Falcons’ playoff veterans to youngsters: Don’t go changing

Julio Jones of the Falcons runs after a catch against the New Orleans Saints at the Georgia Dome on Jan. 1. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Julio Jones of the Falcons runs after a catch against the New Orleans Saints at the Georgia Dome on Jan. 1. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

If the Falcons’ rookies and young players without playoff experience were to seek advice from their older teammates about how to approach the postseason, they might think they were hearing from Dan Quinn.

To summarize: don’t worry, practice just as hard ever, eat well and rest.

For as many times as the head coach has talked about honoring the team’s “process,” he’s been the same this week and veterans such as quarterback Matt Ryan, wide receiver Julio Jones, linebacker Courtney Upshaw and others with postseason experience sound about the same.

“Just trust in the preparation, trust the process. Don’t try to change nothing,” said Upshaw, who won a Super Bowl ring as a rookie with the Ravens after the 2012 season. “Get your body right, eat right, go over film and look at some of the things that might’ve gotten you in trouble during the regular season.”

As the Falcons (11-5) practiced twice this bye week, the biggest real difference has been that players were not given game plans because they won’t know who they’ll play host to Jan. 14 until the results of this weekend’s wild-card games.

While coaches late in the week began scouting the three teams Atlanta might play, players were encouraged to work on specific weaknesses in their games. Players were self-scouting, with help from coaches.

If Seattle (10-5-1) beats the Lions (9-7) on Saturday, the Seahawks will visit. Should Detroit win, then the Falcons will take on the winner of Sunday’s game between the Giants (11-5) and Packers (10-6).

For now, Ryan suggests, don’t worry about any of that.

“I think that the experiences I’ve had throughout my career have helped me improve and get better, and you try to relay those tidbits onto the guys,” he said, leaning on his five playoff games in 2008, ’10, ’11 and ’12. “I think coach Quinn’s done a great job of setting a tone where it’s about personal improvement.

“You get out on the practice field, and … improve one or two of those things that can help you. Worrying too much about who we’re going to see or any of that kind of stuff, it doesn’t make a difference right now.”

Rookie defensive backs Keanu Neal and Brian Poole seem to be listening.

They’re not yet concerning themselves with whom the Falcons might play, or pondering the fact that the past three Super Bowl champions have all been teams that began their postseasons with a bye, nor that the three before that did not.

“Just focusing on the process, taking it day by day, not looking too far into the getting to the Super Bowl,” Neal said. “Just focusing on us, not a certain team. It’s about us getting fundamentals and technique and everything.”

Poole’s looking at himself.

“(Reserve safety) Dashon Golson has been to the Super Bowl (with the 49ers after the 2012 season),” said the cornerback said. “He’s kind of been through it. He’s trying to tell us what needs to be done, what the week needs to consist of and the tempo that we need to practice with. … It’s all about us this week.”

Jones has played in three playoff games, after the ’11 and ’12 seasons. He said don’t change, young fellas.

“As a young guy, you don’t know what to do,” he explained. “That’s why we’re here, to let them know they don’t have to do extra, but they’ve just got to do their work … You don’t want to make up anything when the playoffs come around.

“We’ve got to continue to do what we do. That’s why we have the leaders on the team, and Dan Quinn did a great job allowing this team to be a player-led team so we can interact and tell guys, ‘Hey, you don’t need to make up this or that … just stay on your routine, and on the process.’”

Ryan said the plan is pretty simple: Don’t get caught up in commotion and the extra excitement surrounding the team now.

“I think the biggest message I’ve learned from past experiences is to keep things as normal as possible,” he explained. “I think outside the building, things get a lot different during the playoffs. Inside the building, things are very similar to what we go through during the year …

“For me, and for players, I think there’s comfort in that. Knowing that in order to win in the playoffs we need to do the exact same things that we did in the regular season. We’ve got to prepare really well, we’ve got to practice hard, compete and we’ve got to lock in during our meetings and lock in on our plan.”

To put it another way, keep the outside world out and focus on within.

“We know what’s at stake for us,” Jones said. “We’re not going to let distractions creep in.”