- Vaughn McClure, ESPN Atlanta Falcons reporter
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FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Atlanta Falcons training camp:
Showing some fight: The Falcons provided plenty of footage for HBO's "Hard Knocks" during Monday's first padded practice. Numerous fights broke out throughout the day. It started with offensive lineman Gabe Carimi and outside linebacker Stansly Maponga exchanging punches following a pass-rush, one-on-one drill. "Both sides don't want to take crap," Carimi said. "I don't think there's anything personal between us. We'll talk about it. We'll be fine in the locker room. We'll be fine the next day. I think we've got two, passionate lines, and I think that's a good thing." The scuffle had a domino effect as outside linebacker Jacques Smith and center Joe Hawley got into it with a heated exchange. Hawley took exception because Smith's a rookie, and he let the youngster know about it. Another veteran, guard Justin Blalock, had a problem with Smith's reaction, too. "Out here on the field, things are going to work a certain way: You're just not going to talk like that to certain people," Blalock said. "There are things in place to handle that type of stuff. Unfortunately, you had to see some of that today." Coach Mike Smith stepped in and used a couple of expletives to calm the situation. The rookie Smith later got into it with tackle Ryan Schraeder.
Tough enough: Coach Smith seemed to be a little annoyed when the subject of toughness was brought up, considering it was the first time real hitting took place. "Everyone wants to talk about toughness: If you play in the National Football League, you are a tough person," Smith said. "It's about being resilient. It's about being strong. It's about being physical. Everybody that plays in the NFL is tough. And I can't tell you I've ever been around a football player that plays in the National Football League that's not tough. ... But in terms of being physical, we've got to be a more physical football team."
Rocky road: There was a funny moment in practice when Matt Ryan lightly tackled cornerback Robert Alford after Alford picked off a pass and returned it. But it was no joke how the passing game with Ryan and T.J. Yates was a little out of sync. There was some solid defensive pressure, particularly from Jonathan Massaquoi, who threw Ryan's timing off on at least one play. The defensive backs also made plays by knocking the ball away.
Rookie watch: Right tackle Jake Matthews was solid throughout the entire day, rarely giving up ground and forcing pass-rushers out wide. He was consistent in one-on-one drills and during full 11-on-11 team work. Defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman didn't fare as well, getting stood up a few times by offensive guard Harland Gunn both in drills and full team work. Practice ended with one play ran at full speed, and linebacker Marquis Spruill made a nice tackle on fellow rookie Devonta Freeman.
Extra points: Coach Smith said the pad level was way too high during the first padded practice. ... New defensive lineman Tyson Jackson and Paul Soliai looked the part up front with the pads on, barely getting push during one-on-ones and holding their own against double-teams. ... Julio Jones sat out practice, as planned. He'll be back Tuesday. ... Roddy White wore a thin knee brace but said it was no big deal. ... Team owner Arthur Blank attended practice.
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Atlanta Falcons training camp: Showing some fight: The Falcons provided plenty of footage for HBO's "Hard Knocks" during Monday's first padded practice.