Falcons' Trufant, Alford get hard lessons in mini-camp

alt

Rookie cornerbacks Desmond Trufant, left, and Robert Alford have been humbled immediately after joining the Atlanta Falcons. The duo have found themselves pitted against Pro Bowl-caliber performers in quaterback Matt Ryan and receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones. 


Eds: Updates with quotes, details. With AP Photos.

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford aren't having an easy time learning how to play cornerback in the NFL.

And that's just fine with Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith, who's been watching the rookies try to defend Roddy White and Julio Jones during a mandatory three-day mini-camp.

Smith said Trufant and Alford are getting valuable experience against two of the league's best receivers, and the rookies agree.

"We want to get them ready to play, and the best way is to have them go against really good players," Smith said. "They're going against two of the best in the league, and Harry Douglas is not a bad receiver as well. They're getting their fill."

The lessons haven't stopped since Trufant, a first-round pick from Washington, and Alford, a second-round selection from Southeastern Louisiana, were drafted in late April.

Trufant seems to have an advantage after growing up as the younger brother of Marcus Trufant, a free agent after playing 10 years with the Seattle Seahawks, and Isaiah Trufant, who played in nine games with one start for the New York Jets in 2012.

The brothers all play cornerback, a position Desmond Trufant excelled at in starting 47 of 50 games as a four-year starter at Washington.

But life in the NFL brings challenges that even Trufant wasn't entirely ready for when lined up opposite White and Jones, one of the league's top receiving tandems.

"They humbled me, to be honest," Trufant said. "They're big, they're strong, they're fast. They're getting me better every day, and I'm just competing with them."

White, a four-time Pro Bowl selection, last season became just the fifth NFL player with three straight years of at least 90 catches and 1,200 or more yards receiving.

Jones was invited to his first Pro Bowl after catching 79 passes for 1,198 yards and 10 touchdowns

Jones, who's accustomed to practicing hard in each drill, believes Trufant and Alford have the skills and mindsets to succeed. But he added that it's not his job to go easy on the rookies.

"They're trying", Jones said with a grin. "But they don't give up. They give effort. They've got heart, and that's one thing you can't teach."

Alford felt fortunate on the first day of mini-camp to beat White on a crossing route.

Quarterback Matt Ryan put the ball in White's hands, but Alford played the correct technique and was in position to knock the ball to the ground.

Both players were running at full speed, but White kept going after the play was whistled dead. Instead of doing his customary slow lap back up the field following a play, White slammed his hand into the wall of the indoor practice facility and made a crashing noise.

Alford was quick to say that he wasn't trying to upstage White. He only wanted to break up the pass.

"I think going against Julio and Roddy every day in one-on-ones is getting me better because both of them are Pro Bowl-caliber receivers," Alford said. "I'm going against the best, and I think that's the one thing I can do to help me get better as a player."

Alford is listed behind starting left cornerback Asante Samuel on the depth chart. Trufant is challenging Robert McClain for the starting job at right cornerback.

Samuel, a brash veteran renowned for shouting his confidence in practice, is helping both rookies adjust on the field and in the film room.

"He's been in the league 10 years," Alford said. "He's been to the Pro Bowl. He's had a bunch of interceptions and a bunch of rings from playing with the New England Patriots. I'm learning a lot from him every day."

NOTES: Smith announced that training camp will begin July 25 with an afternoon workout that is open to the public. ... He added that the Falcons will not tackle until their annual Friday Night Lights event one week after camp starts. This year's event is being held at City Park in Gainesville, Ga. ... Samuel (ankle) and S Thomas DeCoud (groin) didn't participate in the final practice of minicamp for precautionary reasons. Smith said neither injury was serious and he wanted to give some of the younger defensive backs a longer look anyway. ... TE Tony Gonzalez wasn't required to be at the minicamp — part of his contract to play another season instead of retiring. ... DE Osi Umenyiora was excused from Thursday's workout after practicing the previous two days. RB Jason Snelling also missed the two-hour practice after the death of his grandmother. ... The only injury concern is rookie DE Stansly Maponga, a fifth-round draft pick from TCU. He is still recovering from March ankle surgery and may be limited at the start of training camp, Smith said. ... FB Bradie Ewing has fully recovered from knee surgery that kept him out all of last season.

___

AP sports writer Paul Newberry contributed to this report.

___

Follow George Henry on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/georgehenryAP



More Sports

High School Football

Vikings take positives out of loss to Mundy's Mill

Northgate tried to take away as many positives from Friday's heartbreaking 41-34 overtime loss on the road to Mundy's Mill, as much as the e ... Read More


Local Golf

Whitton, Daniel win titles at Hurricane Junior

Coweta youth golfers turned in top performances at la s t we ekend's Hu r r icane Junior Golf Tour event at Whitewater Creek Country Club in ... Read More


Lady Cougars 12th at Atlanta Classic

The Newnan Cross Country teams competed Saturday Morning at the Atlanta Classic at Clinton Farms in Douglasville with the Lady Cougars finis ... Read More


College Football

Coweta standouts lead Mercer to first conference victory

LEXINGTON, Va. - Former Northgate High standout running back Alex Lakes rushed for 98 yards and two scores as Mercer held off VMI 27-24 on S ... Read More


High School Football

Cougars come up short on Homecoming

Despite a determined second half comeback, the Newnan Cougars were unable to keep up with South Cobb and quarterback Kylil Carter, falling 4 ... Read More

High School Football

Hawks fall in line, stay perfect in region play

The month of August was certainly a bummer for The Heritage School’s football team. But the Hawks may not want to turn the calendar ov ... Read More