Sunday November 29th, 2015 7:22AM

Lofton, Falcons eager to get camp started

By The Associated Press
FLOWERY BRANCH -- Atlanta Falcons defensive captain Curtis Lofton likes what he sees with the start of training camp just a few hours away.

There were times this summer that Lofton wondered if the NFL lockout would ever end and the fourth-year linebacker is delighted that football has finally returned.

"I believe our guys are ready to get on the field," Lofton said Thursday. "We can't wait, and from what I can see everyone is in good shape. We're ready to go."

Players checked into their on-site dormitory rooms to prepare for the first practice Friday at 9:45 a.m. The afternoon session, which begins at 3:25, is open to the public and free of charge.

The lockout didn't stop Lofton and many Atlanta veterans from meeting several times a week this summer to practice 7-on-7 drills at nearby Buford High School and work on conditioning at a nearby fitness center.

A few star veterans such as tight end Tony Gonzalez, defensive end John Abraham and running back Michael Turner stuck to their own regimens with private trainers, but a significant core of the team's roster - including quarterback Matt Ryan, receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White and defensive starters Sean Weatherspoon, Kroy Biermann, Brent Grimes, Thomas DeCoud and William Moore - trained together.

Linebacker Coy Wire, who served as Atlanta's representative to the NFL Players Association, helped design conditioning sessions that built camaraderie and kept players in football-specific shape.

"So far, I don't see any big blimps walking around in there," Wire said. "Guys look like they've been handling their business and taking care of themselves."

There are plenty of holes to fill on the depth chart, however, with the offensive line missing unrestricted free agents Tyson Clabo, Harvey Dahl and Justin Blalock.

Linebacker Mike Peterson agreed to contract terms on a one-year deal for his third season in Atlanta and 13th overall. The Falcons hope that rookie receiver Jones, the No. 6 overall draft pick, and linebacker Akeem Dent, a third-round pick, soon follow suit.

Re-signing Clabo, an alternate Pro Bowl selection at right tackle, seems a top priority for general manager Thomas Dimitroff. Falcons coach Mike Smith has always praised the smarts and work ethic of Dahl and Blalock, but if their price is too high, Atlanta has three candidates who will compete at guard - Joe Hawley, Mike Johnson and rookie Andrew Jackson.

Garrett Reynolds is a potential replacement for Clabo.

Agreeing to contract terms with Peterson and linebacker Stephen Nicholas gives the Falcons all 11 starters returning on defense, but cornerback Brent Grimes, a Pro Bowl alternate last season, is a restricted free agent who indicated recently he might skip the start of camp if a long-term deal isn't offered. Grimes signed a contract tender in February.

Pro Bowl return specialist Eric Weems is another restricted free agent.

Kicker Matt Bryant is still unrestricted, but he said last month that he wants to stay with Atlanta and believes the team will make him a fair offer. If Bryant isn't on the field soon, Smith and his staff will take a longer look at rookie Matt Bosher, a sixth-round pick from Miami who kicks and punts and is the lead candidate to replace punter Michael Koenen.

The most notable addition to Smith's staff was Bob Bratkowski, who took over as quarterbacks coach when Bill Musgrave left to become offensive coordinator in Minnesota.

Ryan said he will miss Musgrave, who helped him win 33 of 46 games as starter, but welcomes Bratkowski, Cincinnati's coordinator from 2001-10.

"I think it's going to be a lot of fun working with somebody new and trying to learn from him," Ryan said. "His wealth of experience will definitely help us."
© Copyright 2015
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Utah comes back, beats GaTech 30-27 in OT Sun Bowl
John White plowed into the end zone from 8 yards out to give Utah a 30-27 overtime victory against Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl on Saturday.

6:30PM ( 3 years ago )
Girls basketball: East Hall wins McDonald's Shootout title
The East Hall girls basketball team followed up its Lanierland title by winning the McDonald's Shootout Friday. The Lady Vikings beat Elbert County 50-35 in the championship game at the Hart County gym.
6:43AM ( 3 years ago )
Hawks win second straight, drop Wizards
Through two games, the Atlanta Hawks have not trailed, they've displayed impressive scoring balance and they've won in back-to-back days by a combined margin of 54 points.
12:14AM ( 3 years ago )
Williams leads Hawks past Nets in opener
Marvin Williams had 14 points and nine rebounds and the Atlanta Hawks opened a double-digit lead early and cruised to a 106-70 victory over the sluggish Nets on Tuesday night in their final home opener in New Jersey.
10:24PM ( 3 years ago )
Smith takes little delight in making playoffs
Coach Mike Smith has led the Atlanta Falcons to the playoffs in three of his four seasons. Right now, he couldn't care less.
9:29PM ( 3 years ago )
Professional Sports
Run game, defense helps Dogs seal victory over Jackets, 9-win campaign
Mark Richt trotted over to a corner of Bobby Dodd Stadium, where the Georgia band played and the red-clad faithful had nothing but cheers for the embattled coach.
11:59PM ( 7 hours ago )
Watson puts up 4 TDs and No. 1 Clemson moves to 12-0 with 37-32 win over South Carolina
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Deshaun Watson isn't giving up on Clemson's step-by-step approach, not when it's worked so well. Watson had another big day, running for three touchdowns and passing for a fourth...
11:58PM ( 7 hours ago )
Boys basketball: Vikings bounce back from loss with win over Paideia
Jacquen Hopkins led four players in double figures with 14 points as East Hall beat Paideia 68-54 Saturday in the Hoopsgiving Classic at Holy Innocents High School.
By AccessWDUN Staff
11:57PM ( 7 hours ago )
Girls basketball: East Hall knocks off Alabama state champs in Hoopsgiving Classic
The East Hall girls knocked off defending Class AAAAAAA Alabama state champion Huntsville 65-37 Saturday in the Hoopsgiving Classic at Holy Innocents High School.
By AccessWDUN Staff
11:50PM ( 7 hours ago )
Dogs drop tough road game at Seton Hall
The Georgia men’s basketball team (2-2) lost a hard-fought game on the road,69-62, to the Seton Hall Pirates (5-0) Saturday night at the Prudential Center. The Bulldogs were led by by forward Yante Maten, who poured in a career-high 21 points.
By AccessWDUN Staff
10:23PM ( 8 hours ago )