Smith sends message to end practice fights

Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith wants to put an end to his team’s practice fights. (Reuters)

Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith wants to put an end to his team’s practice fights. (Reuters)

FLOWERY BRANCH — Mike Smith wants the Atlanta Falcons to get the message: stop fighting during practice.

The Falcons’ head coach threw center Joe Hawley out of Monday’s combined practice with the Tennessee Titans following one of multiple skirmishes. That came a day after rookie defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman had to undergo an X-ray on his hand following a fight with Hawley.

“The guys knew the rules of engagement,” Smith said of booting Hawley from practice. “They were violated and when they’re violated there’s going to be a consequence. Some other guys had to step up and take some extra reps.

“In a game if that were to happen, you know, we’re going to lose a player. We need to learn we can’t be fighting.”

Smith denied an ESPN report that the Falcons had been concerned Hageman may have suffered a hairline fracture, and the defensive tackle was on the practice field Monday.

As for potential further punishment for Hawley, Smith declined to say whether he would be fined but did offer that a player faces action from the league following an ejection from a game.

Smith was generally pleased with the energy from his team Monday, but acknowledged the heat got to the players toward the end of the session and slowed down the tempo along with Hawley’s scuffle and offensive lineman Gabe Carimi leaving with an undisclosed injury.

Other than Hawley’s ejection and Carimi’s injury, Monday was a positive step for the overhauled offensive line. Rookie Jake Matthews continues to impress and Monday marked the unit’s first heavy work in pads.

“He is as savvy as really any rookie that I’ve been around, any position,” quarterback Matt Ryan said of Matthews. “He plays very physical and he’s extremely athletic. I’ve been incredibly impressed with him up to this point.”

The line as a whole remains a work in progress, but Monday’s session against another team will provide important film for the group to study.

“I think we’ve been improving,” Ryan said. “Certainly today going against some different stuff, unscouted looks and different blitzes and those sorts of things. It’s going to be a great opportunity for us to watch the film. I think they’re doing a good job.”

FALCONS SIGN JOHNSON: The Falcons signed veteran safety Tyrell Johnson for veteran depth with Lowery going through the league’s concussion protocol, Zeke Motta out with a neck injury and Dezmen Southward dealing with a sore knee. Second-year safety Kemal Ishmael is also seeing increased reps with the first team playing next to William Moore.

Johnson was out of the NFL last season after spending the final four games of 2012 with the Detroit Lions, but the Falcons have kept him on a radar and like the versatility he offers.

“We did a lot of work on him when he was coming out (of college in 2008),” Smith said. “It was our first draft class and I do remember spending lots of time on him. We know what he is in terms of being able to play both strong and free safety.”

Johnson admitted he’s a bit rusty and needs to ramp up quickly, but he came to came in good shape considering he began working as a personal trainer in Arkansas during his time out of the NFL.