Gurley as a Falcon: Temper those expectations, folks

Todd Gurley had just rolled out of bed, about which he was none too thrilled. “Y’all threw me off this morning,” he said, 9 a.m. in L.A. apparently constituting the crack of dawn. “I usually get up at 10 o’clock.”

He was speaking Friday on a teleconference — set at noon EDT by the Falcons, his new team — and he sounded like the Todd Gurley we'd come to know at Georgia. He sounded semi-grumpy, which has long been his way when engaging the media. He pronounced himself "super-excited" three times, perhaps between yawns, and he proclaimed his NFL relocation as "a good fit for me."

Of the Falcons, he said: “They can help me as much as I help them.” Still at issue is the back half of that: How much CAN he help?

Gurley is 25. Three years ago, he was the NFL’s offensive player of the year. That he’s no longer working for the Rams suggests he might be damaged goods. “I played 15 of 16 games last year,” he said. “If (the Falcons) were concerned about that, they wouldn’t have signed me.”

Maybe that’s true. But if, in those 15 games, he’d been anywhere near as productive as he once was, he wouldn’t have been available for anybody to sign. He had 2,008 total yards in 2017; he had 1,064 last year. Questions persist regarding his knees — he suffered a torn ACL against Auburn in 2014 — and, our nation being in isolation mode, the Falcons’ medical staff has been unable to conduct its own exam.

Gurley: “Can’t anybody get a physical at a time like this.”

That he worked 15 of 16 games in 2019 was reason enough for the Falcons to buy one year of his services for $6 million. (Well, that and their decision to shed Devonta Freeman.) That he accomplished not very much over those 15 games is why the addition of the man who not long ago was the NFL’s best back gives us some measure of pause.

Gurley insists he’s not in his dotage. “I’ve been doing this 20 years,” he said. “You’ve got to prove yourself every year.”

We stipulate that the contract extension the Rams bestowed on him in 2018 — not two full years ago, we emphasize — was the utter definition of a cap-crusher. The Rams re-upped a guy they didn’t yet need to re-up for $57.5 million over four seasons, a decision they’ve rued every day since. But if the team that drafted him and saw him every day of his professional life decided he was no longer worth keeping, isn’t that a compelling bit of evidence that he’s not apt to be the TG of 2017 again?

For the Falcons to benefit from his presence, he doesn't have to that Gurley. He just needs to be a serviceable NFL back – run some, catch some, balance the offense in a way it hasn't been balanced since the Super Bowl run. Reactions to the Gurley signing have run the gamut from UGA-driven rapture to he's-got-nothing-left harrumphing; it's entirely possible this move is neither coup nor clunker. It's entirely possible he gives this franchise a pretty good season and then moves elsewhere next spring.

Gurley: “Everything in the NFL on paper looks really good.”

That’s the other part of Gurley. While the mood strikes, he can be wickedly observant. Asked if his L.A. workouts are essentially load management, he said: “The way life is going right now, everybody is on load management.”

He ran his audio audience through what he called his “same little schedule.” He wakes at 10, except when conference calls intervene. He works out at 11 and 2. (A friendly neighbor “has a gym in his backyard.”) He does yoga on Mondays and Thursdays. Then: “B.S. for an hour or two; then I start my night.”

Amid all that, Gurley managed to spare a moment to monitor reaction to the Falcons’ new uniforms. “I see the jokes online,” he said, though he averred that he liked the black, noted that “you can’t go wrong with all-white” and suggested the red “would grow on us.”

Then: “If you’ve got swag, you’ve got swag. Some players got swag; some players don’t. The ones who’ve got swag will make anything look good.”

Todd Gurley has always had swag. He has made both Georgia’s silver britches and the Rams’ helmeted horns look spiffy. It will be fascinating to see what he does in his new regalia.