The Atlanta Falcons will take on the Cleveland Browns on Sunday night in the final preseason game of 2021. And they might want to step it up.
Head coach Arthur Smith wasn't pleased with the effort his team was showing on Friday, and he wasn't afraid to let them know. The Falcons were preparing for Sunday's game against the Browns, and players were supposed to get lined up quickly.
"Every year I've been around the NFL, the first day you introduce cards, show teams, is usually a cluster," said Smith after practice on Friday. "That's not what I wanted, because I think it's human nature to let your guard down."
"We're not trying to do anything stupid. We're not going in here all-out, full-speed scrimmage, but we expect speed, and we expect guys on the other side of it reading the cards to be professional and get lined up."
The coach continued.
"It's a great experience for everything,'' he said. "To me, it's how you develop guys. It's not just to sit there and feel good and be a highway cone, so we can get 12 for 12 and feel good, and then have an unrealistic picture on Sunday."
"It's just the expectation, and that's part of it. I wasn't very happy with it, but it picked up at the end. I just let 'em know. That's my job to get the thing rolling the way we believe in, the way we see fit."
Sunday is an incredibly important game for many of the players battling for roster spots, and Smith ran this week's schedule similar to game-week against the Eagles on September 12 to begin the regular season. He was happy to work out some of the kinks in the preseason.
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"That's why we put the schedule the way we did this week," said Smith. "Because you'd rather go through that today than you are in Week 1. That's not to take anything away, it's a big game for a lot of guys Sunday night. That's not to devalue the game in any way, shape, or form, but we're fortunate it's the preseason and it's part of the continuing education."
"We've got to do a better job. I'm not down; it's not going to ruin my Friday. It's just knowing what the expectation is, and these guys have responded, and I expect it to be better next time we have a Friday practice."
For many of the players it will be their last Friday practice with the Falcons. Atlanta, like all NFL teams, will have to cut their roster from 80 players to 53 players on Tuesday, August 31.
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Those battling for roster spots will need to stake a claim Sunday night. Like Smith said after practice on Friday, it's a big game for a lot of guys.