Falcons coach Dan Quinn takes questions from the media at his news conference during rookie minicamp on Friday, May 12, 2017, in Flowery Branch. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Falcons tone-down OTA sessions after penalty

The Falcons, after film review of their sessions from last season, were penalized and lost three OTA sessions for this season. The Falcons opened their first OTA practice Wednesday, while 30 of the teams started last week.

Quinn said the meeting with the management council was productive.

The amount of contact or a player on the ground caught the NFL’s attention during their film review.

“When we went and tried to find out, the guidelines during an OTA are slightly different,” Quinn said. “We are just trying to be really mindful of that.”

The meeting has led to some alterations in how the Falcons are conducting their OTAs.

“We changed a little bit of the format of practice,” Quinn said. “We thought we threw a great offseason program, but then in October we found out it was a little more than (what the league would approve of). It was disappointing to hear. Thomas and myself went to New York and said, ‘OK, here’s our tape. Help educate us.’ Then I went back and helped to educate the team.”

The Falcons don’t want to be in the league’s repeat-offender program.

Seattle was cited as a repeat offender and lost a fifth-round pick in the 2017 draft and fined $400,000, and coach Pete Carroll was fined $200,000.

The league noted that voluntary offseason workout programs are intended to provide training, teaching and physical conditioning for players.

The intensity and tempo of drills should be at a level conducive to learning, with player safety as the highest priority, and not at a level where one player is in a physical contest with another player.

In Quinn’s third year, the OTA session Thursday, the first one open to the media, was considerably toned down.

“What we are trying to do is just educate the guys, the very best that we can,” Quinn said. “We are really being mindful of that.” 

When the Falcons worked on their outside zone rushing attack, there would invariably be some players on the ground last season.

“We are just trying to use our best judgment in that,” Quinn said. “We’ve made a bigger emphasis in the pass game during this portion, which eliminates some of that as well. We are just trying to go about it as best we can and keep it under the guidelines that the league would like.”

The players, who mostly worked out on their own last week, appear to be fine with the adjustments.

“Everybody is chomping at the bit to get onto the practice field and do what we do,” quarterback Matt Ryan said. “You’ve got to lift weights. You’ve got to get in condition. You’ve got to do all of those things. I think what everybody enjoys the most is the football aspects of it. So, it’s disappointing when you miss a week, but that’s part of the deal.

“We got back to work and we’ve been very productive.”

While the veterans worked out on their on, the rookies went through their orientation program called “Falcons University” under the direction of Kevin Winston, the team’s senior director of player affairs.

While Quinn handled some media obligations, he and the coaching staff worked on some scouting projects.

“We knew (last) week was coming, so we could we spend those days focusing on projects, division opponents and some other projects that we wanted to look at as pertaining to practice,” Quinn said. 

Falcons coach Dan Quinn on the start of OTAs after the team served its penalty for excessive contact. Video by D. Orlando Ledbetter

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