Hoping to succeed at home, Smith changes Falcons routine

ATLANTA (AP) — Falcons coach Arthur Smith had a revelation earlier this week and decided to change his team’s practice routine.

Not because it’s finally Week 1 and his team was training in the pads for the first time this week.

Smith instructed the team to pile into buses and drive the 45-minute drive south from his training facility in Flowery Branch to Mercedes-Benz Stadium for downtown practice. Atlanta.

The Falcons finished 7-10…

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ATLANTA (AP) — Falcons coach Arthur Smith had a revelation earlier this week and decided to change his team’s practice routine.

Not because it’s finally Week 1 and his team was training in the pads for the first time this week.

Smith instructed the team to pile into buses and drive the 45-minute drive south from his training facility in Flowery Branch to Mercedes-Benz Stadium for downtown practice. Atlanta.

The Falcons finished 7-10 in Smith’s first season, but were only 2-6 in home games. Smith says that record needs to improve, starting Sunday, when Atlanta opens the season against division rival New Orleans.

“We want to be really good at home,” he said. “I’m biased but in my opinion we have the best stadium in all of sport. This is our home. We have to win at home. You can go back and forth but if we had found a way to win two other games at home, chances are we would have continued to play. We have to be better at home.

Another problem with no winning seasons since 2017 has been many empty seats at home games. Smith saw it firsthand last year as the Falcons played regularly in front of a half-empty house.

According to him, players, especially younger ones, would benefit from becoming more familiar with their stadium.

“I think for me, being part of this city, and ultimately just from a practice standpoint, we can train in an environment that we’re going to be playing in on Sunday,” Smith said. “And that’s important to us.”

For quarterback Marcus Mariota, Sunday’s game will mean a lot of butterflies as he prepares to start his first NFL game in three years. Mariota, a former No. 2 draft pick with Tennessee and backup with Las Vegas for the past two years, has spent the past two seasons playing behind Derek Carr.

Now he can prepare as a starter.

“My dad told me a long time ago, that means you care and that comforts me a bit,” Mariota said. “I always get it the first game in the game, but then it goes away and it’s just football again. I really believe that there will be a lot of emotions. I just sort of channeled that. I’m not trying to fight him or anything like that. Just be present in the moment and enjoy it.

“It’s the most competitive major league sport in the country. It doesn’t matter what week it is. You tie it up and play. I like that mentality and I love being part of it.

Pro Bowl tight end Kyle Pitts enjoyed training at the stadium with a roster down to the normal 53 players. Playing pre-season games at home means the locker room is filled with around 90 players dressing up.

“It was good for us to practice here today and prepare to win,” Pitts said.

Added starting cornerback AJ Terrell, “It’s very beneficial to do that because it helps us acclimatize. I know it also helps younger people, especially rookies.

NOTES: Rookie WR Drake London, the No. 8 draft pick, competed on the field and didn’t seem to be bothered by a knee injury that sidelined him from the final two preseason games. Smith said the team are unlikely to know London’s status until Saturday. … CB Darren Hall (quadriceps) was limited in training like in London. … TE Parker Hesse was absent for personal reasons. … Smith teased Mariota for so-No. 11 The loss of Oregon at the time-No. 3 Georgia on Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mariota, who had a stellar career with the Ducks, was the team’s honorary captain before the game. Terrell and DT Grady Jarrett were honorary team captains at the time. 4 Clemson in their win over Georgia Tech at Mercedes-Benz on Monday night. “I told Grady and Terrell they were better honorary captains than Marcus,” Smith said.

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