- Vaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer
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Most of the attention this week involving the Atlanta Falcons is sure to revolve around the list of pre-draft visitors, which includes defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, outside linebacker Khalil Mack, and offensive tackle Jake Matthews.
But there is another matter to attend to in Flowery Branch, Ga.: The Falcons begin the offseason workout program on Monday.
Head coach Mike Smith recently addressed the start of offseason workouts during a radio interview with 790 the Zone's "Locker Room" hosted by Alge Crumpler and JP Peterson.
"The CBA kind of limits what we can do," Smith said. "We have a nine-week program which we can spend time with the players. And really, the first four weeks, there's not a whole lot of on the field activities going on. So we're getting ready to start our program on the 21st of April, and the first two weeks will be spent in the classroom and in the weight room. And then the next two weeks will be on the field. The offense and defense cannot work against each other. ... There's not a whole lot you're going to be able to get accomplished in those four weeks."
The first phase of the offseason workout program according to the Collective Bargaining Agreement: Phase One shall consist of the first two weeks of the Club's offseason workout program. Subject to the additional rules set forth in Section 5 of this Article, Phase One activities shall be limited to strength and conditioning and physical rehabiliation only. During Phase One, only full-time or part-time strength and conditioning coaches, who have no other coaching responsibilities with the club, shall be allowed on the field; no other coaches shall be allowed on the field or to otherwise participate in or observe activities. No footballs shall be permitted to be used (only ``dead ball activities), except that quarterbacks may elect to throw to receivers provided they are not covered by any other player. Players cannot wear helmets during Phase One.
Here are some things to keep in mind as the Falcons get back to work:
Julio sighting: During Tuesday's workout session, the Falcons will allow media members to take pictures of the players in action. Plenty of attention is sure to be on wide receiver Julio Jones, provided Jones is not kept from the public eye. He's coming off foot surgery and is ahead of schedule in his recovery, according to Smith. Watching Jones simply walking normally would be a positive sign. The real test will be when he starts running and cutting on the field.
Ryan's Hope: Also on Tuesday, the Falcons will make quarterback Matt Ryan available to the media. During a radio interview last week, Ryan talked about the team being open to his input in terms of the draft. Ryan might be smart to beg the bosses to add an offensive tackle in the first round. Ryan can't survive another season like he had last year, and he was more banged up than he let on. Auburn's Greg Robinson, Michigan's Taylor Lewan, or Texas A&M's Matthews would look awfully nice lining up at one of the tackle spots.
Catching on: Ryan shouldn't waste time taking tight end Levine Toilolo out to the practice field. No one expects Toilolo to be Tony Gonzalez, but the former fourth-round pick from Stanford will get his opportunity to be the primary tight end. Personally, I don't believe the Falcons are going into the draft looking for a starting tight end. There might not be a big emphasis on the tight end in the offense this season, anyhow.
Strength in numbers: In speaking to a number of Falcons' offensive linemen near the end of last season, most of them agreed getting in the weight room needed to be a priority this offseason. Center/guard Peter Konz said he's been living in the weight room since season's end, and that needs to continue if he hopes to work his way back into the lineup this season. But it's not just about bulking up. It's about functional strength. "You know what? We never talk about strength in the film room because it’s all about technique," Konz said. "If you open up any book, it’s all about leverage. And strength is important when you know how to use it with your footwork."
Any volunteers? Remember, offseason workouts are voluntary. But for a team coming off a 4-12 season, it would be wise for the Falcons to have perfect attendance.