Falcons ready to indoctrinate rookie class

FLOWERY BRANCH — To state that Falcons coach Mike Smith is a rookie-friendly mentor would be an understatement.

Quarterback Matt Ryan, left tackle Sam Baker, defensive tackle Peria Jerry, linebacker Sean Weatherspoon and wide receiver Julio Jones, the five first-round picks during Smith’s tenure, have opened the season as starters.

After a year hiatus, Smith and his staff will start to groom another rookie class with the hope that they can make immediate contributions as the rookie minicamp opens Friday and runs through Sunday at the team’s facilities in Flowery Branch.

Guard/center Peter Konz, the team’s top pick this season, in the second round, will start his quest to land a starting spot.

In addition to Konz and the other five draft picks, 23 undrafted free agents, six veterans and 10 players on tryouts will participate.

Konz, who was projected to be a first-round selection, will join the all-comers competition for the starting job at right guard. But before he can compete, the Falcons will indoctrinate him into their system during this minicamp.

“I’m always ready to compete for a position,” said Konz, who left Wisconsin after his junior season. “I mean, any veteran deserves respect, and I don’t intend to just walk in and just think I own the place.”

The last time the Falcons didn’t have a first-round pick was in 2006. They selected cornerback Jimmy Williams in the second round.

Williams made seven starts and played in 27 games over two seasons before being cut in June 2008. He washed out of the NFL after twice violating the league’s substance-abuse policy.

Konz will face stiff completion from veterans Joe Hawley, Mike Johnson, Vince Manuwai and Garrett Reynolds in his effort to land a starting job.

“I intend to come in and work hard and get to know everybody,” Konz said. “I will try to fit in well with the team because that’s how we’re going to win.”

The rookie minicamp spotlight also will be on fullback Bradie Ewing, a fifth-round pick from Wisconsin, because the Falcons released fullback Ovie Mughelli on Tuesday.

The veterans set to participate are wide receivers Kevin Cone and Drew Davis, tight end Tommy Gallarda, linebacker Matt Hansen, offensive lineman Andrew Jackson and safety Suaesi Tuimaunei.

Ex-Georgia tight end Aron White, ex-Georgia Tech wide receiver Tyler Melton and ex-Clark Atlanta cornerback Harcourt Farquharson head the group of tryout invitees.

White foreshadowed his tryout with the Falcons at Georgia’s Pro Day as he sported a Falcons’ cap.

“It’s just a hat that I have,” White said. “Of course I love the Falcons. Tony Gonzalez is one of my heroes growing up. He played at Kansas City right around the corner from where I grew up. I definitely have love for the Falcons.”

White, who played his final two seasons at Georgia in the shadow of Orson Charles, caught 34 passes for 512 yards and 10 touchdowns over his career.

Melton started 35 games for Tech, including all 13 games as a senior. He caught 17 passes as a senior, including 10 in the final five games of the season. He was an excellent downfield blocker and performed well on special teams.

Farquharson had 41 tackles. He returned punts for the Panthers and averaged 14.5 yards per return last season.

The other players on tryouts include Bowling Green offensive tackle Tyler Donahue, Washington kicker Erik Folk, Nevada running back Mark Lampford, Colorado State-Pueblo fullback Lee Meisner, Morehead State defensive end Jerome Raymond, Western Illinois kicker Taylor Rowan and Toledo wide receiver Kenny Stafford.