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Falcons’ virtual offseason winding down

Falcons head coach Dan Quinn, who recently returned to the team's practice facilities in Flowery Branch, updates the offseason training program. (Video by D. Orlando Ledtbetter/AJC)

The Falcons’ virtual offseason program is over for the veterans.

The program, which was forced online by the coronavirus pandemic, will end Thursday when the rookies complete their final round of meetings, Falcons coach Dan Quinn said Monday.

Next up, the Falcons are scheduled to report for training camp July 28.

“The amount of listening and learning this offseason has been remarkable,” Quinn said. “On our own staff and team, we’ve had over 35 different guest speakers that have been part of our offseason program from the player side, to the staff side.”

Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce went on the Falcons’ team meeting last week.

Other visitors have included Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and former player Chris Chester.

“I think it kind of shows the remarkable reach of sports, of players and certainly of the NFL brotherhood of guys from around the country having moments and instances to talk to other players,” Quinn said. “That part of the learning has been amazing for us.”

Quinn and his staff tried to embrace the peculiar offseason, which eliminated the on-the-field OTAs, rookie minicamp and the mandatory minicamp.

The staff came up with customized offseason programs for the players.

“We started going in from the development side, what is the one thing that they’d like to work on, to get this part of their game better,” Quinn said. “For the 60 or so of them, we tried to make something that was really specific.”

The staff had to figure out a way to measure a player’s success and relate the item to how the player could improve.

“A deep cross, certain footwork on a route, a specific technique for an offensive lineman, to use those as examples,” Quinn said.

Everything couldn’t be fixed or improved upon over the internet.

“Some of those, we are going to have to carry into training camp,” Quinn said. “Some were on-the-field things, (like) the hand-use of an offensive lineman on the backside of a cut-off block, that’s not something they can work on now. The amount of customized learning that took place due to the online classes, that was a big piece of it. We had a lot of one-on-one meetings.”

Some of the Falcons worked out together on their own.

“The things that I feel good about is that our learning went bigger and stronger than we’ve ever done,” Quinn said. “The difficult part would be not getting that cohesiveness out on the field and knowing that it’s more than just chemistry, it’s timing and (doing it) over and over again.”

While the Falcons could not take the field at Flowery Branch, they managed to get in workouts around the metro area and in California.

“We told many of the players they were going to have to be player-coaches for a while,” Quinn said. “They really took that to heart. Their workouts together during the week, on weekends, scripts, plays, calls that they went through together, I know that will pay dividends. But having the ability to be here locally, that helped for a lot of guys.”

Quinn has been trying to prepare for training camp under the current league protocols. He’s anticipating that they may change by the end of July.

He noted that Cowboys and Texans had players test positive for COVID-19.

“I have a sense that in a month’s time it would be hard to predict where we are at today,” Quinn said.  “If we look back on the last three months, there’s been a lot of change. I anticipate more.”

The NFL is watching closely as other pro leagues attempt to return to action.

“Good news, in my opinion, is that we are going to get see some other sports and how they are going through things as well,” Quinn said. “Hopefully, learn and keep an eye on it. But as far as I know, we are going to stay moving forward on the timeline.”

Quinn has been trying to figure out how the team would meet under the league rules.

“The guidelines are the challenging ones,” Quinn said. “Walking around the room. How many (players) can I fit in this room from a distancing standpoint. It’s all about getting back on the field.

Once on the field, all of the players and coaches would feel comfortable.

“It’s meetings and locker rooms and how do you get into those spaces,” Quinn said. “Right now, a team meeting, it would basically have to be outside based on the guidelines. We could fit 30 or 40 into a room, but not where we could get 100 in a training-camp setting.”

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