More than 20,000 fans converged at Piedmont Park to get a glimpse of the 2007 Atlanta Falcons on Saturday.
Former Effingham County High School standout Paul Carrington, who is the second-string defensive end for the Atlanta Falcons, was one of the players shaking hands, posing for pictures and signing autographs for the fans. Amidst all the hoopla, the Falcons even managed to get in a practice session.
It was all part of the club’s Midtown Touchdown Festival at Piedmont Park and Grady High School.
This is the second year the Falcons showcased the event and ironically the second year that Carrington is with the team.
Carrington said he is glad football season is here.
“It’s great to get back in the swing of things,” he said. “We’re in the midst of two-a-days and we’re working hard.”
Hard work is something Carrington said you must put in if you want to play in the NFL.
Carrington said he worked out all summer on getting stronger.
“I went to New Jersey to work out with a trainer on strength and to Tennessee with a UCF (University of Central Florida) alum and trained. I’m always working and wanting to get stronger,” he said. “My goal is to make the team and improve on special teams.”
Although Saturday was a festival, it was still a workday for the Falcons.
The team started things early, practicing at 9 a.m. in Flowery Branch.
After practice, the team headed to midtown Atlanta to sign autographs and mingle with the fans.
After the festival in Piedmont Park concluded, it was over to nearby Grady High School for another practice.
The players worked out in helmets and shoulder pads and primarily focused on position-specific drills.
Both sides of Grady’s bleachers were packed with fans in red and black cheering on their favorite players.
However, the player’s jersey seen the most was nowhere near the fun.
Quarterback Michael Vick, who is under federal indictment for dog fighting, was ordered by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell not to come to any Falcon practices or camps. So, despite several fans favorite player’s absence, the folks wearing the No. 7 jersey still seemed to have a good time, particularly when a player would come over and sign an autograph or just say hello.
Some lucky children just didn’t get to watch the Falcons practice, but go out on the field with them.
Return specialist Allen Rossum advised youngsters on the proper way of shagging punts and kicker Billy Cundiff also shared his knowledge with the would-be place kickers.
But that wasn’t all. Some of the kids got to run routes and catch touchdown passes from quarterbacks Joey Harrington and DJ Shockley.
The Falcons start the regular season Sept. 9 at Minnesota. The home opener is Sept. 23 against Carolina at 4:15 p.m.
Fans wanting a sneak preview of the Falcons, can tune in to its pre-season opener at 7 p.m. Friday at the New York Jets.