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Tuesday May 31st, 2016 12:31PM

Falcons a perfect 5-0 on west coast under Smith

By The Associated Press
FLOWERY BRANCH -- Mike Smith credits the Falcons' success on the West Coast to the performance of his players, not his travel schedule.

Even so, Smith isn't about to mess with a winning formula.

That means Friday was a travel day for the Falcons. Smith led a light practice, packed up his team and headed to the Atlanta airport for an afternoon flight to San Diego - two days before Sunday's game against the Chargers.

The extra travel day has paid off for the Falcons, who are 5-0 on the west coast in Smith's five seasons.

Smith's Falcons, 2-0 in Seattle, also have won at San Francisco, Oakland and San Diego.

Smith says he copied the travel plan used by former Ravens coach Brian Billick. Smith worked on Billick's staff from 1999-2002.

"That's the way we did it when I first got in the NFL," Smith said after Friday's practice. "We basically had success when we did it that way in Baltimore and I just copied it. It's been very successful for us."

Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, the former 49ers coach, said Friday departures for Sunday games are more common for West Coast teams who lose three hours while making cross-country trips to the east.

"The beauty in going from east to west is you actually gain some time," Nolan said Friday. "When you go from west to east you always leave on a Friday because you're losing three hours. It's harder on those guys than the other way."

Even with the hours gained, Smith said he likes giving his players the extra day to acclimate to the west coast.

The Falcons will have a walkthrough practice at the Padres' Petco Park on Saturday. The Padres are playing at San Francisco.

The team's clocks and schedule remain set on Georgia time as Smith attempts to keep players' routines feeling as normal as possible.

"I think Mike does an outstanding job scheduling and I think he does take a lot of things into consideration when we go on the road," said Nolan, who was Billick's defensive coordinator from 2004-04.

"He tries to keep the body clock, so to speak, in check. Coach Billick did it the same way. I think it's a very good way to go.

Smith said he sets up the travel schedules long before the season so there are no surprises for players and their families.

"We let our players know once the schedule comes out when we're playing and where we're playing and how the week will go," he said. "Those guys have known forever this is what we're doing and why we're doing it and what we need to get accomplished."

Smith isn't crediting the 5-0 west coast record to Friday departures.

"I think the reason we've been successful out there is we've played good," he said. "I don't know that it's always about the travel, but we've played well and made plays out there."

Nolan said careful travel planning "has some play" in road success.

Added Nolan: "The biggest thing is having the better team."

NOTES: CB Christopher Owens (concussion) and running back Antone Smith (hamstring) have been ruled out for this week. The loss of Owens hurts an Atlanta secondary that lost CB Brent Grimes with a season-ending Achilles injury in Week 1. Dominique Franks moves up as the nickel back. OT Tyson Clabo (hip) and OLB Sean Weatherspoon (thigh) were limited in Friday's practice and are listed as questionable. Each were listed as questionable and played in Monday night's win over Denver.
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