By Matthew Asher
Labor Day, a cherished national holiday in America designed to give the working men and women of this country an extra day off work. But for the Atlanta Falcons, Labor Day simply meant the first day of regular season practices and the first practice with their slimmed down 53-man roster.
Sunday Starters Sit at Practice
The projected starters who were unable to practice included wide receiver Roddy White, kicker Matt Bryant, strongside linebacker Stephen Nicholas and cornerback Asante Samuel. Atlanta head coach Mike Smith sounded confident that these players would be ready to play in their Week 1 matchup. “We’ve continued to have the guys work, and they’re working well,” Smitty told the press. “We’re looking forward to having everybody available on Sunday against New Orleans.”
The Magic Numbers
Numbers always play an important role on a football team. When it comes to making the final roster, the number 12 ended up being very crucial. Of the 53 players who are on Atlanta’s Week 1 roster a total of 12 players were undrafted to go along with 12 rookies making the team.
Coming into preseason, Smitty said that this year would be a very competitive season in order to make the final cut down to 53 players. “They have competed, and we said it was going to be open competition in our evaluation.” Smitty said. “They won the competition and that is why they are here on our squad. They will have an opportunity to help us win football games this year.”
Because of the competitiveness of this year’s squad, Atlanta’s final 53 had some atypical numbers regarding the number of players for specific roles. The most notable is the six players at the running back position. In each of the last three years, the Falcons have always had just five running backs (including a fullback). But with preseason efforts like Josh Vaughan’s 83-yard performance (including a 65-yard touchdown run) on just five carries against the Jaguars, it was too hard for Atlanta to cut it down to five.
On the defensive side of the ball, the defensive back positions were notable for the irregular numbers. Typically Smitty has five cornerbacks and four safeties on his team but this year 10 players make up the defensive backfield. While this isn’t the first time the Falcons have started a season with 10 different defensive backs, it’s the number at each position that is noteworthy. The other time the Falcons had 10 defensive backs on the roster was in 2011 with four safeties and six corners. This season, it’s split down the middle at five players apiece.
With the cuts now complete, the Falcons can focus solely on their upcoming game with the Saints. “This week, it’s game-on now. Now it’s time to go,” Smitty said. “We have a very good understanding of how hard it is to win in the NFL, and we have to have everybody focused on the task at hand. And most importantly, we have to have as many guys as we possibly can be as healthy as they can for that opening game.”
For more news and updates, visit Atlanta Falcons Central.
Matthew Asher is a freelance writer covering all things Atlanta sports related. His work can be found on Examiner.com.