Titans, Falcons hold open practice near Dalton
VARNELL, Ga. (AP/WRCB) -- The rule for the Falcons-Titans combined practice was no tackling to the ground.
Tell that to Falcons coach Mike Smith, who took the biggest hit of the day.
Smith was leveled early in Monday's practice as he stood on the Falcons logo painted on the 50-yard line of the Coahulla Creek High School field. He was hit by Atlanta receiver Drew Davis, who was working against Titans cornerback Chris Hawkins.
Smith landed hard but bounced up quickly, readjusting his white Falcons cap.
Asked after the practice if he was OK, a smiling Smith had a quick answer.
"You might want to check Andrew Davis and see how he's feeling, OK?'' Smith said.
Smith said he knew he had to return to his feet quickly. Davis extended his hand to offer assistance, but instead Smith pushed himself off the ground.
"You don't ever want to stay down, that's for darn sure,'' Smith said. "You don't want to take an eight count. We were on one field and there were a lot of things going on and I ended up taking one in the back. It's all good.''
The night was indeed "all good" for all involved, especially the more than 8,200 fans who flocked to Coahulla Creek for a rare up-close local look at their favorite teams.
The experience proved extra special for several Coahulla Creek football players, who shot hoops with several Titans' players beforehand and shared their lockers with some of the Falcons' biggest names.
School staffers put in weeks of work preparing the campus for not only the teams, but also the crowds. Maintenance crews also spent much of the day Monday making the fields playable following Sunday night's downpour.
"Everything worked out great,' said Coahulla Creek assistant principal Stephanie Hungerpiller. "It's just an unbelievable feeling to be a part of something like this. We have so many people coming out and I've seen so many kids coming in here with excited faces.
"This even was totally for the community."
But also for the Titans and Falcons, who said the practice provided a needed change of pace before the first preseason games this week.
The Falcons open their preseason schedule on Thursday night when they host the Baltimore Ravens. The Titans play at Seattle on Saturday night.
Smith gave quarterback Matt Ryan and his starters extended playing time in Monday's controlled environment because they probably won't see much action against the Ravens.
"It's a great opportunity for us to work our first teams,'' Smith said. "That was our philosophy. We wanted to get some good work with our first units because historically they don't play a whole lot in the first preseason game. We have our first game coming up on Thursday and a lot of the younger guys are going to get a lot of snaps.''
Atlanta continued to work Sam Baker at left tackle with the first-team offense. Baker was beaten by Tennessee defensive end Kamerion Wimbley on one play that could have ended in a sack in a game.
Ryan had enough protection to complete nice gains to tight end Tony Gonzalez and receiver Roddy White, as well as screens to running backs Jacquizz Rodgers and Michael Turner.
Matt Hasselbeck had a strong start as he continued his competition with Jake Locker for the starting quarterback job for Tennessee (No. 21 in the AP Pro32). Hasselbeck beat Falcons cornerback Asante Samuel on a deep sideline pass to Nate Washington.
Samuel enjoyed a double dose of revenge with two interceptions against Hasselbeck.
Hasselbeck had compliments for the way Atlanta's defense handled the scrimmage.
"From the start I thought Atlanta's defense was real professional with how they handled everything,'' Hasselbeck said.
"You can tell Atlanta is a good team. You can tell their mindset is to have a good season and make it to the Super Bowl. They get it.''
Munchak said the practice against the Falcons helped him evaluate the quarterbacks.
"They've got some great DBs and they made some plays and were covering well, especially early,'' Munchak said. "I think it was good for them to get a feel for that, the receivers and the quarterbacks.
"It helps. It just creates a different atmosphere, a different situation.''