Thursday, February 20, 2014
Smith: Konz will compete at center
By Vaughn McClure
INDIANAPOLIS -- It appears Peter Konz will at least get a chance to compete for the starting spot he lost at center.
That's what Falcons head coach Mike Smith said Thursday at the NFL combine while discussing the future of the offensive line.
"The word is going to be competition across the board," Smith said. "[Konz] will compete at the center position. Again, I think the more flexibility we have in the offensive line gives us a better opportunity to come up with the best five and then, in turn, gives us the ability to come up with the best seven because on game day, you're playing with seven. And you've got to be able to have flexibility.
"You've got to have a backup center. You've got to have someone that can go from guard to tackle. You've got to have someone that can go from tackle to guard. And those are the things that we're looking forward to in this offseason, is really having a competitive atmosphere not only on the offensive line or the defensive line, but on our entire football team."
Konz began last season as the starting center but lost his spot to Joe Hawley and got moved over to right guard. He went back and forth with Garrett Reynolds at right guard before taking over the spot completely. Then at season's end, Konz saw Harland Gunn cut into his reps at guard.
The Falcons demanded that the former second-round pick from Wisconsin get in the weight room this offseason to improve his strength, and Konz continues to follow the team's orders religiously.
That doesn't necessarily mean he'll be back in the starting lineup in 2014. Konz still has a lot to prove. And there's no guarantee he will impress new offensive line coach Mike Tice on the field. Konz was a college teammate of Tice's son.
Konz also was roommates with newly signed Falcons offensive lineman Gabe Carimi, a former first-round pick of the Chicago Bears.
"He's definitely a talented player," Carimi said of Konz. "It's like having a brother on the team. I hope we raise each other's level of play."
The Falcons are expected to add an offensive guard in free agency and could target an offensive tackle in the first two rounds of the draft, depending on what happens in free agency.