NFL

Konz impresses on 1st day of Atlanta rookie camp

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FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP)

Coach Mike Smith likes what he's seen from one of the Atlanta Falcons' two high-profile rookie offensive linemen.

Peter Konz, a second-round draft pick from Wisconsin, looked the part of a potential NFL starter as the Falcons opened a three-day rookie minicamp Friday.

Unfortunately for Atlanta, tackle Lamar Holmes, a third-round pick from Southern Mississippi, wore a protective boot on his left foot and was not cleared to participate on the field this weekend.

Holmes' injury, which Smith described as minor but declined to address specifically, was discovered during a post-draft physical. The Falcons drafted the 6-foot-6, 333-pound Holmes to push Sam Baker and Will Svitek for the starting job at left tackle.

''It's more precautionary right now,'' Smith said. ''We'll try to get him back out here. I think it will be closer to when we start our (team-wide offseason training activities) at the end of the month.''

Of 46 players participating in the minicamp, only five or six will make the final 53-man roster before the Falcons open the season Sept. 9 at Kansas City. Jobs will be few for a team that went 10-6 last year and likely will be picked in preseason to win the NFC South.

Friday's 1-hour, 20-minute workout was a small sample size, but Konz's performance led Smith to believe the 6-6, 317-pound lineman will challenge Joe Hawley and Garrett Reynolds for the starting job at right guard.

Konz is expected to push Hawley the No. 2 spot behind starting center Todd McClure, too.

''He's being cross-trained at two positions,'' Smith said. ''He spent most of his day at the guard positions, but he also took some snaps. It's obvious he's a big, strong guy.''

Konz could not deny that his head was swimming with new vocabulary and new responsibilities, but added that he felt comfortable.

''They threw us the playbook and said, `Go memorize it at home, get in there and learn as much as you can as fast as you can,' because they're just installing for three days,'' Konz said. ''This is all stuff you might have had at whatever school you were at, but it's all different names.''

Konz likes having fullback Bradie Ewing, a fifth-round pick, working alongside him. Both were teammates at Wisconsin and say they enjoyed a relationship outside football.

''We're very good friends,'' Konz said. ''We're just the same - just alike, religious people - guys who always try to do the right thing and be team leaders.''

Ewing will try to win the fullback job that came open earlier this week when Ovie Mughelli, a five-year starter and former Pro Bowl selection, was released to create salary cap space.

Mughelli's departure means that Mike Cox is likely to open next month's mandatory minicamp as the starter. Cox signed a two-year contract with the Falcons last October and played a big role in the final 10 games after a knee injury ended Mughelli's season.

''When you have to make decisions on your roster, it's always tough especially with a guy that's helped and contributed to the success that we've had,'' Smith said. ''It was an organizational decision, and we wish Ovie the best. We've got to move on. The roster is always changing.''

Smith is encouraged that Ewing can give quarterback Matt Ryan a dependable receiving option from the backfield.

''He doesn't have the statistics in college as far as running the football, so you think he's basically a lead blocker and that's all he does,'' Smith said. ''He catches the football and does it very well.''

Ewing is looking forward to meeting Ryan, running back Michael Turner and the other veterans when the rookies report for offseason conditioning workouts on Tuesday. He knows his new teammates were fond of Mughelli, but expects to receive a warm welcome regardless.

''I know that's the NFL and that's the way the business works,'' Ewing said. ''I'm just going to do what I control and come out and do the things I can do - come out and work every day, get in the playbook, get in the right mindset and hopefully the rest will take care of itself.''

Secondary coach Tim Lewis was impressed with what he saw from safety Charles Mitchell, a sixth-round pick from Mississippi State. Mitchell is expected to battle Shann Schillinger for the No. 3 safety job behind starters William Moore and Thomas DeCoud.

''We try to overload (the rookies) a little bit and find out how much they can handle in a three-day period,'' Lewis said. ''(Mitchell) doesn't look like it's going to bother him too much. He's picked up a lot of the terminology and communication, but that's the biggest thing is making sure he learns the language and gets comfortable with the language so he can let his athletic ability flow.''

Tagged: Falcons, Saints, Ovie Mughelli, Will Svitek, Sam Baker, Mike Cox, Mike Smith, Peter Konz, Lamar Holmes, Bradie Ewing, Charles Mitchell

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