Weatherspoon brings energy to first padded practice

FLOWERY BRANCH -- Falcons rookie linebacker Sean Weatherspoon didn’t get the “no crushing folks” memo.

So in his first professional practice in full pads Monday, Weatherspoon’s linebacking instincts took over.

After running back Antone Smith hauled in a pass, Weatherspoon delivered a thunderous hit on him.

“He didn’t know,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “When he made that hit, he thought we were in a thud situation. We weren’t really in a thud situation. But he’s learned it . . . not only from me talking to him, but some of the guys who were wearing the other colored jerseys.”

In a “thud” situation, it’s fine to hit players.

In some drills, the Falcons just tag players down like in flag football and the runner is allowed to proceed upfield.

Weatherspoon and other players were just excited to have on his pads, Smith said.

“When you have your first padded practice the energy level is ramped up,” he said. “It’s really the first time that these guys have played football with their pads on since December.”

Later in the practice, Weatherspoon also made a nice interception while dropping into pass coverage.

“Sean is a very passionate player and it showed today,” Smith said. “He made a couple of nice plays on the ball . . . I really like the energy that he came out and played with. That’s what we have to have across the board.”

There were some other major hits during “thud” situations Monday.

Jamaal Anderson, while playing defensive tackle, put a nice hit on running back Michael Turner. A few plays later, fullback Ovie Mughelli put a booming lead block on Anderson.

Safety Thomas DeCoud couldn’t resist putting a “thud” on running back Dimitri Nance as he worked his way downfield.

“You have to get the physicality in there in camp,” DeCoud said. “This is a contact sport. You have to get ready for it during the season. You’re going to be hitting week-in and week-out, so you have to get ready for it.”

Anderson at tackle: Anderson is functioning well at tackle. He is playing defensive end in the base defense and sliding down inside to tackle in the nickel defense.

“When you are down there at defensive tackle it’s a lot faster,” Anderson said. “With my speed I can get there a lot faster.”

Sidbury comfortable: Defensive end Lawrence Sidbury is competing for playing time in the defensive end rotation. Last year as a rookie he played late in the season and registered a sack and a touchdown.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” Sidbury said of his rookie year. “Things were moving a lot faster. This season I’m more comfortable.”

Sidbury, who took part in all of the offseason workouts, spent a week training with defensive end John Abraham in South Florida with NFL trainer Pete Bommaritto.

“We worked on some of our techniques,” Sidbury said. “It was a good experience. It got me used to the heat because it was extremely hot.”

Lewis tweaking secondary: New secondary coach Tim Lewis has been a big hit with players.

“He is helping us with techniques for each and every player because everybody doesn’t play the same way or have the same strengths,” cornerback Brent Grimes said. “He’s working with us and helping out people a lot. Everyday we are making progress.”

Grimes seemed to play much better on the right side last season, but he doesn’t have a preference.

“It’s corner,” Grimes said. “It’s back-pedaling and running on either side, it really doesn’t matter. It’s the same thing.”

Norwood suffers hip injury: Running back Jerious Norwood missed practice with a hip flexor injury.

Norwood suffered a hip flexor last season. Smith said it was not the same injury but was in the same area.

With Norwood out, Jason Snelling, Antone Smith and Nance will get more repetitions.

“We feel really good about all of those running backs,” Mike Smith said. “They all have a little different skill set. It’s a very diverse group that gives us a lot of flexibility with what we can do.”