A handful of Falcons veterans got a break during the team’s three-day mini camp last weekend.
Head Coach Mike Smith opted to give some members of the “Over 30 Club” a chance to sit out a practice or two and mentor younger teammates.
Linebacker Mike Peterson, 32, wasn’t among them.
“We tried to go through our Over 30 Club and not give everybody the same day off,” Smith said after the team’s fourth workout of the weekend. “(Brian Finneran) had this afternoon off. This morning Tony (Gonzalez) had it off. Yesterday afternoon it was (Todd) McClure and Gonzalez. I’m trying to get Mike Peterson into that club, but he tells me he’s not 30.”
Peterson had some important work to do on the field.
He’s one of a handful of free agent additions that has to learn a new playbook. He’s also charged with becoming a veteran voice in a locker room that lost older players over the offseason.
It didn’t take long for Peterson to introduce his vocal style of leadership.
The 11-year veteran talked constantly during practice. He encouraged younger players, played games with the offense and corrected the slightest mistake or lapse of judgment.
“It’s about fitting in with the guys,” Peterson said, adding his goal is to feel like a family member to many of his teammates. “That was a big thing to me even before I signed — being able to fit in with the guys and the coaches and help the team to get where we want to be.”
Smith was the Jaguars defensive coordinator for five of the Peterson’s six years in Jacksonville. That familiarity likely played a role in the decision to target him in free agency.
But he backs up everything with numbers.
In 135 career games (127 starts) Peterson has totaled 1,365 tackles (792 solo), 19.5 sacks, 15 interceptions, 40 passes defensed, six forced fumbles and seven fumbles recoveries.
He’s excited about the possibilities for the Falcons defense, which includes many players in their second or third year as professionals. The linebacker group alone has seven players with two or less years in the league.
No wonder he insists he isn’t a day over 29.
“Basically it’s guys learning what to do,” Peterson said during mini camp. “If we learn what to do and learn where to be, guys can play football. I want the fans to stick with us. I know everyone gets up and cheers for the offense but we want to try to excite the fans on Sunday as well.”