Blank: Falcons need toughness

Updated: January 6, 2014, 1:35 PM ET
By Vaughn McClure | ESPN.com

ATLANTA -- The perception coming off this season's 4-12 implosion is that the Falcons weren't tough enough.

[+] EnlargeArthur Blank
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsArthur Blank points to the Falcons' offensive and defensive lines as areas of the team that could use an infusion of toughness.

Owner Arthur Blank on Monday essentially agreed with such an assessment.

As he addressed the Atlanta-area media, Blank was asked about possibly altering the thought process about the type of player he brings into the organization.

Blank used the question as a platform to relay his thoughts on the team's overall toughness, or lack thereof, a week after coach Mike Smith stood by the toughness of the team.

"I'm going to give you a little different answer than Smitty gave you last week,'' Blank said. "He was asked the question about how tough our team was. And I read his answer. And in many ways, I would agree with it. But in some ways, I would not agree with it. I think the nature of the game is that it's a physically violent game. It is a tough game. To play football on the professional level and the college level or even the high school level, you've got to be a tough kid. You've got to be a tough person, I think. And I think a lot of our players are certainly that.

"I think, at the end of the day, if I asked you ... give me a brief definition of what toughness is, I think you might say something else, but you might say to me it's how you control the line of scrimmage. Can you run the ball? Can you stop the run? ... And I don't think we did either one of those things very well this year. So I would say, if you looked at toughness from that perspective, I don't think we were as tough as we needed to be.''

Blank said Monday the Falcons would likely use the No. 6 overall draft pick to select a player to bolster their offensive or defensive line.

In referring to the original question, Blank implied the Falcons could add tougher players without having to compromise character.

"It doesn't mean we want players that are going to end up in different sections of the newspaper other than the sports section,'' Blank said. "But I do think we want players that have the capacity to be tough; as tough as they need to be, to play right up to the line, to the edge of the line, and to have coaches that can coach them that way as well.''

The Falcons are in the midst of interviewing offensive and defensive line coaches after firing offensive line coaches Pat Hill and Paul Dunn as well as defensive line coach Ray Hamilton.

Vaughn McClure

ESPN Atlanta Falcons reporter

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