Falcons Leaning on Leadership this Week

Falcons Leaning on Leadership this Week

Jay Adams

Published January 3, 2013 at 10:09 AM

It’s an easy week to get unfocused. Football players are short-sighted on purpose, especially those under head coach Mike Smith. They work in seven-day bits and reset after those seven days are up.

Usually at the end of those seven days, there’s a game to be played. It’s where the focus lies from Monday all the way to kickoff.

Not this week. It’s a bye week, but it’s unlike any bye week these Falcons have experienced. The ones that occur during the season are full of rest, relaxation and the chance to unwind.

That’s how it was two years ago when the Falcons earned the No. 1 seed in the NFC and the bye before the divisional round of the playoffs. Head coach Mike Smith vowed this time around to make things very different.

The Falcons are practicing this week — exactly the same as they would during any regular game week. Wednesday was a normal Wednesday. Thursday is expected to be a normal Thursday, and so on.

But without that big goal at the end of the week, the Falcons are leaning on their leadership to keep them focused on what’s at stake. And the leaders are embracing that role.

“You don’t want to be two months from now saying, ‘I wish I would have did this on the bye week,’ ‘We should have done this,’ ‘Why didn’t we do this?’ This is the time to do it now,” linebacker Mike Peterson said. “That’s the living-in-the-moment-type thing.”

The Falcons of two years ago were trying to live in the moment, but with expectations so high, it was tough not to look just a little further down the road — perhaps a product of having most of the bye week before the divisional round loss to Green Bay off and away from team headquarters in Flowery Branch.

The purpose of the change this time around is to keep the car engine revved up. Staying with a routine, just like any normal week, helps the Falcons keep their sights on how important each day leading up to their divisional round game is.

For the leaders in the pack, this is really their time to shine and to play the role they’ve been thrust into.

“I wasn’t brought in here to play 1,000 plays. I was brought in here for these types of situations, to let guys know what’s at stake,” said Peterson, who after 14 years in the league believes this is his last shot at the NFL’s ultimate prize. “This is it.”

It’s the perspective of knowing that this is likely your last hurrah that not is only keeping the Falcons focused this week but is also pushing them to enjoy everything they’ve achieved so far.

It’s true, the Falcons have reached only a few of their goals this year. And there are still plenty more they’d like to achieve. But the living-in-the-moment mentality that the leaders exude is contagious and they’re hoping that the perspective of being short-timers drives home the point of where the team is right now, what they can achieve if they remain focused this week and next and how important it is to just enjoy the ride.

“Some of these young guys might not realize the opportunities that we have and how far and few between it can be. I often think about a guy like Takeo Spikes that’s been playing this game forever and hasn’t been to a playoff game,” center Todd McClure said. “You can’t take that for granted. We’re going to make sure everyone’s on-point, focused and ready to go. We’re not going to be distracted and we’re not going to let anything get in between us and what we want to be holding at the end of the year.”

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