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Tuesday May 24th, 2022 5:45PM

Falcons' London embraces health, contract at rookie minicamp

By The Associated Press
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FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — Drake London celebrated good health and a new contract on the first day of the Atlanta Falcons' rookie minicamp.

London, the wide receiver who was the Falcons' first-round pick in last month's NFL draft from Southern California, missed the end of the 2021 season with a fractured right ankle. He said he was thrilled to have no restrictions for Friday's session of the two-day minicamp.

“It’s just a blast being out here playing football again, especially under my circumstances, not being able to play football since last October,” London said, adding his ankle “felt great.”

It is not known if there will be safeguards taken with London when the Falcons move into contact drills in training camp this summer. As the No. 8 overall pick in the NFL draft, London acknowledged his health for the season is the priority.

“It is a longer-term thought process, but at the same time I always had the mentality I was going to come in and do all that I can,” London said. “They didn’t put any restrictions on me, so I’m going to keep on going.”

London signed a four-year deal on Thursday worth $21.5 million. The Falcons have a fifth-year option.

“Amazing,” London said. “My life just changed and I couldn’t be more grateful for it.”

London has a path to more than just an immediate starting job. He could be the team's top big-play threat at the position while joining tight end Kyle Pitts and running back/wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson as players expected to receive the most targets.

London joins quarterback Desmond Ridder, the third-round pick from Cincinnati, BYU running back Tyler Allgeier, guard Justin Shaffer and tight end John FitzPatrick in the offense-themed draft class.

The connection between London and Ridder may be especially important.

“I don’t think we have a choice but to connect,” London said, adding the two are roommates during the minicamp.

London said Ridder's leadership skills emerged immediately when the quarterback told the other rookies that mistakes in drills would not be tolerated.

“He pulled us over right now and said, ‘We messed up a lot today,’” said London of Ridder. “It’s just part of being a rookie on day one, but he brought us over there and was like ‘We’ve got to get this ... together.’ ... We got it together and that’s just the leader he is, so I’m following his footsteps.”

Ridder will open training camp behind Marcus Mariota on the depth chart but will have an opportunity to compete for the starting job. Matt Ryan, the 14-year starter, was traded to Indianapolis after last season.

The Falcons hope London helps to address a glaring void at wide receiver. Russell Gage, the team’s top wide receiver last year, signed with Tampa Bay.

Gage topped the depth chart after Calvin Ridley played only five games while away from the team addressing mental health issues. Ridley was suspended by the NFL for 2022 for betting on games last season.

The Falcons bolstered their thin receiving corps a bit more Friday by acquiring wideout Bryan Edwards from the Las Vegas Raiders.

Atlanta sent a fifth-round pick in 2023 to Las Vegas, while also acquiring a seventh-rounder next year from the Raiders. Edwards had 45 receptions for 764 yards and four touchdowns in 28 games over two seasons with the Raiders, making 15 starts.

Olamide Zaccheaus, Atlanta’s top returner at wide receiver, had only 31 catches for 406 yards and three touchdowns in 2021. The Falcons signed free agents Auden Tate, Damiere Byrd and KhaDarel Hodge.

The Falcons have also signed rookie four-year deals with Allgeier, a fifth-round pick, and their two sixth-round selections from Georgia, Shaffer and John FitzPatrick.

The draft picks on defense were outside linebackers Arnold Ebiketie and DeAngelo Malone and inside linebacker Troy Andersen.

The two-day rookie minicamp continues on Saturday. The mandatory minicamp for all players is scheduled for June 14-16.

___

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