Originally posted on Fox Sports South  |  By JOHN MANASSO  |  Last updated 8/2/13
GAINESVILLE, Ga. -- Before a standing-room only crowd at Gainesville City Park, the Falcons conducted their first tackling to the ground of training camp, providing a little bit more of a glimpse as to what their 2013 team will look like.Much of the evening was a fairly routine practice, but for the last half hour the offense and defense scrimmaged. Head coach Mike Smith said that under the scoring system that the team used, the night finished in a 14-14 tie.Exempt from the live tackling portions were almost all of the first-team units on both sides of the ball with the exception of rookie cornerback Desmond Trufant. The Falcons did not want to risk those players to injury."Exactly," Smith said. "We had it all set in our minds. There were guys we were going to hold out from the tackling. It wasn't all the first team but there was a handful guys that did not participate in the scrimmage."Smith said it was the longest the Falcons have been on the field since camp started on July 25.Among the more revealing events of the night were times when Kroy Biermann worked with the first-team at outside linebacker, relegating Stephen Nicholas to working with the second team. Nicholas has started 48 of the 58 games he has played since 2009, including 15 of 16 last season.Smith was asked if Nicholas were in for more of a position battle than he has been in years."Absolutely," he said. "I think there's no doubt. We're having an open competition at a number of positions, linebacker being one of them, secondary and the offensive line, those are probably the three areas where we're not set in terms of what our roster's going to look like when we get to our 53-man roster."If Nicholas fails to win a starting job, he could represent a fairly expensive back-up. In 2011, he signed a five-year deal worth 17.5 million. Nicholas is set to earn 2.5 million this season and received a 5-million signing bonus when he inked the deal.In the playoffs, he came under criticism from fans for his difficulty in covering opposing tight ends but that might have had to do as much with the scheme the team employed as it did any failings on Nicholas' part to execute it.Nicholas said for him, the competition is nothing new."Every year I come in, I compete, man," he said. "It's the same to me, man. I come in and I work. I really don't see it as I'm going against somebody. I just come in and compete, man. Thats me."One factor that could be working against Nicholas is the fact the Falcons appear as if they will shift to more multiple fronts in which Biermann will play a 3-4 style outside linebacker. Nicholas is not as suited to that role.Nicholas admitted that the Falcons are doing a "couple of different things". He was asked what it was like to have to adapt to that."I mean, every year things change," he said. "We just look to try to get better every year. That's how I go. Whatever he do, it's to make us better so thats what I strive for."
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