Falcons defensive end Vic Beasley was all smiles after the first four-day block of practices in training camp.
He’s off to a fine start and has taken to the new tweaks to the defense. After having the team pick up his $12.3 million fifth-year option coming off two five-sack season, Beasley knows he’s in a contract year.
“Look man, I’m going to continue to work hard,” Beasley told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Thursday. “Regardless of what I’ve done over the past few years, I feel like, the time is now. I can’t get that time back. It is what it is. You know you have to build off that, learn from the past and continue to move forward.”
Beasley and the rest of the team will have Friday off before returning to camp on Saturday.
The Falcons play the Broncos in the Pro Football Hall of Fame exhibition game at 8 p.m. Thursday in Canton, Ohio.
Beasley, the sixth pick of the 2015 NFL draft out of Clemson, played his rookie season with a torn labrum before exploding for 15.5 sacks in 2016.
He went to the Pro Bowl, was named All-Pro and won the Deacon Jones award for leading the league in sacks.
His future was so bright, he needed sunglasses.
But Beasley could not sustain that success and had five sacks in 2017 and five in 2018.
But because Falcons think Beasley can add a counter move to his speed rushes, they elected to pick up the fifth-year option.
If things don’t work out this season, he’ll likely head to free agency after the season.
Beasley believes he can return to his 2016 form, when he also led the league in six forced fumbles.
“I’m hoping to have another big year,” Beasley said. “Not just have another big year, but continue to be consistent with it throughout the rest of my career.”
Giving that Beasley was headed into a crucial year, he drew some raised eyebrows when he elected not to participate in the offseason program and work with Falcons head coach Dan Quinn on his moves.
The coach started making up for lost time on the first day of practice. He was seen in Beasley’s face correcting him early in the first practice of training camp.
Over the offseason, Beasley chose to work with his buddy, Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Bud Dupree, who played at Kentucky and Wilkinson County High.
“It was cool,” Beasley said about working with Dupree. “You don’t really need many sessions to gain knowledge from different people. I’ve been out here just a few days and I’ve already gained knowledge from different coaches. Those moments that you can get and take from it and impart that into your game and into your life, makes a big difference.”
The outrage over Beasley missing the offseason program has subsided. He reported for the mandatory minicamp and was on time for training camp.
“Yeah, yeah, the summer is behind me,” Beasley said. “Right now, the time that you have now, you have to take advantage of it. The season is almost here. We are going to try to work extremely hard and get this system down pat so that we can go out there and be the best team that we can be.”
Beasley has played some in the two-point stance and has sparingly dropped into coverage. He’s fine with the experiment to have the defensive ends stand up on certain downs and in some situations.
“We are learning how to come out of two-point stance,” Beasley said. “I like it. I like it a little more than three-point. You can see a little more, but it has its pros and cons. I like what coach Quinn is doing something new, something different to change it up. We are excited to get this system down and go forward.”
Beasley believes the defense will be much improved.
“It’s awesome getting Ricardo (Allen), Keanu (Neal) and Deion (Jones) back,” Beasley said. “We’re excited about getting those guys back. Three players that can bring a lot to this defense. We are excited.”
Beasley will need a big season if the Falcons are going to sign him to a long-term contract like his college teammate Grady Jarrett just landed.
“I was so happy, that’s a good friend of mine’s,” Beasley said. “Nine-plus years together. Just seeing the way that he worked each and every day. He was well deserving for what he got.”
Now, for Beasley, he’ll try to earn a deal like the four-year, $68 million deal that Jarrett landed.
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