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Falcons: 'Babs' a strict mentor for young Jerry
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FLOWERY BRANCH — Jonathan Babineaux seized the opportunity to remind an impatient Peria Jerry about post-practice protocol in the NFL.

Jerry, hot and sweaty, was eager to leave the practice fields after a recent morning session in the Atlanta Falcons' training camp. Babineaux shot out a sharp scolding when he heard Jerry groan about having to wait for veterans to be first in line for interviews with reporters.

"Let him wait! He's just a rookie," Babineaux said, aiming his admonishment for Jerry's ears.

Babineaux, relishing his new role as the veteran leader of the Falcons' defensive line, didn't hesitate to remind Jerry of the rules. But Jerry, the Falcons' first-round pick, didn't seem to mind.

Jerry says he knows Babineaux has his back.

"If it wasn't for Babs, I'd really probably be behind," said Jerry, who is trying to win a starting job beside Babineaux at defensive tackle.

Jerry probably won't have to wait long for his first start.

The Falcons list the former Mississippi standout beside Babineaux on their unofficial first-team defense for Saturday's preseason game at Detroit.

"He's doing good," Babineaux said. "He's not making many mistakes. His head is kind of spinning a little bit, but I've got him under my wing and he's going to be all right."

Still, no one has said Jerry has won the starting job.

Trey Lewis, Jason Jefferson, Thomas Johnson and Vance Walker also have won praise from coach Mike Smith.

Walker, a seventh-round pick from Georgia Tech, is the second rookie in the mix.

"I think that's a very competitive area," Smith said Tuesday. "Peria is learning. ... We see his explosion that we saw on film.

"Thomas Johnson has done some nice things. Of course Babineaux is returning and I think has had a nice camp. Vance Walker has done some nice things as well. Jason Jefferson. I think there's a number of guys competing for a limited number of spots."

Babineaux and defensive end John Abraham are the only established starters on the defensive line. Jamaal Anderson, a first-round pick in 2007, started 15 games last season at the other end. Chauncey Davis is listed behind Anderson.

The Falcons hope Jerry can help the team replace 345-pound Grady Jackson, who was an imposing run-stopper in the middle of last year's defensive line.

Jerry (6-2, 294) can't match Jackson's size, but he says he's not worried about the physical matchups.

"I'm good on the physical side," Jerry said with a laugh, adding he has to work harder to learn the techniques and playbook in his first training camp.

"I'm a rookie and I'm going to make mistakes but I have to learn from them," Jerry said. "The older guys above me, they are really showing me the game.

"It's just getting everything down pat, getting all the fundamentals and technique perfect."

Anderson said Jerry "is very raw."

"He has some work to do but I think he's going to be a heck of a player," Anderson said, who said he also has been impressed by Jerry's explosion off the snap.

"His get-up is unbelievable," Anderson said. "I haven't seen anyone with a get-up like that in a while."

Jerry was a first-team All-American after helping Ole Miss rank fourth in the nation in rushing defense. He had 18 tackles for loss to lead the Southeastern Conference.

Anderson said Jerry "is going to be fine" with more experience.

But can Jerry, or anyone in camp, replace the massive Jackson?

"Actually, I'm trying to figure that out myself," Anderson said. "We're not going to have a Grady. We don't have somebody that's going to be able to replace a Grady Jackson, but we're going to be fine on the defensive line."

NOTES: Smith said he and his staff will set a playing rotations for the quarterbacks, including starter Matt Ryan, and other players for the game at Detroit on Wednesday. Smith said WR Roddy White, who returned to practice on Monday after signing a new six-year contract worth about $50 million, should play on Saturday. ... More than 70 former Falcons players, including eight players from the inaugural 1966 team, attended the afternoon practice. "We want to continue to get these guys to come back, not only for them to see our players but for our players to see them," Smith said.