clearn.png
Wednesday June 23rd, 2021 2:21AM

Falcons begin post-Julio Jones era in Smith's first minicamp

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

ATLANTA (AP) — Arthur Smith delivered a frank answer when asked about entering his first season as the Atlanta Falcons' coach without Julio Jones.

“I don’t worry about players I never coached,” Smith said following Tuesday's opening day of mandatory minicamp.

Jones was traded to Tennessee on Sunday in a move that allowed the financially strapped Falcons to clear the salary cap space needed to sign this year's draft picks.

Jones, 32, left as the Falcons' all-time leader in catches and receiving yards. He stood with quarterback Matt Ryan as the faces of the franchise for a decade. Like Ryan, he was a popular leader both on and off the field.

Smith, the former Titans offensive coordinator, recognized that a player with Jones' Hall of Fame credentials merits a sendoff with compliments.

Smith said he has “a lot of respect and appreciation for what he did here. I wish him well at Tennessee. My main concern is our roster and getting us ready to go for this fall.”

Jones' trade to the Titans was not a surprise. Even so, the first practice without the seven-time Pro Bowl receiver felt different to his former teammates.

“I just have a ton of respect for Julio and all the amazing things he’s accomplished in his career and for the team,” right guard Chris Lindstrom said. “I’m just thankful for the interactions I had with Julio. He was a great teammate and a great role model in the locker room.”

Defensive end Steven Means said the trade wouldn't be a distraction.

“We’ve got a great group of guys, so we all wish him the best,” Means said. “We know now we’ve got to ramp it up, but it’s not going to be a distraction. It’s not going to be nothing that is going to hold us back in the sense of us dwelling on it. We’re just going to push forward and wish him well and go out there and continue to play ball.”

Speculation about a trade grew after first-year general manager Terry Fontenot said the team would entertain offers for Jones. Last week, Jones told former NFL star Shannon Sharpe “I'm outta there” in an interview on FS1.

Atlanta received the Titans’ second-round pick in 2022 and their fourth-rounder in 2023. The Falcons included a sixth-round pick in 2023 in the deal.

Jones' production had been impressive and consistent, with six straight seasons with more than 1,300 yards receiving, before last season. A nagging hamstring injury limited him to nine games in 2020, when Calvin Ridley emerged as the team's top receiver.

Jones holds Atlanta records with 848 catches for 12,896 yards. His 60 touchdowns rank second, behind Roddy White (63).

Ridley, Russell Gage and newly acquired Tajae Sharpe, who previously played for Smith at Tennessee, now lead Atlanta's receiving corps.

Tight end Kyle Pitts, the No. 4 overall selection in this year's NFL draft, could line up like a wide receiver in two-tight end sets with Hayden Hurst. Running back Cordarrelle Patterson, who began his career as a wide receiver, also could be used in different roles.

“We’ll use any of these guys that are versatile out there,” Smith said. “We feel like we’ve got a lot of versatile pieces, whether that’s Hayden, whether that’s Kyle, Cordarrelle. We have a lot of different guys and there will be great competition in every room.”

NOTES: LB Deion Jones reported on Monday for his physical but was excused for Tuesday's first day of minicamp. Smith said the approved absence was for a family matter. ... Smith said Atlanta will have joint training camp practices with the Miami Dolphins before the teams' preseason game in Miami on Aug. 21. The Falcons’ first preseason game is against Jones and the Titans on Aug. 12 in Atlanta.

___

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Sports, AP Online Football, AP Online - Georgia News, AP Sports - NFL
© Copyright 2021 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Falcons begin post-Julio Jones era in Smith's first minicamp
The Atlanta Falcons have launched their mandatory minicamp
4:23PM ( 7 minutes ago )
Global sting began by creating message service for crooks
Criminal gangs that used a secure-messaging app called ANOM unwittingly allowed the FBI and other law enforcement agencies to eavesdrop on their conversations
4:15PM ( 14 minutes ago )
The Latest: US official highlights college vaccine clinics
U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona is using a COVID-19 vaccine clinic at a suburban Detroit community college to highlight the White House's efforts to encourage similar efforts across the country
4:09PM ( 20 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
After going 0-6 in Slam QFs, Pavlyuchenkova finally wins 1
Anastasia Pavlychenkova finally has a Grand Slam quarterfinal victory
3:01PM ( 1 hour ago )
Jaguars hold out QB Lawrence because of hamstring tightness
Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence was held out of parts of practice Tuesday because of tightness in his left hamstring
3:00PM ( 1 hour ago )
Zverev reaches 3rd Grand Slam semifinal, 1st at French Open
Alexander Zverev has reached his third Grand Slam semifinal and first at the French Open
2:27PM ( 2 hours ago )
AP Sports
Former New York Giants coach Jim Fassel dies at 71
Former New York Giants coach Jim Fassel has died
5:40AM ( 10 hours ago )
Alabama, Saban agree to new 8-year deal through 2028 season
Alabama coach Nick Saban has agreed to a three-year contract extension running through the 2028 season
7:09PM ( 21 hours ago )
Former Chiefs assistant coach pleads not guilty in crash
Former Kansas City Chiefs assistant coach Britt Reid has pleaded not guilty in a crash that left a young girl critically injured
5:57PM ( 22 hours ago )
AP Online Football
Pipeline CEO defends paying ransom amid cyberattack
A pipeline company CEO made no apologies Tuesday for his decisions to abruptly halt fuel distribution for much of the East Coast and pay millions to a criminal gang in Russia
3:37PM ( 52 minutes ago )
Pipeline CEO: Ransom payment 'hardest decision' of career
The chief executive of the massive fuel pipeline hit by ransomware last month says authorizing a multi-million-dollar payment to hackers was the right thing to do to bring an end to fuel shortages affecting much of the eastern United States
3:02PM ( 1 hour ago )
Pipeline CEO: Ransom payment among my 'toughest decisions'
The chief executive of the massive fuel pipeline hit by ransomware last month told senators on Tuesday that authorizing a multi-million-dollar payment to hackers was the right thing to do to bring an end to fuel shortages affecting much of the eastern United States
11:46AM ( 4 hours ago )
AP Online - Georgia News
The Latest: Nuggets, Avalanche arena OK for full capacity
Ball Arena in Denver has been approved to return to full capacity for the next round of the NBA and NHL playoffs providing fans wear face coverings
1:15PM ( 5 days ago )
NFL pledges to halt 'race-norming,' review Black claims
The NFL is pledging to halt the use of “race-norming” in the $1 billion settlement of brain injury claims and to review Black claims for any potential race bias
3:37PM ( 6 days ago )
Guerrero powers Jays' return to Buffalo; beat Marlins 5-1
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. keyed a career-best four-hit outing with his major league-leading 17th home run and the Toronto Blue Jays celebrated the return to their temporary Buffalo home with a 5-1 win over the Miami Marlins
10:16PM ( 6 days ago )
AP Sports - NFL
Global sting began by creating message service for crooks
Criminal gangs that used a secure-messaging app called ANOM unwittingly allowed the FBI and other law enforcement agencies to eavesdrop on their conversations
4:15PM ( 15 minutes ago )
The Latest: US official highlights college vaccine clinics
U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona is using a COVID-19 vaccine clinic at a suburban Detroit community college to highlight the White House's efforts to encourage similar efforts across the country
4:09PM ( 20 minutes ago )
Senate aims to boost tech industry in competition with China
The Senate is on pace to approve legislation aiming to boost semiconductor production in the U.S. The bill is a bid to protect economic and national security in the face of growing competition internationally, most notably from China
4:07PM ( 22 minutes ago )
Embattled New Jersey corrections commissioner to resign
New Jersey’s embattled corrections commissioner has announced his resignation, a day after Gov. Phil Murphy said the state would shutter its long-troubled and only women’s prison
4:00PM ( 29 minutes ago )
Far-right Idaho Republicans battle to control party, state
Mainstream and far-right Republicans are battling for control of the party and the state in deeply conservative Idaho
3:57PM ( 32 minutes ago )