FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — The Atlanta Falcons’ roster looks more solid entering training camp than some of the team’s office furniture.
Dan Quinn, the Falcons’ coach, joined general manager Thomas Dimitroff at a news conference on Wednesday as players reported for camp.
Quinn prepared to sit behind a microphone when he noticed his chair appeared to be unsteady.
“It’s either broken or this is a setup,” Quinn said, drawing a laugh from reporters. He appeared to be genuinely worried as he tested the wobbly chair before Dimitroff offered to switch.
“You want to change? Because you’re a little bigger than I am,” Dimitroff said.
Quinn declined the offer, gently lowered himself into the chair, and made it through the news conference without incident.
The chair may be one of the few targets for change in Quinn’s third training camp with the team following a surprise Super Bowl season.
The Falcons must replace only three Super Bowl starters: defensive end Dwight Freeney, right guard Chris Chester and fullback Patrick DiMarco.
They believe they’ll be better with the return of cornerback Desmond Trufant from a pectoral injury, the additions of veterans Dontari Poe and Jack Crawford and rookie Takkarist McKinley to the defensive line, and the added maturity of other defensive starters drafted in the past two years.
“We think we can get a lot better in this camp and that’s certainly our aim as a team,” Quinn said.
Despite that optimism, Quinn said the competition will be tough in the NFC South.
“That climb now begins,” he said. “This division is a bear.”
The Falcons were a surprise NFC champion in 2016, improving from 8-8 in Quinn’s first season to 11-5. But much of the feel-good story was obliterated by the team blowing a 28-3 second-half lead in the Super Bowl loss to New England.
An offseason focus was improving the depth of the defense which faded in the second half against the Patriots. Dimitroff said the bolstered defensive line “is a manly group.”
More reason for excitement: The Falcons will open their new $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium .
A potential distraction in training camp could be the contract status of running back Devonta Freeman .
Dimitroff hoped to have a contract extension for Freeman before camp, but he said “no update” when asked Wednesday about those talks. Freeman is set to earn $1,797,000 in the final year of his rookie contract.
Quinn said no player will be held out of Thursday’s opening practice because of injury. Wide receivers Julio Jones (foot) and Taylor Gabriel (strained lower leg) and McKinley (shoulder) will be limited to individual work with the hope they will soon join team drills.
Quinn said McKinley had “a good report from the doctors.”
Jones had minor foot surgery in March. He missed two games last season with a sprained left toe and also missed practice time in the second half of the season with foot problems. He still had 83 catches for 1,409 yards and six touchdowns and was selected first-team All-Pro for the second consecutive season.
The Falcons have had success with Jones being ready for games after missing practice time during the week.
“We try to limit him based on his past and follow that model,” Quinn said. “It’s been a good one. … Some days he gets more (practice). Some days he gets less.”
Jones was healthy enough to go jet skiing in Lake Lanier, near the Falcons’ practice facility, recently. Atlanta TV station WXIA reported a diver was searching on Tuesday for a $100,000 earring Jones lost while falling off the jet ski.
NOTES: S Ricardo Allen signed a one-year, $615,000 deal. … The team waived OL Cam Keizer. … Quinn listed wide receiver, linebacker and running back as deep positions where he expects to see good competition.