As the Atlanta Falcons worked through their final week of volunteer OTAs heading into the 2021 NFL season, new head coach Arthur Smith fielded questions from the media about the current status of his team.

On his expectations for attendance at this week’s final voluntary OTAs:

“We’ve had pretty good participation. It is voluntary. We obviously had our minicamp last week. There are some things that we will focus on situationally, probably more passing. So you will see that. I think we will still have pretty good attendance.”

On an update on RB Mike Davis and WR Russell Gage:

“It goes back to we’ve talked about people being in different phases. Both of those guys have been here. They have been involved in all of the classroom work we’ve done, anything we’ve done walk-through wise. The whole objective is — and I know I sound like a broken record here — is to make sure we’re as healthy as we can be going into the summer. You don’t want people to have nagging injuries to linger on. We want to be as healthy as we can so guys can be in the best shape they can be in, come training camp.”

On clarifying whether RB Mike Davis and WR Russell Gage are dealing with injuries:

“They’re at different phases. Everybody has different things going on. Some people we want to focus on a certain area. Certain guys we’ve wanted to put more in the weight room, some guys wanted to get them alternative conditioning, all different things going on. If there was something major, not to be evasive, I know what you guys are asking and I know what the rules are with the injuries, but if there was something major, we would let you guys know. I’m not going to play that kind of game with you guys. It would be well documented.”

On the plans for the final week of the offseason program:

“Yeah, we’re focusing more on some situational stuff. [It will] be a little more pass-heavy as we wrap up the end of the offseason program.”

On OL Kaleb McGary and when he anticipates WR Calvin Ridley to return to practice:

“All I’m focusing on is the present, offensively. I don’t sit there and live in the past. I’m not worry about, ‘Hopefully we can have Deion Sanders come back in his prime or whoever,’ but I’m just worrying about the present and as we plan for the future with all of our players. Both of those guys have been here and have done a good job. I have no timetable on anybody. We’ll see over the summer how guys — the shape they come in — and hopefully we’re ready to roll come the end of July.”

On how WR Calvin Ridley has been doing in meetings and learning the new scheme:

“He’s done a nice job in the things that we’ve asked him to do. All of these guys, it’s not one size fits all. Every player has a different process that they go about learning new schemes and trying to use different learning tools. Calvin has done a nice job with whatever we’ve asked him to do.”

On whether he feels WR Calvin Ridley is a player that he can move around the offense to create mismatches with:

“Well the question was asked about Russ[ell Gage] last week. With all of these guys, when we get into practice, we’ll push the guys and we’ll see who can handle what. We would obviously like to be flexible with multiple spots, multiple-position guys, but until we get on the practice field, it would be hard to answer that.”

On what they liked about WR Calvin Ridley to pick up his fifth-year option:

“As you know, he had a really productive year. Calvin has been a really productive player here so far and his best days, hopefully, are ahead for him. Like I said, I’ve been impressed with Calvin — the person and the player. So, we’re excited to get to work with him.”

On the importance of building relationships with players:

“I think it’s all about relationship building. Everybody is different. Like I said, it’s not one size fits all. Some people are an open book the first day you meet them. Other people, it just naturally has to happen. It has to happen organically. I said my prerogative as a head coach is to try to build a relationship with every guy on the roster, whether they’re here one day or here 10 years.”

On whether he’s been able to build relationships with players given the nature of the offseason with COVID protocols:

“Sure. I mean every day you’re working on it, so obviously, with some players [it takes] longer than with others, but everybody here, we want to get to know them and like I said, it doesn’t matter if they’re the 90th guy on the roster or the highest-paid player.”

On whether there was a specific player who stood out from last week’s mandatory minicamp:

“It’s just part of it. I take the spring, take it with a grain of salt. We’re just trying to improve their understanding of the schemes and what the objective is. I just don’t get too worked up over spring and OTAs and minicamp.”

On his message to the players as they get set to break camp:

“Constantly trying to keep improving. These guys have done a nice job that have been here. They have worked hard about understanding the schematics, and obviously it goes both ways. We’re trying to understand how they operate as players, how they learn, their work habits. Just continue to improve and know the expectation when we come back for camp, we have to be ready to roll.”

On how he is building a relationship with DL Grady Jarrett:

“Same with all of our players. It’s been really fun getting to know Grady. Obviously, I had a lot of respect for him from afar. We played against him two years ago, getting ready and watching him be successful, but I really like the way he handles himself. We’ve had some great conversations, and just like with every player here, you’re just trying to get to know him, hope they get to know me. But I’ve been very pleased with what Grady has brought to the table so far.”

On DL Ta’Quon Graham and DL Marlon Davidson:

“Both of those guys, they work. They’re at different points in their careers. It’s hard to judge – last year was a really unusual year for a lot of rookies. It’s hard enough to be a rookie in the NFL. Then dealing with everything, it was much harder for a lot of people around the world and in this country dealing with the pandemic. So, it was an unusual offseason. Everybody gets a fresh start here. Marlon has been working hard. All of these guys just want to improve. TQ, he’s a mature guy. We’ve enjoyed getting to work with him so far. I’m excited to see – you get a better evaluation, especially with the big guys, when we get into training camp and you’re actually running run schemes and blocking and you have pads on.”

On his expectation for the competition level during training camp:

“I hope the competition is going to be hot. Guys have to earn their job. It’s a constant evaluation. Obviously, with some more than others that you can probably pencil in. I don’t think it’s a far reach to say, ‘Hey, Jake Matthews is going to be our left tackle.’ But there is going to be competition just about everywhere and if Jake isn’t performing, then you have to play the best player. I really hope it’s a competitive camp and they understand that every job is open.”

On whether he gravitates more toward the offensive line group in practice as a former collegiate offensive lineman:

“I think it’s, like with all of the players, obviously we all go back to our own experiences. Maybe a bias there, but I try to spend time with all of the positions and try to think about it from their perspective, whether that’s Josh Harris or Younghoe or Chris Lindstrom or Duron Harmon or Erik Harris back there. I obviously didn’t play DB, don’t look like a DB, but you try to see it from everybody’s perspective, so I try to spend as much time as I can with everybody. Certainly we do go back to our experience and I do love the offensive line but like all of them, like I tell my kids, I love all of my kids the same.”

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