mostlycloudy
Friday February 12th, 2016 7:22AM

Peter Konz steps into big role as Falcons' center

By The Associated Press
FLOWERY BRANCH -- Peter Konz had his proverbial baptism by fire as a rookie, starting 12 games at right guard for the Atlanta Falcons.

Now that he's the starting center following the retirement of Todd McClure, Konz will be grateful for that experience when Atlanta opens the regular season Sept. 8 at New Orleans.

"One of the main things I learned was staying calm," Konz said Sunday. "It's easy to have your head spinning in your first game and kind of freeze in the lights, as they say, but having that experience and playoff experience, especially, lets you know what level you have to play at every day."

There's still much to learn, particularly in making the right calls to keep quarterback Matt Ryan upright and clear space for running back Steven Jackson.

The Falcons went 13-3 last year and earned a No. 1 playoff seed as Ryan earned his second Pro Bowl invitation and led the league in completion percentage, but the rushing attack struggled in short-yardage situations and faltered in the second half of both playoff games.

Now that Jackson, the NFL's career-leading active rusher, has replaced Michael Turner, Atlanta hopes to cure its woes, but Konz's focus in training camp is on himself and the offensive line.

"I think it's coming along right now," Konz said. "Everybody is friends. Everybody is communicating really well. I think we just need to keep feeling each other out, know how we block, know how we react and that will make us a better unit."

Konz, a second-round draft pick last year, was a three-year starting center before leaving Wisconsin as a junior, but the Falcons slid him in at right guard when Garrett Reynolds suffered a season-ending back injury last fall.

Coach Mike Smith says Konz did his job well enough that the Falcons never hesitated to make him the starting center.

"I think it was a learning experience for Peter to know what the guy next to him is doing on both sides," Smith said. "Peter is a very smart, intelligent player, and we're asking a lot of him, but we've got a lot of confidence in his athleticism and his will and his passion."

Left guard Justin Blalock, the longest-tenured Atlanta lineman entering his seventh season, believes Konz's offseason work on the field, in the classroom and the weight room gave him a head start heading into training camp.

Blalock says Konz is still figuring out how to identify blitzes and shifts along the defensive front.

"Sam Baker, Garrett Reynolds, Mike Johnson and myself have been around the block a time or two and we've seen some things, but a lot of that, honestly, will be on him," Blalock said. "He's doing a great job so far. He's a very heady guy, so I don't anticipate any problems there."

Nonverbal communication is important, too, particularly on the road when crowd noise forces Ryan to use a silent snap count.

"There will be times when maybe things just happen too quickly before the snap and there's not time to speak," Blalock said. "Even during a play sometimes with the way physically that you control a block, there are a lot of intricate details, but he's doing a great job so far. That's why we're out here busting our butts so we can get up to speed."

Konz helped his cause physically by using free weights more than kettle bells in the offseason. He also ran more to improve his endurance.

"I'm bigger," he said. "I keep trying to improve on that and also to get functional strength. When it comes to the third and fourth quarters, we expect our team to be even better than last year."

NOTES: The Falcons practiced in full pads for the first time in camp. Smith was pleased that there were no fights or injuries. "It's our goal every year to get to that first game as healthy as possible," he said. ... Rookie CBs Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford, the first- and second-round draft picks, are both taking plenty of snaps at nickel. ... DE Stansly Moponga, a fifth-round pick, was on the field after the medical staff cleared him for full contact. Moponga missed all of minicamp and the offseason training activities because of a left foot injury.
© 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
7-AAA Tournament: Indians, Spartans, Vikings join Banks Co. boys in semifinals
East Hall, West Hall, and Lumpkin County all took wins Thursday in the Region 7-AAA Tournament at the East Hall gym to join Banks County in advancing to the Class AAA boys state tournament...
12:17PM ( 4 hours from now )
7-AAA Tournament: West Hall girls end state tourney drought; East Hall, Banks march on
Anna McKendree was five years old the last time the West Hall girls basketball team reached the state playoffs...
11:49AM ( 4 hours from now )
Wrestling: 31 area grapplers move on to traditional semifinals
Plenty of northeast Georgia's best high school wrestlers still have a chance to claim gold this weekend at the GHSA Traditional Championships in Duluth, as 31 area grapplers battled their way into the semifinal round on Thursday.
By AccessWDUN Staff
11:22AM ( 3 hours from now )
Falcons early PSL sales blow projections 'out of the water'
Personal seat license sales for the Atlanta Falcons' new stadium have surpassed expectations set by the firm handling the process for the team.
By The Associated Press
11:11PM ( 8 hours ago )
Soccer: No. 6 East Hall boys take opener, Lady Vikings fall
The Class AAA sixth-ranked East Hall boys soccer team blanked Prince Avenue Christian 10-0 in its season opener Thursday night.
By AccessWDUN Staff
11:07PM ( 8 hours ago )