The Falcons let defensive tackle Grady Jackson leave via free agency and have not replaced him with a veteran. So the news about Lewis, who is coming off of two knee surgeries, was important.
Lewis was off to a promising rookie season before suffering a season-ending knee injury in 2007. He missed all of last season after re-injuring the repaired knee while walking down the stairs. Lewis might be able to help offset the loss of Jackson.
"I'm excited that Trey Lewis is healthy," Smith said. "He was very impressive on tape. He will be an important evaluation for us."
Robert James led Arizona State with 106 tackles. He was a fifth round pick, 138th overall in 2008. James, who was nicknamed "The Beast" in college, was a fifth round pick last season. He missed the season with a head injury. The Falcons are in the midst of re-vamping the linebacking unit. James was called a "run and hit" linebacker and might be able to help next season.
Brown, a seventh round pick from Georgia last season, appeared to have the team made as a kickoff returner before a horse-collar tackle took him out with a abdomen injury.
Thomas DeCoud, a third round pick from California, is up. He'll get the first chance at stepping into the cleats vacated by Lawyer Milloy. Milloy, 35, last season's starting strong safety and the team's third leading tackler, is a free agent and has not landed with a team.
DeCoud did not see any significant action from scrimmage last season and was inactive for a few games. When Milloy was hurt, Jamaal Fudge started in the regular season finale. DeCoud, who was drafted as a free safety, will have to beat out Fudge and possibly face a challenge from a rookie draft pick.
Free safety Erik Coleman, the team's leading solo tackler last season, would play alongside DeCoud if he lands the job. "This is a great opportunity for Thomas to have a shot," Falcons head coach Mike Smith said.
The Falcons also lost starting cornerback Domonique Foxworth (Baltimore Ravens) in free agency and must find a starting cornerback. Brent Grimes opened last season as the starting cornerback and will face a challenge for Chevis Jackson, who played the nickel back last season.
"He'll get the opportunity to compete for that other corner and could also play inside (nickel)," Smith said.
--Falcons coach Mike Smith likes the linebackers from USC, who are eligible for the draft. At least two of them could be on the board when the Falcons select with the 24th pick in the draft. Brian Cushing and Rey Maualuga are being projected to go early in the first round. Clay Matthews Jr., whose father played for the Falcons, and Kaluka Maiava, will be available at 24. Maiava is not generally considered a first round pick and could be taken later in the draft.
"They are very impressive," Smith said. "There are four guys that are definitely going to have an opportunity to play in the NFL. It's been well documented that there are going to be some guys that get drafted very early." Smith seems some similarities in the group of USC linebackers.
"I think there is one common theme that these guys have and that's they enjoy playing the game of football," Smith said. "That's very obvious when you watch those guys on tape. They play with a lot of intensity. They play with a lot of passion. They have different sizes. They run differently, but the one thing that they do is that they play, very, very hard."
The Falcons are rebuilding their linebacker corps after Keith Brooking (Dallas) and Michael Boley (New York Giants) left during free agency.
-- On March 13, the Falcons welcome Boston College TE Ryan Purvis for a visit. Purvis is a 6-4, 254-pound blocking tight end who consistently rose in his production until the 2008 season, after Matt Ryan graduated and had what some might call a fairly decent rookie season with the Falcons. Purvis has that familiarity with Ryan, and he caught 54 passes in Ryan's senior season. That kind of rapport might be a great shortcut in Atlanta's growing offense.
Tight end Jared Cook is coming in for a visit. He's a local player from North Gwinnett High and South Carolina and will not count against the limit of pre-draft players the Falcons can bring in. The Falcons flirted with signing tight end L.J. Smith, who ended up signing with the Ravens, and may be looking for a receiving tight end in the draft. The draft is considered to be deep at that position.
The Falcons will also welcome Western Michigan safety Louis Delmas and Missouri tight end Chase Coffman in for visits in the near future.
--Falcons owner Arthur Blank is in favor of an expanded schedule and thinks the league can achieve labor peace with the NFLPA. "We want to do the right thing for the fans," Blank said.
--The Falcons were able to keep the core of their coaching staff in place. They only lost assistant special teams coach Tom McMahon, who left to become the special teams coordinator for the St. Louis Rams. "Tom did a great job for us," Smith said.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's going to be a critical time for us if we are going to sustain what we started last year." -- Falcons coach Mike Smith on the start of offseason workouts.
"If I walk around here going, ‘Oh God, look at the Saints,’ I’m in trouble already. It’s about us becoming who we want to become, more physical, more violent, because the more violent team always wins. Ask Pittsburgh. We’re in the best division in football – who are we kidding? We went 9-7 last year and didn’t make the playoffs and replaced my guy." -- New Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris, on the NFC South.