Todd Gurley celebrated his 26th birthday alongside new teammates as the Atlanta Falcons training camp began in earnest Monday after a couple of days of testing.
Gurley, a splashy free agent signing in the offseason, was excited to be back on the field and wearing the same colors he did as a star running back for the Georgia Bulldogs. COVID-19 has created its share of challenges for nearly five months, but looked past the issues to count his blessings.
“It’s my birthday so I’m not complaining about nothing,” Gurley told the media Monday. “A lot of people want to die to play this game. For me to be 26 and for me to be in my sixth year in the league and still get an opportunity to play running back and do something I love, something I’ve always done, I’m always appreciative of that and grateful.
“No better way to come back you know, like I said on my birthday to be able to just go back to work and just have a new team, new teammates and new everything so it’s pretty cool.”
The 6-foot-1, 224-pounder discussed his process since March, and how he kept a positive mindset amid the coronavirus concerns and distractions. He said he focused on workouts and tasks on his agenda on and off the field.
The reward came Monday when he stepped on the field with his teammates for the first time as a Falcon.
“I mean, I’ve kind of always been grateful to be able to be in camp literally since I’ve been in high school so to just be around a group of guys, my friends, my bros, coaches, getting love,” Gurley said. “Then to not only do it, but do it back in Atlanta where a lot of my friends are and to be able to just see those guys and hang with them. I’ve just always been kind of a grateful person but each year just growing as a better person, better man and just trying to be a better me. Not only as an athlete but as a person.”
Atlanta is counting Gurley to lead the running game after parting ways with previous starter Devonta Freeman. The club ideally wants the Gurley of 2017 and 2018 — he had almost 4,000 yards and 40 touchdowns in that span — and not the one whose usage and production fell to a career-low 857 rushing yards last season for the Rams, who cut him two years into a four-year, $60 million contract.
He joins a young Atlanta backfield with players like Ito Smith, Brian Hill and Qadree Ollison, as well as an Atlanta offense with a potent passing attack led by quarterback Matt Ryan and wide receivers Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley.
What role Gurley plays in that unit will be determined over the next month.
“I don’t do personal goals,” Gurley said. “You know, typical answer, the cliché answer, get to the Super Bowl. I just focus on the day. Like I said, today is Day No. 1. Not worried about February, not worried about September, just trying to focus on getting adjusted, learning my new teammates, learning everybody, the whole staff on the Falcons. Just taking it day by day. I don’t look far in the future. I just live for the day and prepare for tomorrow.”