FLOWERY BRANCH -- Here’s what Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota had to say to the Atlanta media on Monday:

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On the first day of practice in pads: “I thought it was great. The intensity rises a little bit, our guys went out there, especially coming off of a day off, and played well. We’re just going to continue to stack these days up and get better.”

On changing the mindset from being a backup quarterback a year ago to stepping back into that starter role: “I don’t think it necessarily changes my mindset, as a backup you have to prepare as if you are the starter. So, the last couple of years that’s been my mentality. So, for me nothing really changed, I’m going to continue to build chemistry with our guys and make sure everyone is on the same page, so that way when we get out there, we get rolling.”

On whether he has more of a vocal leadership position in this role: “Yeah, I would say so. That comes with the position, but I think especially with the Raiders, it was a lot of guys and we all collaborated and tried to make the offense what it was. I don’t feel like I’m saying more than I need to or if there is any weirdness or awkwardness from me. I’m very comfortable with where I’m at and just trying to make these guys feel comfortable so we can go out there and play well.”

On how the competition changes with so many guys on one-year deals: “For one, it creates an atmosphere when you’re out at practice where guys understand that this might be their last opportunity or might be the best opportunity that they’ve gotten in a couple of years so the competition at practice is at a high level. When you’re able to do that, it creates game-like situations and game-like scenarios that when this team gets out there and we start week one I think guys will feel very comfortable with where they are at.”

On feeling the same way as guys who are on a one-year contract although he is on a two-year contract: “Yeah, no doubt. I think one of the biggest lessons that I’ve learned while I was in Tennessee is that it is a merit-based business, and you have to perform. In this position, there is always going to be guys that are coming in that want to play in your spot so I think day in and day out, you have to continue to prove not only to yourself but to the people around you that you can play and that you can lead so I don’t take this opportunity very lightly.”

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

On whether players who share the same underdog mentality share a bond that can help one another: “Yeah, I think that’s a great point. I’ve played with a few guys over the course of the last couple of years that are kind of in that situation so there is a bond, I think there’s a relationship, there’s an easy rapport. So, I would agree with that but what I think is pretty cool with this team is, everybody gets along really well, it’s not cliquey, there’s not different groups of people. I think everyone just really likes to hang out with each other, which I think in the long run will be good for us.”

On whether throwing to TE Kyle Pitts draws a comparison to anyone that he’s thrown to in the past: “No, I wouldn’t sit here and compare him to anybody else. I think he’s got a very unique skill set, one that benefits us, and we’ve got to just find ways to get him the ball.”

On whether he’s had to adjust to anything in regard to throwing to TE Kyle Pitts and his unique athletic abilities: “Not necessarily, I think he just really makes it easy on us. For a guy his size with his catch radius, his length, his ability to get in and out of cuts makes it easy on us. His body language as a receiver makes it simple. We know when he’s coming in and out of breaks, we know when he’s going to break down. It’s a credit to him and I think as we continue through camp, that’s just going to continue to grow.”

On what makes TE Kyle Pitts problematic for defenses: “I think from a standpoint that he is physical and he’s very athletic obviously. From just being around him, his football IQ is very high, you can see he’s pattern reading, he’s kind of understanding what is going on. For a young player, at least for me, I think it’s really impressive.”

On whether he is enjoying the process of easing back into pads and the ramp-up process: “For me, I don’t get touched so pads for me really don’t make a difference. You look around and guys are fresh, especially coming off of a day off. Guys were running around great, but I really like how our schedule has been going and how Coach Smith has built it.”

On feeling the pressure in the pocket now that pads are on and what the competition is like: “I think they (offensive and defensive line) all understand that if they push each other, the whole room is going to get better. When you have leaders like Jake [Matthews] in there that can rally the troops and get guys going, you can see it. The play on the offensive line has really elevated makes us all excited.”

On whether he sees how vital building the right culture is to the success of a football team: “No doubt, I think if you look across the league, everyone is very talented. I think game in and game out, there’s going to be guys on the other side of the ball, that you’re like he’s a great player and I think we have those types of players here but what it comes down to is, talent can only take you so far. When you have a group of guys who are willing to sacrifice and go out there and put in the work, that’s when your team gets better. You start getting guys that really believe in what you are doing. It’s fun to be around, I think we have a young group of guys that really just enjoy being around each other and enjoy coming out and competing and that’s half the battle man. If you can get that out of your young cats, I think you’re going to do some pretty good things.”

On whether he’s seen how bad cultures can lead to bad performances on the field: “No doubt. Unfortunately, with how the NFL is like we talked about before, it is a merit-based business and you’re paid accordingly so guys sometimes will think selfishly and will focus on what is their motives it makes it tough. If a guy isn’t going to be willing to sacrifice, maybe not get an extra yard on that third down because he’s worried about getting hurt or something along the lines of that. It is tough because you’re sitting there and you’re climbing an uphill battle but what’s fun about this team is that it is young and some of those guys don’t quite understand that part of it yet so you can help mold them a little bit and help them understand that if you just come out here and compete and we win games, everyone else around you will get what they want.”

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