By Seth Payne

If you’ve been keeping up with the show, you know that Roddy White is funny, Bryan Cox is a character, and Matt Ryan is exactly what you thought Matt Ryan would be. In this episode they travel to Houston for combined practices and a pre-season game.

The show opens in Atlanta with some graphic scenes of Marquise Spruill having ACL surgery. If you have never seen an ACL surgery, you’ll be surprised that it looks like  space age wizardry combined with Amish carpentry. There is a lot more banging of mallets and turning of screwdrivers than you’d think there should be. The theme of this show will be “setbacks”, with a fitting conclusion in Houston as the Falcons are drubbed in Preseason game #2.

This surgery scene brought back a lot of memories. I had ten or so orthopedic procedures in my career, and I actually started to enjoy the surgery process. I came to view it as the beginning of a positive process. It meant a return to health after a physical blow. It was a respite from the grind in a time when there was no Twitter with which we could brag about grinding. It was a chance to take legal mood altering drugs.

After the surgery we see the surgeon (who is built like the guy on a Big League Chew package) explain to Spruill that his knee looked good for the most part. There wasn’t a lot of damage to anything other than the ligament. This was positive news, but I could tell by the look on Spruill’s face that he wasn’t gonna remember a thing about this conversation. Still groggy.

We then see other guys on the team that are working their way back from setbacks. Steven Jackson working out with dumbbells. Julio Jones coming back from a broken screw in his foot. Defensive end Kroy Biermann, who is coming off Achilles tendon surgery, discussing a disappointing performance with his position coach. Biermann didn’t play with his typical energy in the first pre-season game. His coach, who seems genuinely concerned for Kroy, gives him every opportunity to blame it on the tendon, but Kroy won’t allow himself to make an excuse.

At practice, we see wide receiver Roddy White asking head coach Mike Smith for a dollar. Smith is amused, and explains that he doesn’t typically carry cash out to practice. White needs the dollar so they can play what I will call The Dropping Dollar Game. One player holds a dollar bill so it hangs vertically. Another player positions his thumb and index finger so that he’s almost pinching the dollar, but just shy of touching it. The goal is to pinch the dollar when the first player drops the bill. Roddy White is awful. Ostensibly this is to work on reaction time and hand eye connection, but mostly it’s just fun. Of course I fully expect that some scout is gonna turn this into a combine drill and base important decisions on it.

Rookie wide receiver Geraldo Boldewijn speaks four languages, can’t read coverages. We all laugh.

We watch William Moore freestyle rapping while a couple guys tap out the rhythm on a training table. If there’s one thing I know about the NFL, this joyful display of rhythm will be met with a swift fine and fifteen yard penalty.

Assistant coach Bryan Cox continues to be one of the stars of this season. We see him in a meeting room showing pictures of his family to his players. One of his daughters is 30. He is 46. One of the players does some quick math, and Cox responds with, “I told you guys, I started [expletiving] when I was 10.” One of his players connected with his daughter on Instagram, because evidently that guy doesn’t value his career or life.

Matt Ryan tells a joke about pussy willow. Good joke, poor delivery, but the bar is lowered in training camp so everybody laughs. By this point in camp you typically laugh at anything. It’s a combination of delirium and the need for escape.

Workout montage to Ace Hood’s Hustle Hard. It was a great montage. I had to drink a post-workout recovery shake.

Devonta Freeman has heat illness, partly because he didn’t eat breakfast. I like this kid. He has an innocent quality to him, and he looks like he soaks up every bit of advice from veterans and coaches. Now eat your breakfast, jackass.

Watching miked up coaches, you realize they’re like parents. When they discipline their children, they sometimes can’t help chuckling about it later. They’re not as mad as the children/players might think they are. I wish I had watched this show more when I was playing. I might have taken getting chewed out a little more in stride.

Now we see first round draft pick, Texas A&M alum, and son of a legend, offensive tackle Jake Matthews. He’s shown a lot of promise, but like all O-line rookies he has had some rough moments too. His big challenge this week will be facing J.J. Watt in combined practices with the Texans.

In those combined practices, we first see J.J. walking down the steps of the pedestrian bridge over Kirby Drive. They frame him like a superhero, or even better, Shute from the movie Vision Quest.

In the footage we see, J.J. beats up on Matthews during one-on-one pass rush drill. I had heard rumors that it was Matthews who dominated Watt during that drill. Judging by this footage, those rumors were the work of terrorist propagandists.

After one of the combined practices, Texans tight ends coach introduces his son to Matt Ryan. They lived in Boston when Matt was at Boston College, so the boy is a big fan of Ryan. Ryan throws an endzone pass to the kid, and he bobbles it but somehow reigns it in. Great moment.

There is a scene of T.J. Yates watching film the way it’s supposed to be done. He pauses the play and goes through all the calls and checks he would make in that situation, putting himself in the first person. A lot of young guys watch film passively, like they’re a spectator. Ideally, a player should visualize himself in the action, and see the play unfold as it would in a game.

Unfortunately for T.J., visualization doesn’t do the trick in this game. He has a rough outing, and the game ends with him sitting alone on the bench, thinking about what went wrong.

Texans safety D.J. Swearinger got a lot of camera time. First, he was in a practice fight with WR Harry Douglas. Then, in the game, Roddy White remarks on the sideline that Swearinger “talks so much”, but doesn’t make any plays. Shortly thereafter D.J. lays the wood on Julio Jones. To Jones’ credit he held onto the ball, but it was a hell of a hit.

The Falcons play the Titans this week, which is awesome because we’re gonna get to see Bernard Pollard bruising people’s internal organs with much better audio than usual.



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