Falcons coach Mike Smith calls the first day of training camp one of his favorite days of the year, and he believes this year’s camp will be the most competitive since he took over the team in 2008.
FLOWERY BRANCH — Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan completed his last few errands Tuesday.
Linebacker Brian Banks boarded a plane in Los Angeles and landed on Georgia soil.
Fullback Patrick DiMarco packed his car in Florida and headed north on I-75.
Wide receiver Tim Toone got to stay at home because he was released, leaving the team with an open roster spot.
Ryan, Banks and DiMarco, along with 86 other players, reported Wednesday for training camp. The defending NFC South champs, who came up 10 yards short of the Super Bowl, will hold their first practice today.
Once the dust settles, Smith expects to have his most competitive camp since his first season with the Falcons in 2008.
“The first day of training camp is one of my favorite days of the year, if not my favorite day of the year,” Smith said. “So, I’m jacked and excited about the start of the season.”
The players will go through a battery of tests with the strength coach and doctors. The Falcons will not have a fitness run because more than 90 percent of the players participated in the voluntary offseason program.
Smith will hold his first team meeting this morning before the team goes through a walk-through and an afternoon practice.
The only medical concerns are defensive end Stansly Maponga, who had left foot surgery in March, and quarterback Sean Renfree, who’s recovering from shoulder surgery.
“I don’t see any players being placed on the (physically unable to perform) list,” Smith said. “There will be guys, like always, that will be on a different regimen in terms of practicing. They might be a little limited to start with, but guys that have not been full tilt, we’re not going to throw them out there right away.”
Linebackers Sean Weatherspoon (knee surgery) and Stephen Nicholas (sports hernia) were slowed this offseason and are the most likely candidates for limited practice at the outset of training camp.
Smith also looks forward to working with veteran running back Steven Jackson and defensive end Osi Umenyiora, who both will be in their first training camp with the Falcons. They were key free-agent acquisitions in the offseason, and Smith wants to monitor their snaps-per-practice.
“We want to make sure they are ready to go at the beginning of the season,” Smith said. “That’s the No. 1 goal, and I have not had the experience of working with those guys in terms of their workload. We’ll try to do a very good job of making sure that our guys get the right number of snaps. I’m anxious to watch these guys because their work ethic has been unbelievable through OTAs and the minicamp.”