Falcons ‘pong’ their way to unity, success

Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn watches warm ups before the NFC championship game against the Green Bay Packers Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017, in Atlanta.

Credit: Mark Humphrey

Credit: Mark Humphrey

Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn watches warm ups before the NFC championship game against the Green Bay Packers Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017, in Atlanta.

Much is being made by folks new to the Falcons’ various “processes” about the three ping-pong tables in the locker room. They see this as no big deal, for the most part, although occasionally they cotton to the notion that it’s, well, a good deal.

Atlanta re-configured its locker room at team headquarters, and by moving a couple banks of lockers from the middle of a sizable room to its perimeter created considerable space.

Beyond the carpet, which prompts players and team official to hoot vigorously when some unknowing sap walks on the Falcons logo in the middle, there are the tables and a few sizable pieces of leather furniture, not to mention overhead TVs that just about always have something football-related on them, like replays of NFL games.

It’s not only for the new design and addition of space that those table tennis venues have been installed. It’s not all about warm and fuzzy.

Head coach Dan Quinn, as Falcons fans might gather, is big on camaraderie and just about anything that pushes his players closer together and to be better ball players.

Like battling it out with a tiny, lightweight ball and a couple of silly paddles.

Quinn months ago caught glimpses in one of his locker room forays, and grew it from there.

“This is one of those things where it was a shift for us and our connections with one another,” he said of the installation of tables. “You see so many people … playing dominoes on the phone. That interaction, that competition that you have … the line for that one table was strong, and so it grew to two, and it grew to three. It’s an important thing for the guys.”

That appears to be a valid observation.

The tables are usually stocked, and quarterback Matt Ryan is frequently seen battling upon them.

It’s not just the energy outlet that appeals, apparently, but also the idea of bonding through battle. Ryan goes at it.

“Honestly, I think guys have gotten into it. It gets competitive, that’s for sure,” he said. “That’s another thing Dan mentions all the time. He mentions the brotherhood, and that’s a big deal, but one of the central themes of our organization is competition, and you see it coming out on the ping-pong table, that’s for sure.

“It’s good for guys to get together, stay loose in between meetings when you’ve got a little bit of spare time … and it’s created some relationships on this team have are good.”

Quinn said the Falcons have even used ping-pong to break some ties when it week-to-week on matters of awards among players for effort and performance. Generally, the whole team will watch those throw downs.

The goal is to push one another, and compel players to relate so as to connect with one another in ways that prompt them to strive for success and grow relationships that make them want to put in whatever extra to do their part so as not to let each other down all while busting it to get better at whatever they do.

“Nothing forges iron like iron,” Quinn said the other day.

“Guys competing against each other … we have a lot of fun with it,” he said “The best teams I’ve been a part of, it starts in the locker room and carries over on the field. They take that responsibility very seriously.”