Coming up to make a tackle in his first preseason game, Atlanta Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant closed in on Cincinnati tight end Jermaine Gresham.
Gresham, 6-foot-5 and 260 pounds, headed toward Trufant and welcomed him to the NFL.
Wham. Down went Trufant.
“It was kind of embarrassing,” Trufant said with a laugh.
It was also yet another thing he had in common with his older brother Marcus. He, too, was clobbered early in his rookie year in the NFL. A pulling guard delivered that blow.
After the Falcons picked Desmond Trufant 22nd overall in this year’s draft, he became the third Trufant — along with Marcus and Isaiah — to reach the NFL.
The Falcons dropped Trufant into the starting right cornerback spot from Day One. The past two weeks, he’s lined up across from Pro-Bowlers Larry Fitzgerald and Steve Smith.
Fitzgerald is 30. Smith is 34. Trufant is a mere 23 and watched those guys when he was still covering players at Wilson High School in Tacoma.
“When you’re warming up, you see guys you used to look up to,” Trufant said. “I’m out there competing now with them. It’s always a respect thing, but, at the same time, I’m trying to win every battle I can against them.”
Smith is among the more vociferous receivers in the league. He had words for Trufant prior to last week’s game between Atlanta and Carolina. They weren’t antagonistic, however.
“I told him early in the game that I respected his brothers and I respected him,” Smith said. “The Trufants are always good. You can tell (Desmond’s) brothers have taught him a lot of stuff. He’s patient. Getting in and out of breaks, he’s very fluid.”
At 2-6, there is little for the Falcons to be pleased about this year. Trufant is in the small circle of positivity.
“Desmond has a great skill set athletically, but the thing that I’ve been most impressed with is that he’s probably the most mature rookie that I’ve been around,” Atlanta coach Mike Smith said. “I think having two older brothers that have played in the NFL he’s had an opportunity to visit with them and know what to expect.
“He loves to compete, he doesn’t back down from anyone, and that’s what you want to have in a cornerback.”
Trufant is fourth on the Falcons in tackles and leads the team with eight passes defensed. He snagged his first interception last week against Carolina when quarterback Cam Newton tried to hit Ted Ginn Jr. deep and Trufant closed to pick off the pass.
His ability to do that is a combination of natural talent, mentoring from his brothers and many of the lessons he learned during four years at the University of Washington. The Huskies often matched Trufant with the opposition’s marquee player no matter where he lined up.
That was the case last season when Trufant locked up USC’s Marqise Lee, widely considered the best receiver in the Pac-12 Conference, in Washington’s 24-14 loss to the Trojans. Lee had a season-low two catches for 32 yards.
“I had a great foundation from my coaches at UW and I brought that with me to the NFL,” Trufant said. “I’m obviously learning new things here, too. I’m just going to continue to be confident and patient in my technique.”
This Sunday, Trufant will try to stop the team he rooted for much of his life. Marcus Trufant played 10 seasons for the Seattle Seahawks, so, Desmond naturally rooted for his brother and the hometown team.
He’ll also be facing one of his college friends. Former Washington wide receiver Jermaine Kearse is in his second season with Seattle after playing with Desmond Trufant for three seasons at UW — during which they often opposed each other in practice.
They continue to be friends, though they may not share the same recollections of how things went when they faced off in practice.
“You ask me, I’m going to say something,” Trufant said. “You ask him, he’s going to say something else.”
Trufant is looking forward to the reunion on Sunday, but then he looks forward to every Sunday.
“It’s so much fun,” he said of life in the NFL. “It’s so competitive. You just feel like a big kid out there on the field. I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.”
White confident he’ll play
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Atlanta Falcons receiver Roddy White feels better than he has all season.
He has no doubt that he’ll be playing Sunday when the struggling Falcons host first-place Seattle.
White looked like his old self Thursday as he held court in front of his locker. He has been plagued since the preseason by a sprained right ankle, and he made things worse with a hamstring injury in Week 5.
After sitting out the last three games, White finally feels like he’s fully recovered.