Falcons’ Dan Quinn adjusting to pandemic protocols as vets arrive

Grady Jarrett has on his mask after arriving at Falcons' training camp to start the COVID-19 testing process. (Photo Courtesy of The Atlanta Falcons)
Grady Jarrett has on his mask after arriving at Falcons' training camp to start the COVID-19 testing process. (Photo Courtesy of The Atlanta Falcons)

Credit: Atlanta Falcons

Credit: Atlanta Falcons

As the Falcons’ remaining veterans checked in to start the COVID-19 testing process Tuesday, several players around the NFL decided to opt-out of the 2020 season.

A total of 19 players, including New England linebacker Donta Hightower, by early afternoon elected to opt-out of the season. Overall, six players from New England opted out of the season, as the NFL tries to move forward during the coronavirus pandemic.

“No conversations with our team regarding (opting out) at this time,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said on the virtual call with local media.

The Falcons promoted on social media when running back Todd Gurley, defensive tackle Grady Jarrett and wide receivers Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley arrived for their first test.

After the first test, players must self-quarantine for two days and then pass a second test. On Day 5 of the process, if both tests are negative, the player can enter the facilities and start daily testing.

All of the Falcons’ 26 rookies, who started the process July 21, passed the process.

“Now, as the rookies have reported and we’re going through the initial phases with them,” Quinn said. “It’s been fun to do football things with them.”

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Falcons’ rookie class had a virtual offseason.

“They’ve basically gone virtually for the whole time,” Quinn said. “They’ve been in a football class for a few months. Now, we’re here at the end of the end of the semester, and now we can see what they can do.”

The rookies are going through strength-and-conditioning work and walk-through practices with the coaches.

“I have been impressed by the learning that has taken place with them over the last few months,” Quinn said. “I really thought they came in with a good background.”

The league protocols call for the Falcons to wear their masks and practice self distancing while on the grounds. So, instead of tape over their helmets like at a normal rookie camp, the Falcons have a new plan.

“I know everybody’s faces because I’ve seen them (online) for months,” Quinn said.

But with ball caps and masks on, Quinn didn’t know his players.

“Let’s write our names on our masks,” Quinn said. “What do you want to be called? All sorts of things that have come up.”

The Falcons have been coaching through the walk-throughs.

“So, we’ve had two of those with the rookies (on Monday and Tuesday)”, Quinn said. “The strength-and-conditioning phases are run by the strength-and-conditioning coaches.”

The quarterbacks and injured veterans started the process Thursday.

“We’ll do this same process again with the veterans beginning next week,” Quinn said. “So, we’ll get this first lap through here with the rookies.”

The Falcons have paid attention to what’s happening in baseball and noted the blow-back and 10-day quarantine that Louis Williams, the NBA and former South Gwinnett High star, received after he was photographed at legendary Atlanta adult club Magic City. Williams said he went to pick up some chicken wings.

“Around the league, a number of us are going to have to be the best teammate that you’ve ever been,” Quinn said. “Because we’re going to have to not only take care of one another, but we are really looking after your family, too. We are going to make the best decisions off the field.”

The Falcons are indoctrinating the players on how best to follow the league protocols.

“I think we’ve also learned that you can take all of the right steps and still have positive tests,” Quinn said. “When those happen, we’ll deal with them. That’s why the protocols are in place.

The Falcons have players with underlying medical conditions such as right tackle Kaleb McGary, who had a heart ablation surgery last season, and they have veteran coaches such as Bob Sutton. Quinn said the doctors and the protocols will dictate how those individual situations will be handled.

The Falcons also are making use of the dormitories on their grounds.

“We’re going to take advantage of that as best we can and make sure that we don’t rush back and have to relax ever on protocols,” Quinn said. “One thing with our country we found, hey let’s stay the course and keep having the discipline to make the right decisions; mask, washing our hands and stay on the things that we can control.”

The Falcons have 90 players on the roster and will have split sessions of 45 and 45 players if all of the players clear protocols.

They have up to Aug. 16 to cut down to 80 players.

“Once the team practices begin then you have to be at 80,” Quinn said. “A number of people are choosing to be there now. So you don’t have to split guys working. How quickly do you want to acclimated A.J. (Terrell) and Marlon (Davidson) to the group?”

Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones reports for training camp at the team's Flowery Branch facility.
Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones reports for training camp at the team's Flowery Branch facility.

Credit: Atlanta Falcons

Credit: Atlanta Falcons

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