of athleticism White possesses to make that type of leap should get Falcons fans excited, too.

White's progression from the end of last season to this point in training camp has caught a lot of attention. White, who missed a portion of training camp last season because of a contract holdout, has shown an amazing commitment to getting better in the offseason.

"I think that Roddy had an outstanding offseason for us through the OTAs and the offseason conditioning program," head coach Mike Smith said. "I think he's in the best shape he's been in since I've been here. I don't know about the time prior to when I was here, but he's in very, very good shape. He looks very explosive."

Since last season's 1,153-yard, 11-touchdown performance, White has put in the time, energy and work to become a better receiver. Smith was impressed with White's commitment in the weight room, his work on running routes and the time he spends with director of athletic performance Jeff Fish and his staff.

White also hasn't missed a team activity since things got started with mini-camp, and that has gone a long way to helping the five-year veteran prepare for what he hopes will be a breakout year.

"I just wanted to be here for my teammates during OTAs, just be around these guys and get some team camaraderie going, just helping the young guys," White said. "I want to be more of a leader, more of a veteran leader. This is my sixth year going into the league and I just want to be around the team. I love being in the locker room and sharing things."

Going into their third year in offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey's offensive system, White has been able to further establish an on-field relationship with quarterback Matt Ryan. On the same field with fellow wide receiver Michael Jenkins, tight end Tony Gonzalez and running back Michael Turner, the idea of White being even better than he has been in the past with the Falcons is an exciting idea.

"You've got him, and you've got Tony Gonzalez — those are weapons that you have to worry about," Jenkins said. "That gives me a lot of one-on-one opportunities to make plays."

But no one is more excited about the year's prospects than White himself.

"It's good to be here," White said. "As long as you're here, the team's just going to get better. I love it."

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