Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) calls a play against the Tennessee Titans during a scrimmage Monday in Dalton.
ATHENS — Georgia was without defensive ends Abry Jones and Ray Drew as it held its first practice in full pads of the preseason.
Jones has a knee contusion and Drew was held out of Monday’s practice with a concussion. Also, safety Marc Deas missed the practice with a strained hamstring and offensive guard Chris Burnett was held out with an illness.
Senior running back Richard Samuel scored the go-ahead touchdown in a three-on-three drill as he continues to play tailback and fullback.
Coach Mark Richt says Samuel’s time at tailback will not keep him from starting at fullback.
Richt says the team’s effort has been “outstanding” through the first week. The Bulldogs will hold their first two-a-day drills on Tuesday. The first scrimmage is planned for Wednesday.
FRESHMAN THEUS TO BE NEW STARTER IN HOUSTON'S ABSENCE?:
ATHENS --- Freshman offensive tackle John Theus is getting looks with Georgia’s starters.
Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said Theus, one of the team’s top recruits this year, spent time with the first-team offensive line in Sunday’s practice.
There’s an opening on the line. Kolton Houston, who finished spring practice as the starting right tackle, remains ineligible because he continues to test positive for an anabolic steroid he was given for shoulder surgery more than two years ago.
Theus, from The Bolles School in Jacksonville, Fla., was a high school All-America pick by USA Today and Parade magazine.
Bobo says other freshmen who have had a strong first week on offense are tailbacks Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley, fullback Quayvon Hicks, wide receiver Blake Tibbs and tight end Ty Flournoy-Smith.
FALCONS COACH SMITH LEVELED DURING PRESEASON SCRIMMAGE VS. TITANS:
DALTON — The rule for the Falcons-Titans combined practice was no tackling to the ground.
Tell that to Falcons coach Mike Smith, who took the biggest hit of the day.
Smith was leveled early in Monday’s practice as he stood on the Falcons logo painted on the 50-yard line of the Coahulla Creek High School field. He was hit by Atlanta receiver Drew Davis, who was working against Titans cornerback Chris Hawkins.
Smith landed hard but bounced up quickly, readjusting his white Falcons cap.
Asked after the practice if he was OK, a smiling Smith had a quick answer.
“You might want to check Andrew Davis and see how he’s feeling, OK?” Smith said.
Smith said he knew he had to return to his feet quickly. Davis extended his hand to offer assistance, but instead Smith pushed himself off the ground.
“You don’t ever want to stay down, that’s for darn sure,” Smith said. “You don’t want to take an eight count. We were on one field and there were a lot of things going on and I ended up taking one in the back. It’s all good.”
Each coach was happy there were no altercations between the teams.
“Coach Smith and I talked with them about that,” Titans coach Mike Munchak said. “No one is going to make the team because they got in a fight. We can still compete at a high level without fighting and pushing and shoving.
“This is more about getting better and competing, and I think you saw that with both teams.”
The coaches said the practice provided a needed change of pace before the first preseason games this week.
The Falcons open their preseason schedule on Thursday night when they host the Baltimore Ravens. The Titans play at Seattle on Saturday night.
Smith gave quarterback Matt Ryan and his starters extended playing time in Monday’s controlled environment because they probably won’t see much action against the Ravens.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to work our first teams,” Smith said. “That was our philosophy. We wanted to get some good work with our first units because historically they don’t play a whole lot in the first preseason game. We have our first game coming up on Thursday and a lot of the younger guys are going to get a lot of snaps.”
Atlanta (No. 13 in the AP Pro32) continued to work Sam Baker at left tackle with the first-team offense. Baker was beaten by Tennessee defensive end Kamerion Wimbley on one play that could have ended in a sack in a game.
Ryan had enough protection to complete nice gains to tight end Tony Gonzalez and receiver Roddy White, as well as screens to running backs Jacquizz Rodgers and Michael Turner.
Matt Hasselbeck had a strong start as he continued his competition with Jake Locker for the starting quarterback job for Tennessee (No. 21 in the AP Pro32). Hasselbeck beat Falcons cornerback Asante Samuel on a deep sideline pass to Nate Washington.
Samuel enjoyed a double dose of revenge with two interceptions against Hasselbeck.
Hasselbeck had compliments for the way Atlanta’s defense handled the scrimmage.
“From the start I thought Atlanta’s defense was real professional with how they handled everything,” Hasselbeck said.
“You can tell Atlanta is a good team. You can tell their mindset is to have a good season and make it to the Super Bowl. They get it.”
Munchak said the practice against the Falcons helped him evaluate the quarterbacks.
“They’ve got some great DBs and they made some plays and were covering well, especially early,” Munchak said. “I think it was good for them to get a feel for that, the receivers and the quarterbacks.
“It helps. It just creates a different atmosphere, a different situation.”
NOTES: Munchak said he had not heard from the league about receiver Kenny Britt’s meeting Monday with league officials at the NFL offices after being charged with driving under the influence. It was Britt’s eighth run-in with police since he was drafted in 2009. “No, really that’s a private matter between Kenny Britt and the league,” Munchak said. “We know he’s there and that’s pretty much all we know.” … Falcons DTs Vance Walker and Corey Peters were held out with foot injuries. CB Dunta Robinson did not practice due to an ankle injury.