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Falcons' White still mourning loss of brother

The Associated Press
Falcons' White still mourning loss of brother
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Atlanta Falcons' Roddy White throws the ball during the team's NFL mini-camp football practice, …

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) -- Roddy White promises to give his teammates the spotlight when the Atlanta Falcons star in HBO's ''Hard Knocks'' series during training camp.

For the opening day of minicamp, however, White was the star. And the director. And the reporter.

White ushered receiver Julio Jones into a swarm of media and took control of the scene, asking and answering questions.

After White said he was held out of Tuesday's drills for precautionary reasons, he asked Jones a question. He allowed time for a two-sentence response, and then proclaimed ''All right, back to Roddy!''

Sorry, Julio.

The humor is comforting for White following his most difficult season and a tragic offseason.

White's struggle with injuries in a losing 2013 season was overshadowed by the shooting death of his younger brother, Tyrone Moore Jr., 21, outside a South Carolina nightclub last month.

White said support from teammates and coaches ''meant a lot.'' He said Jones and receiver Harry Douglas visited him during the crisis.

''We're always treated as family here and ... when Julio and Harry came down, they're like brothers to me,'' White said. ''It was a real emotional time for me and for them to help me get through that was tremendous. ... There will always be a place in my heart that I keep for those guys.''

White said he is still in mourning.

''Being the older brother when you grow up in a single parent home, you kind of raise your little brother and he's always around you,'' White said. ''It's difficult because there's always a piece of you that's missing.

''He's always going to be with me on and off the football field and for the rest of my life.''

Coach Mike Smith said he wanted White to remain with family during most of the offseason team work before the three-day minicamp. White participated in four days of organized team activities, and Smith said that was enough to convince him the receiver, entering his 10th year, will be ready for training camp.

''We're going to hold Roddy out through the rest of our minicamp and he'll be ready to go with us in training camp,'' Smith said. ''We just felt like he needed to get some rest.''

White, 32, is motivated to be healthy for the start of the 2014 season. He sprained his right ankle in a preseason game and struggled with the injury through the first five weeks of last season. He hurt his left hamstring in Week 5 and missed three games, ending his streak of 133 consecutive games played since entering the league in 2005.

White had only 14 catches in the first five games last season before finally showing late in the season he can still be productive when healthy. He caught 43 passes in the last five games, including touchdown catches in each of last two games.

It wasn't enough to salvage his season or save the Falcons from a 4-12 finish after five straight winning campaigns.

White's streak of six consecutive seasons with at least 80 catches for at least 1,100 yards ended. He had 63 catches for 711 yards and three touchdowns.

The health of White and Jones, returning from a broken foot, is key for the Falcons. Jones is continuing his offseason rehabilitation and is expected to be cleared for the start of training camp.

Jones said Tuesday his foot ''feels great.''

''Obviously last year wasn't the year we wanted it to be,'' Jones said. ''We're feeling good. We're still out here every day getting the treatment and we're still working out.''

The progress of the star receivers could be part of the HBO show.

''Will I be the star of Hard Knocks?'' White asked, repeating the question. ''There is a combination of stars on the Atlanta Falcons and I will not be the star. This will be co-starring about seven or eight guys who are going to entertain y'all for these couple weeks of Hard Knocks and they're going to do a great job.

''I'm going to step back and let those guys have the scene and I'm just going to watch and be entertained myself.''

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

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