FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — A.J. Hawk’s passion for working out could have him in position to make a quick impact with the Atlanta Falcons, who badly need help at linebacker.
Hawk said he never stopped working out after being released by Cincinnati in April and would have continued his routine even if there was no chance of extending his career.
“I never really stopped doing anything,” Hawk said. “Whether or not a team called, I was going to be ready. I enjoy working out.”
The Falcons signed Hawk, 32, on Tuesday. The team hopes he can draw upon his 10 years in the NFL, including nine with Green Bay, and be ready to play in Sunday’s game at Denver.
That’s a short time to pick up a defensive scheme. Hawk insisted it’s not an unrealistic request.
“Why not?” Hawk asked Thursday before his second practice with the team. “Everyone here is a football player. It’s what we do. It’s what I’ve done since I was in the second grade.”
Hawk said Atlanta has a good scheme to learn quickly.
“The great thing they do here, especially defensively, is they don’t over-complicate things,” he said. “They have their defense and they try to perfect it. They tweak things here and there and make sure they’re doing the right things, playing fast and playing hard. I respect that. I think that’s the best thing about this whole team.”
The Falcons need help at linebacker following a spree of injuries.
Atlanta veteran Sean Weatherspoon was placed on injured reserve with an Achilles tendon injury he suffered in last week’s win over Carolina. Rookie starter Deion Jones left the game with an ankle injury.
Another rookie, De’Vondre Campbell, was held out last week with an ankle injury. Paul Worrilow, a former starter who had been playing behind Jones, also missed the game with a groin injury.
Coach Dan Quinn said Hawk is looking like a good fit.
“We were very pleased on his first day,” Quinn said before Thursday’s practice, adding that Hawk’s understanding of the Falcons’ coverages “totally came across.”
“It’s not going to be an extensive package for him. We want to make sure that the things he does know he can really fly and let his football playing ability take over as opposed to too many checks.”
Jones, Campbell, 2015 first-round pick Vic Beasley Jr., a linebacker-defensive end, and 2016 first-rounder Keanu Neal, a safety, have provided more speed and athleticism to the defense. The high-scoring offense has earned the headlines as the Falcons (3-1) have taken the NFC South lead. Quinn is counting on more big plays from the defense in the future.
Hawk said he had been following the Falcons from his home in Columbus, Ohio, even before he was called this week.
“I definitely knew I wouldn’t have left Ohio for a team that looked like they weren’t going to win or wasn’t on a winning path,” he said. “I had only heard great things about Atlanta, even before they started out 3-1. It just turned out that I was lucky they were the one that called.”
LaRoy Reynolds likely would start at weakside linebacker if Jones and Worrilow can’t play. Philip Wheeler is the backup for Campbell.
Campbell, Jones and Worrilow were held out on Wednesday and Thursday.
The Falcons initially said Jones had a calf injury. Quinn said the pain “moved around a little” to Jones’ ankle.
Quinn said the new description of the injury is “not more of a concern.”