With Julio Jones gone to the Tennessee Titans, a lot of the Atlanta camp focus has been on Calvin Ridley and rookie tight end Kyle Pitts, but there's a big opening for Russell Gage Jr. to become the No. 2 receiver with the Falcons.
Gage still has the infectious energy of a rookie, and it's easy to tell he won't ever take his opportunity for granted.
"I'm just excited to be playing football," said Gage. "To get back to playing football. It's always exciting. Arthur [head coach Smith] does a great job of getting people rallied around him. I love this sport, so any time I get a chance to play no matte what the situation is, I'm always going to be excited to get after it. No matter what. That's just how my mindset is 24/7; I'm going to be excited to play ball."
Gage was a sixth-round pick by the Falcons in the 2018 draft, and he credits the longer road to playing time making him a tougher, more focused player. Gage had six catches as a rookie, 49 in 2019, and 72 in 2020.
Said Gage: "It's definitely molded me into who I am today. My work ethic coming from special teams. Putting in extra work after practice, things like that. Over my years here, I've learned a lot. I'm excited what I'm able to bring to the table. I think the coaches are [too]. so I'm ready to roll."
There's a new pecking order in the locker room with Jones traded to the Titans. Gage was asked how is the chemistry among the receivers.
"We're jokesters," Gage said with a laugh. "The chemistry is great. We all love each other. We all feed off each other; we all motivate each other. It's always going to be like that. That's something that we've always had in this organization on this team. We always uplift each other, and we make each other better each and every week."
It's a new offense for Gage and the receivers, but he credits veteran quarterback Matt Ryan for making the transition easier.
"Matt does a great job with getting us in, getting us settled down,'' he said. "New Offense, he slows it down for us, keep us going. Matt does a great job with that. We're going to keep it going rapid fire."
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