When Julio Jones speaks, the Falcons listen.
But what took him so long?
Several players confirmed that the Falcons’ Pro Bowl wide receiver spoke emotionally to the team in the locker room at Mercedes-Benz Stadium after the 37-10 loss to the Rams on Sunday.
He pointed fingers at the players for the team’s unexpected 1-6 start and absolved the coaches.
“It just showed that people who are willing to step up and say that we are not getting it done,” free safety Ricardo Allen said. “It’s not that the coaches are not getting it done. It’s that we are not getting it done. We have to be accountable to that. We have to be accountable for our play and to each other.”
The message seemed to be well received.
“He’s doesn’t say very much,” Allen said. “He’s a dude that usually just goes out and tries to lead by his actions. First of all, for him to stop (coach Dan Quinn), it’s tough. It’s tough on the team.”
Jones was so emotional that he didn’t speak to the media in the locker room.
“He’s one of the leaders of this team and this organization,” quarterback Matt Schaub said. “He felt the need to say something, which is great. You love that when it comes from your peers and it comes from your teammates and the leaders you have in the locker room.”
Schaub, who’s in his 16th season in the NFL, has seen his share of locker room speeches.
“It’s one of those things where no matter how long you play in this league, every day matters,” Schaub said “Every play matters. Everything that you do, you’re being watched. ... You have to take advantage of that because things go quickly.”
The reality of the teams’ record is settling in.
“We’re just seven games in,” Allen said. “It’s (not) the best record. We still have nine left. If you think you’re just going to tuck it in and do something else, it doesn’t work like that. The best way for this stuff, there is only one way through it.
“We have to fight through it. You’ve got to go through it.”
Jones’ speech uplifted Allen.
“I’m going to fight until the end,” Allen said. “I can speak for myself and I can speak for the way I saw Julio and the way I see some of the leaders on the team still coming to fight, still trying to grind. I know that we are fighters.”
Allen, who’s in his sixth season with the Falcons, could only remember two or three other times that Jones has spoken up.
“Everybody just sat there and watched,” Allen said. “He’s a guy that when he speaks and he doesn’t speak very often, everybody is going to listen. You see him and how much he was hurt, how frustrated and confused he is still, it’s just like, that’s when you know it’s serious. You know that we need it from everybody around. We need it from every 1/11th that’s on that field.
“No, everybody is not going to play like Julio. We are all not as talented as him. But you have to give as much feeling, as much emotion, as much passion as you can.”
Wide receiver Calvin Ridley is used to hearing Jones speak.
“I’m always listening to Julio,” Ridley said. “Whenever he says something, I’m listening. For me, personally, I get out the car ready. I’m always thinking that we’re going to win and I’m going to do whatever I have to do to help us win. I’m here.”
Quinn was fine with Jones interpreting him during his post-game speech.
“The team knows (Jones) from the leading style that he is,” Quinn said. “It is always important during the hardest moments that people step up and you are the strongest that you can be. He is such an impactful guy on this team, not just offensively. I think that is what is so unique about him. There are some guys who may just be a leader on the offense. Well, he is a leader on this football team.”
Jones is one of the teams once-a-week talkers and will speak to the media on Thursday.
“Often times he will do a lot behind the scenes one-on-one,” Quinn said. “When he goes in front of the entire group, it has a huge impact. It was what we needed at that time. I obviously have a ton of respect for him already both on and off the field.”
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