As the Falcons began their 2010
campaign this morning, I sat on the bleachers inside the fences at the team's Flowery Branch headquarters and realized how a true NFL veteran is supposed to work.Amidst all the rookies and players vying for a roster spot, sure-fire Hall-of-Famer, tight end Tony Gonzalez was one of the first players out on the practice field. As Brett Favre sits in Mississippi waiting for training camp to conclude so he can come out of retirement, Gonzalez was out there practicing in almost 100-degree weather with his teammates, obviously focused on something larger than an ego.While I watched No. 88 work on individual drills, go across the middle during the team activities and stay 10 minutes after practice to talk to a slew of reporters, I realized just how professional this guy is, and that his professionalism and character will do nothing but help the younger Falcons mature and succeed.But Gonzalez wasn't the only guy out there busting his hump. Every player had a little pep in their step, partly because they're glad to be back on the football field and because they know this season could be something special.With the arsenal of weapons at third-year QB Matt Ryan's disposal -- including a healthy Harry Douglas, who looked like he hasn't missed a step despite missing all of last season with an injury -- the Falcons have every ability to match the Saints and the rest of the NFL point-for-point.The defense is the issue, but if the first day of practice is any indication (it's not by the way), the Falcons appear to have fixed some holes in the D.FAN APPROVAL: As loud as the cheers were every time Ryan completed a pass, the cheers for the defensive plays were twice as noisy. It's apparent the fans realize the team's biggest issue, so when Ryan was picked off twice, and backup Chris Redman once, you would have thought the Falcons had just made a game-changing play. It's not too often you hear fans cheer when the franchise quarterback throws a pick, but when you watch your secondary get burned over the course of a season, any glimpse of hope is welcomed. For what it's worth, Ryan, Redman and John Parker Wilson hardly ever threw to the receiver covered by newly acquired Dunta Robinson, and Ryan's two picks were caught by linebackers.THE OLD WEAPON: I know a lot of people are concerned with the defense, but since I'm looking for every edge for fantasy football, I couldn't keep my eyes off the offense.Everyone looked good for the first day of practice, but the play of Brian Finneran really got my attention. Lost in all the talk of Douglas, Gonzalez, Roddy White and Michael Jenkins, the veteran WR proved Friday why HE might be a key to the team's success in 2010. On multiple occassions, regardless of the QB, Finneran made nice receptions over the middle and along the sidelines. If he can keep healthy and do that during the regular season, Ryan's wealth of weapons will be greater than most imagined.
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