Todd Gurley is not rushing through the early days of training camp

Todd Gurley is not rushing through the early days of training camp

It might be a bit ironic that in the midst of a pandemic Todd Gurley’s birthday looks similar to the way it always has.

As the first Falcons player made available to the media after the team’s first practice Monday, Gurley was asked about six questions via a Microsoft Teams video chat before calling everyone out for their lack of birthday spirit.

“First of all, none of y’all have told me happy birthday yet, so I’m kinda upset with you guys,” Gurley joked. “We may be done with this interview right now.”

We weren’t. Gurley answered about six more questions after that. Some media members even volunteered to sing “Happy Birthday” to the running back at the end of the call. That didn’t happen either, and that was probably for the best.

But in a year in which nothing seems normal, Gurley’s birthday was. Gurley said having a birthday Aug. 3 usually means he spends his day on a football field. Since his high school days, a practice or workout of sorts has been on the schedule for that day. Maybe that’s why he felt particularly grateful to have a practice schedule for his 26th birthday. Something finally seemed normal while everything up to this point has been full of change and adjustments.

“A lot of people want to die to play this game, so for me to be 26, and it (to) be my sixth year in the league and still get an opportunity to play running back, do something I love, do something I’ve always done, I’m always appreciative and grateful,” Gurley said. “There ain’t no better way to come back than on my birthday and be able to go back to work, having a new team, new teammates, new everything, so it’s pretty cool.”

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The past year for Gurley has been quite the ride as he worked through his yearly recovery process and got picked up by the Falcons. In recent weeks, he has become a source of relaying players’ feelings about playing during the pandemic. Gurley has been outspoken about his thoughts and feelings toward the league and its COVID-19 policies and procedures, wanting to make sure the players’ concerns are heard. There’s a lot of negativity that could have been in his mind, but Gurley said his one positive motivation was to just get back out on the field when he could.

“A lot of guys would be down right now if we didn’t have a chance to play football or go out there and try to do camp because that’s kind of how we’ve always been,” Gurley said. “We’ve had a schedule our whole life, and knowing you have a job, but not being sure that it’s going to actually happen, it gets the best of people, so I feel like I’ve been handling it pretty well, just staying positive.”

Some of that positivity stems from his situation with the Falcons. Gurley said he could tell right away the environment was similar to the one he left with the Los Angeles Rams.

One thing can always be said about coaches: If players don’t like them, new players find that out early, he said. In the case of Dan Quinn, Gurley said he hasn’t heard a bad word spoken about him yet.

“I didn’t really have to meet him or talk to him too much to kind of already get a gist of who he is,” Gurley said.

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On his own call last week, Quinn said he was especially looking forward to getting to know his new running back. Gurley was in “fantastic shape” both from a physical and mental standpoint and had a good grasp of the offense already, Quinn said. What Quinn was unsure about at the time, however, was Gurley’s preseason workload.

He likened Gurley to Julio Jones, saying Gurley is no different from Jones in regard to making sure they are only taking the best reps, the ones they absolutely have to have. But Quinn added it’s not a one-size-fits-all type of plan.

“For me getting to know Todd, I’ll have a better sense after the next few weeks of us together,” Quinn said. “What’s the right amount (of reps)? How many back-to-backs? All those things we’ll take into consideration, but (we have) no process together on that yet until we spend some time together.”

It’s not a process the Falcons are willing to rush. It’s not one Gurley is either.

Monday’s practice was almost like the first day of a new job. It may have been his birthday, but that’s not the reason he’s not looking ahead to the season just yet. There’s a lot to do before then.

“I just focus on the day, man,” Gurley said. “Today is Day No. 1. I’m not worried about February. I’m not worried about September. I’m just focused on getting adjusted, getting to know my new teammates, learning about everybody, the whole staff on the Falcons and then just taking it day by day. I don’t look too far in the future. I live for the day and prepare for tomorrow.”

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(Photo: John Bazemore /Associated Press)