What's up Yardbarkers? I've been gone for a while, but play time is over, and I'm a firm believer in working hard, so that's what I've been doing. In the off-season, I had a lot of fun traveling to NYC, Hawaii, the Dominican Republic, Vegas, LA, etc... and I'm tired. I'm glad that football season is starting because it gives me a chance to stay in one place. No more flight itineraries... I can just stay in Atlanta. Even though camp isn't my favorite part of football, I've come to understand that it's a very important part of making a good team. If you want to be good in November/December and make it to the Super Bowl, you need to be good now. I didn't understand that when I was younger, but now I know that you need to give it 100% every day in camp, and that's what's going to give you an edge over the competition during the season. That's why I've been trying to keep a positive outlook on these long two-a-days for the last two weeks. There's a great feeling in the Falcons locker room this year. The guys are having fun, they're smiling, they're enjoying the coaches, and they're enjoying each other. Messing with the rookies a little bit has been fun. There's this "card trick" that the vets like to show the rookies, and it goes like this: Step 1: Rookie picks a card from the deck Step 2: Rookie looks at card and puts it back into the deck Step 3: Vet shuffles deck around, and throws one card on the ground, face down... asks rookie if that's his card. Step 4: Rookie bends down to pick up card... entire deck is thrown at the back of his head. It's still funny, no matter how many times you see it. They've also been singing, of course. Matt Ryan was probably more comfortable in his NFL debut last week than he was when he had to sing in front of all of us. I think we had him do "Sweet Caroline" or something like that. He does this thing where he turns beet red. It's hilarious. On the field, the "work hard, play hard" atmosphere that Coach Smith has brought to the team has been good, because we know that after he challenges us during practice, he'll be sure to give us the chance to rest and recover. He has ways of making practice fun and exciting through things like competition between offense and defense (if offense scores, defense runs and vice versa). Personally, I've been putting a lot of pressure on myself this year because I want to take my game to another level. When I got here last year, my goal was to make the Pro Bowl, since I was second-team All-Pro the year before when I was with the Ravens. When the Pro Bowl didn't happen for me, though, it was a really disappointing setback, which is why I've been working extra hard this off-season. Our first pre-season game against the Jaguars was the first test of how much my off-season work had paid off. I was actually a little nervous going into it, but it turns out that I didn't need to be. I handled all of my blocks, had two catches, two first downs, and even a fumble recovery on special teams. Of course I was disappointed that we lost, but it was a success because it was the first time that our offense and defense, with all the new players, really came together and played as a unit. It was a lot of fun. I don't want to say that I was SURPRISED at how good we were, but I have to say that I didn't know that we would get this good this quickly. If we continue to improve from here, I know that we're going to surprise a lot of people this year.