The Falcons returned to work on Monday and while their schedule is light right now, the return to workouts during April and May signal the true beginning of football season. For a team like the Falcons that was just a few yards from the Super Bowl last season, getting back into the facility is a good way to put last season behind them and start putting in the work to get even further this time around.
"It's a good feeling to come back this offseason," defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux said Tuesday afternoon. "Based off of what we did last season, we know what it takes to get back to where we were. The main thing is we have to be more consistent this year. It pretty much starts with our workout. We need to make sure we're here, we're disciplined and we're doing everything we can to better ourselves and improve ourselves to get ready for the 2013 season."
Players have been working out during the offseason on their own, but this week is the first time they've been back together as a team and while there are some new faces around the locker room, there are also some familiar faces no longer in the room, most notably Todd McClure and Tyson Clabo on the offensive line.
This time of the year will be critical for a number of members on the offensive line as the loss of McClure and Clabo means competition at as many as three positions: center, right guard and right tackle.
Matt Ryan is the player closest to the five big guys up front on the offense and he thinks Peter Konz, Mike Johnson, Garrett Reynolds and Lamar Holmes will work hard to solidify the holes left by McClure and Clabo.
"I think it's an opportunity for those guys to step into those roles and I think they're certainly capable of doing that," Ryan said. "When you look individually at the guys, I think Garrett's a guy who has started roughly a dozen games for us and he's been very productive when he's healthy. You've got Mike Johnson who was worn a number of different hats for us in the swing offensive lineman position. We know he's athletic; he caught a touchdown down in New Orleans last year. And then we've got a young guy in Lamar who I think is an extremely talented player, is learning our system and getting bigger and stronger and more comfortable in what we're doing."
Konz, a center in college, tentatively projects as the center and Reynolds, the 2012-season-opening starter at right guard was re-signed in the offseason to return to man that position. Johnson and Holmes figure to host a highly contested battle in training camp for tackle on the right side.
"There's going to be a lot of open competition," Ryan said. "I think that brings out the best in people and I have complete confidence in those guys that they'll be able to step up for us."
Ryan, who injured his shoulder in the NFC Championship Game, said his first goal of workouts is to make sure he's back to good health so he can prepare for everything that is ahead on the football calendar and he feels he's right where he needs to be with no setbacks expected from the shoulder.
"Obviously, I was a little nicked up at the end of last year," Ryan said. "I feel really good at this point and I've worked really hard with our training staff to get myself back into a position so I can train and practice the way I want to."