Falcons’ Richie Grant: ‘I’m just waiting on my turn’

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

Combined ShapeCaption
Falcons second-round pick Richie Grant is learning the ropes in his first season in the NFL.

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

FLOWERY BRANCH – Falcons rookie safety Richie Grant, who was taken in the second round of the NFL draft, has remained upbeat as playing time has been hard to come by.

“Whenever I’m called, really it’s just making sure that I try to make a play,” Grant said. “Early on, it was a lot of special teams. No animosity. ... I’m helping the team win regardless. If I’m out there, I’m able to help the team win. So, I wasn’t really thinking much into it. I’m just waiting on my turn.”

Grant got his turn against the Jets in London. He played 28 defensive snaps (50%) in the 27-20 win over the Jets on Oct. 10 at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London. He finished with three tackles.

Grant has been working at nickel back and playing safety on the scout team. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees previously noted that Grant was having trouble mastering the 3-4 defensive scheme.

“We’re not trying to overload him,” Pees said Thursday. “We are trying to give him some calls that we think that fits his personality and his attributes.”

With Isaiah Oliver out for the season and Avery Williams out with a hamstring injury, the Falcons also used Darren Hall and Chris Williamson at nickel in certain situations against the Jets.

“You try to tailor the calls to their abilities the best that you can, but without giving it away because the other team isn’t stupid either,” Pees said. “Now, if they look out there and see (Grant) only does this and (Hall) only does that and (Williamson) only does that. They’re studying film, too. So, guys have to know how to do it all.

“It’s up to us as coaches to kind of get them up to speed on all that stuff, but at the same time, it’s up to us to plan on making the calls to try to not put them in harm’s way too much.”

Grant wouldn’t pinpoint what he’s not catching on to in the defense.

“I honestly can’t, you know, try to act like I can read his mind or (anything),” Grant said. “They coach for a reason. This is the highest level. So, when they know, they know. I ain’t really got too much to say about that one.”

Grant has been putting in the work. He’s spends time after practice with veteran safety Duron Harmon daily.

“Nobody is perfect,” Grant said. “But like I said, you go out there every day and give it your best shot and then whatever happens at the end of the day, that’s what happens. So, that’s basically what I’ve been doing.”

Grant felt he played well against the Jets.

“I mean, it was a solid game,” Grant said. “At the end of the day, the most important thing is that we got the ‘W.’ Me, individually, there were a couple plays that maybe could have been executed better.”

The affable Grant enjoyed being in the middle of the action.

“I love the game,” Grant said. “(Every) aspect of it. If I’m out there playing, they are calling on me to make a play. That’s just how it goes. I love being there to help my team win. Last week (I) got to be at nickel. I feel like I played a part in that.”

Grant, who played at Central Florida, was selected 40th overall and was a first-team All-American Athletic Conference selection. He also was named a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, which goes to the nation’s top defensive back.

Grant plans to keep on working.

“I think the easiest thing to say is I’m just taking one day at a time,” Grant said. “I just try to be focused on that rep. Trying to be focus on that period. In my experience, when you look forward or backwards, you’re just worrying about the wrong things. You need to worry about right now. That’s all I’ve been trying to do. I think I’ve been doing a good job of that.”

Falcons coach Arthur Smith points out that the team has a long-range plan for Grant.

“When he’s in there, he’s not just primarily a nickel,” Smith said. “He can go back there and play safety. He can drop from anywhere. He can blitz from anywhere, too.”

Smith is not sweating that the team’s second-round pick essentially is a special-teams player for now. Grant has shined on special teams.

“Richie has played on special teams, and I think that gets overlooked,” Smith said. “I mean everybody’s just gets fixated because, hey, he got drafted high. I don’t see him on defense. The guys don’t see the impact he has on special teams. There’s nothing flashy about it, but Ritchie’s been a pretty good teams player for us, too.”

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan goes against Grant when he’s working at safety with the scout team.

“The key is to play really good on special teams, and it gives you, you know, it gives you an opportunity to be up on the roster as frequently as you can be,” Ryan said. “Because the experience of playing, it just can’t be replicated.”

Ryan has seen a slew of young safeties join the team and be developed since the 2008 season, when Lawyer Milloy and Erik Coleman were manning the safety spots.

“I think when you talk about comparisons to other guys, it’s hard,” Ryan said. “You know everybody’s different. The scheme’s different than what those guys were playing with (coach) Mike Smith and at different times with (coach) Dan Quinn, but the constants of good players, it’s the same. It’s hard work.”

Grant is impressing folks in the hard-work department.

“It’s being passionate about what you do,” Ryan said. “It’s really caring. Like genuinely caring, and Richie shows that day-in and day-out. He practices with great energy (and) positivity. He’s fun, you know he’s fun to be around, but he knows how to get to work when it’s time. I think that’s going to serve him well.”

Grant plans to be ready if needed.

“Early on in college, I was nickel and dime,” Grant said. “I primarily came in on third down. We had a guy get ejected. I was the next safety up. In the middle of the game, I had to go play safety. I’ve been in situations like this, that’s why you just always (have to) be locked in, and in tune to what’s happening right now.”

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