NFL fans hungry for action got only an appetizer Friday when their beloved Atlanta Falcons took the field for their annual Friday Night Lights scrimmage at Norcross High School.
Coach Mike Smith's team went through their stretching exercises and any number of individual and team drills, much as they would any practice day session at their Flowery Branch facility. That lasted for about an hour. Then the two teams squared off in what fans had really come to see, an 11 on 11 scrimmage.
Both the Red and White squads got in one offensive series before the Falcons found the explosion they say they've been looking for. Unfortunately, it was up in the sky, not on the gridiron. Large bolts of lightning began to flash all around the area and the team retreated to the locker room.
During a 15-minute delay, the lightning disappeared and soon the Falcons reappeared, ready to renew the show. It wasn't to be, however, As soon as the Falcons reappeared so did the lightning and, discretion being the better part of valor, the rest of the scrimmage was called off.
Fans who packed Norcross stadium, however, didn't seem to mind. They got their first taste of the 2011 football season. They got to see the first-round draft choice, Alabama sensation Julio Jones, make a couple of nice catches at his wide receiver position and a few flashes of brilliance from rookie running back Jacquizz Rodgers.
Before heading back to Flowery Branch, the players patiently signed autographs for fans, and then more fireworks took place. These had been planned, however. An eye-popping fireworks show ended the night as fans oohed and aahed at the colorful, and very noisy, pyrotechnic display.
Before leaving Norcross, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan told the fans over the public address system, "It’s been a strange offseason, to be sure, with the lockout. (But) we’ve had a great first week."
The Falcons open their preseason schedule at home next week against the Miami Dolphins, followed by road games against Jacksonville (Aug. 19) and Pittsburgh (Aug. 27). They close out the preseason (Sept. 1) in the Georgia Dome against the Baltimore Ravens.
The regular season begins Sept. 11 when the Falcons travel to the Windy City to take on the Chicago Bears. The Falcons were 13-3 in 2010 and have made the playoffs in two of three seasons under Smith.