partlycloudy
Thursday May 26th, 2016 10:23PM

Trufant, Alford get hard lessons in mini-camp

By The Associated Press
FLOWERY BRANCH -- Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford aren't having an easy time learning how to play cornerback in the NFL.

And that's just fine with Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith, who's been watching the rookies try to defend Roddy White and Julio Jones during a mandatory three-day mini-camp.

Smith said Trufant and Alford are getting valuable experience against two of the league's best receivers, and the rookies agree.

"We want to get them ready to play, and the best way is to have them go against really good players," Smith said. "They're going against two of the best in the league, and Harry Douglas is not a bad receiver as well. They're getting their fill."

The lessons haven't stopped since Trufant, a first-round pick from Washington, and Alford, a second-round selection from Southeastern Louisiana, were drafted in late April.

Trufant seems to have an advantage after growing up as the younger brother of Marcus Trufant, a free agent after playing 10 years with the Seattle Seahawks, and Isaiah Trufant, who played in nine games with one start for the New York Jets in 2012.

The brothers all play cornerback, a position Desmond Trufant excelled at in starting 47 of 50 games as a four-year starter at Washington.

But life in the NFL brings challenges that even Trufant wasn't entirely ready for when lined up opposite White and Jones, one of the league's top receiving tandems.

"They humbled me, to be honest," Trufant said. "They're big, they're strong, they're fast. They're getting me better every day, and I'm just competing with them."

White, a four-time Pro Bowl selection, last season became just the fifth NFL player with three straight years of at least 90 catches and 1,200 or more yards receiving.

Jones was invited to his first Pro Bowl after catching 79 passes for 1,198 yards and 10 touchdowns

Jones, who's accustomed to practicing hard in each drill, believes Trufant and Alford have the skills and mindsets to succeed. But he added that it's not his job to go easy on the rookies.

"They're trying", Jones said with a grin. "But they don't give up. They give effort. They've got heart, and that's one thing you can't teach."

Alford felt fortunate on the first day of mini-camp to beat White on a crossing route.

Quarterback Matt Ryan put the ball in White's hands, but Alford played the correct technique and was in position to knock the ball to the ground.

Both players were running at full speed, but White kept going after the play was whistled dead. Instead of doing his customary slow lap back up the field following a play, White slammed his hand into the wall of the indoor practice facility and made a crashing noise.

Alford was quick to say that he wasn't trying to upstage White. He only wanted to break up the pass.

"I think going against Julio and Roddy every day in one-on-ones is getting me better because both of them are Pro Bowl-caliber receivers," Alford said. "I'm going against the best, and I think that's the one thing I can do to help me get better as a player."

Alford is listed behind starting left cornerback Asante Samuel on the depth chart. Trufant is challenging Robert McClain for the starting job at right cornerback.

Samuel, a brash veteran renowned for shouting his confidence in practice, is helping both rookies adjust on the field and in the film room.

"He's been in the league 10 years," Alford said. "He's been to the Pro Bowl. He's had a bunch of interceptions and a bunch of rings from playing with the New England Patriots. I'm learning a lot from him every day."

NOTES: Smith announced that training camp will begin July 25 with an afternoon workout that is open to the public. ... He added that the Falcons will not tackle until their annual Friday Night Lights event one week after camp starts. This year's event is being held at City Park in Gainesville. ... Samuel (ankle) and S Thomas DeCoud (groin) didn't participate in the final practice of minicamp for precautionary reasons. Smith said neither injury was serious and he wanted to give some of the younger defensive backs a longer look anyway. ... TE Tony Gonzalez wasn't required to be at the minicamp - part of his contract to play another season instead of retiring. ... DE Osi Umenyiora was excused from Thursday's workout after practicing the previous two days. RB Jason Snelling also missed the two-hour practice after the death of his grandmother. ... The only injury concern is rookie DE Stansly Maponga, a fifth-round draft pick from TCU. He is still recovering from March ankle surgery and may be limited at the start of training camp, Smith said. ... FB Bradie Ewing has fully recovered from knee surgery that kept him out all of last season.
© Copyright 2016 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Bartus, Icemen shuts out Gwinnett
Garrett Bartus pitched a 42 save shutout, as the Evansville IceMen topped the Gwinnett Gladiators on a New year
10:23PM ( 2 years ago )
Gator Bowl Preview Capsule
A rematch of last year's Capital One Bowl, which Georgia won 45-31 in Orlando.
8:52PM ( 2 years ago )
Millsap's 34 leads Hawks past Celtics
Paul Millsap had season highs with 34 points and 15 rebounds as the Hawks rallied from an 18-point deficit for a 92-91 win over the Boston Celtics on Tuesday afternoon.
7:44PM ( 2 years ago )
Sports
Falcons fire offensive, defensive line coaches
The Atlanta Falcons have fired defensive line coach Ray Hamilton and offensive line coaches Pat Hill and Paul Dunn.
7:02PM ( 2 years ago )
Best, worst of Falcons' 4-12 season
Best Game: They'd been eliminated from playoff contention previous week vs. New Orleans, but the Falcons showed some heart with Dec. 1 overtime victory over Bills in Toronto.
6:21PM ( 2 years ago )
Gonzalez's career ends with another Falcons loss
Tony Gonzalez is ready for the next chapter of his life.
9:47PM ( 2 years ago )
Professional Sports
GHSA moves basketball championships away from Macon
The Georgia High School Association announced on Thursday that it will no longer hold its annual basketball championship games in the Macon Coliseum and is moving the contests to the University of Georgia's Stegeman Coliseum and Georgia Tech's McCamish Pavilion.
6:00PM ( 4 hours ago )
High school season over, Branch grad Shewbert still eyeing big things in coming weeks
Jake Shewbert was just a few hundred meters from the finish line, a second state championship in as many days hanging in the balance, when the pain ripped through his body.
5:56PM ( 4 hours ago )
VIDEO: Baseball playoffs yielded highlights worth watching -- again
Check out the best highlights from the recently completed state baseball playoffs...
5:51PM ( 4 hours ago )
Lanier Olympic Center set for another big weekend, as collegiate rowers descend on Gainesville
For the second weekend in a row, the Lake Lanier Olympic Center will buzz with activity, as athletes pack into the venue in pursuit of glory.
By AccessWDUN Staff
5:35PM ( 4 hours ago )
Baylor demotes Starr, fires coach amid sex assaults scandal
Baylor University demoted school President Ken Starr and fired football coach Art Briles on Thursday, issuing a scathing report over the university's handling of sexual assault complaints against players.
By The Associated Press
4:50PM ( 5 hours ago )