By CHARLES ODUM, AP Sports Writer
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — Even after missing the opening day of the Atlanta Falcons’ mandatory minicamp, Julio Jones remains in coach Dan Quinn’s good graces.
Quinn said Tuesday he thought Jones, who missed voluntary offseason workouts , would participate in the minicamp. The coach said he found out Monday that Jones would skip the minicamp.
Quinn wouldn’t share details of his conversation with Jones but said “Sometimes football and business intersect and that’s OK and that happens a lot.”
Jones has three years remaining on his five-year, $71.3 million deal with $47 million in guaranteed money but could soon have the deal tweaked. Quinn said the team is “right in the middle” of talks with Jones, a five-time Pro Bowl selection.
Quinn has emphasized “brotherhood” and making sure players do everything as a team. Players stood together as a team on the sideline during the national anthem for all games after two players kneeled in protest early in the 2017 season.
Could Jones’ absence hurt the Falcons’ unity?
“No,” Quinn said. “I recognize the question, for sure. Do we want everybody here all the time? Hell yeah, like all the time. … What I’d say is if you ask to a man, the guy is a hell of a teammate and the time he spends here, the way he mentors people, how hard he plays, there is plenty of brotherhood in Julio.”
Receiver Mohamed Sanu said he and other players were not impacted by Jones’ absence.
“Whether he’s present or not, we were just focused on what we have to do today,” said Sanu, the team’s No. 2 receiver behind Jones.
Jones, 29, remains one of the league’s top receivers. He earned his fourth straight Pro Bowl berth last season when he had 88 catches for 1,444 yards. It was his fourth straight season with at least 80 receptions and 1,400 receiving yards.
Jones’ salary cap figure of $12.9 million for 2018 ranks seventh among NFL receivers, well behind recent deals signed by Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans ($18.252 million in 2018) and Cleveland’s Jarvis Landry ($15.5 million).
Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said Monday he has been in talks with Jones and Jones’ agent, Jimmy Sexton.
Sexton did not return a message from The Associated Press.
Jones’ holdout comes after the Falcons made quarterback Matt Ryan the league’s top-paid player this offseason with a five-year extension that could be worth $150 million.
Quinn said he was not disappointed in Jones’ decision to miss minicamp because Jones remained in constant communication and explained why his plans changed.
“Sometimes circumstances change and as long as players communicate with me on why circumstances change, then I never am disappointed as long as communication with me is very clear,” Quinn said. “… The things that jam me up are when people don’t communicate.”
Quinn wouldn’t say if Jones will be fined for missing the first day of the three-day minicamp.
Without Jones on the field, Ryan’s top targets included Sanu, rookie first-round pick Calvin Ridley and Justin Hardy. Like Jones, Ridley played at Alabama.
An undrafted rookie, Christian Blake, from Northern Illinois, reached up to make an impressive catch over the middle.
“All those guys, Calvin, Christian Blake, it was good to see those guys make plays and do what they do,” Sanu said.
Quinn praised the rookies’ speed and said the class “has a chance to be an excellent one.”
NOTES: The team waived S Quincy Mauger, who spent his 2017 rookie season on injured reserve with a knee injury. He was an undrafted free agent from Georgia. … RB Devonta Freeman, who was slowed by a sprained right knee late last season, appeared to be fully recovered on his runs with the first-team offense.