The recovery has been nearly a year long. So, being able to take part in practice as of last week is a big deal. "I still don't feel like my normal self," Hutchins said. "I don't have all my quickness, but that will come. I see progress. ... The rest is going to come with time and a little more experience on the field."
After signing a four-year, $9 million deal as a free agent, Hutchins missed an entire season for the first time in his five-year career. The only surgery he had before the injury was for the removal of bone spurs in his knee. Versatility might be Hutchins' top quality. He can play cornerback and safety and has played both spots during OTAs.
"We see him as a guy that can help our team, whether it be at the corner, whether it be at the nickel, whether it be at the safety," secondary coach Alvin Reynolds said.
--The heat must have gotten to the Falcons during last week's open OTA session. Tempers repeatedly flared with three fights breaking out. "We are in the dog days of OTA's," Falcons coach Mike Smith said. "The guys are getting tired of working against each other."
In the first rumble, reserve lineman Jose Valdez went after defensive lineman Tommy Johnson. A couple of little guys, wide receiver Eric Weems and rookie cornerback Chris Owens, scrapped. Weems put a leg whip on Owens to take him down to the ground and jumped on top before veterans were able to separate them.
The last one was just a big pile up with first-round pick Peria Jerry at the bottom. After the last one, Smith called for the horn to be blown, called the team into a circle and ended the practice. "We definitely love to see the enthusiasm, but we don't want to get anybody hurt when they are out there competing against each other," Smith said.
--Defensive end John Abraham, tight end Tony Gonzalez, running backs Michael Turner and Jason Snelling and wide receiver Roddy White and place kicker Jason Elam did not participate in the session, which are voluntary, for various reason.
--The Falcons' community relations staff had tables of footballs, helmets and other apparel lined up for players to sign. They will use the items throughout the season to donate to charities, boosters and sponsors. Quarterback Matt Ryan, linebacker Curtis Lofton and wide receiver Harry Douglas were in the group of players signing items. Douglas appeared to get a kick out of signing. "When I was a kid, I stood in long lines for autographs and when I didn't get them, I was upset," Douglas said.
--Falcons offensive tackle Quinn Ojinnaka did not want to comment on being charged with battery in a domestic dispute with his wife over his Facebook page.
"OTAs are going fine, but with the other stuff I can't really comment on that because it's a legal matter," Ojinnaka said. "I'm just focusing on making myself better and helping the team out during OTAs."
When asked if his attorney told him not to comment, Ojinnaka said, "I can't comment on that." Ojinnaka, 25, was booked into the Gwinnett County Jail at 1:40 a.m. Wednesday, May 27 on a misdemeanor charge of battery, according to jail records. He was released about four hours later after posting a $2,400 bond.
Ojinnaka was arrested at his home in Suwanee after he allegedly fought with his wife and spat at her during an argument over a female friend of his on the social networking Web site, Facebook, according to the police report.
--The Falcons signed cornerback William Middleton, a fifth-round pick from Furman who graduated from Marist, and defensive tackle Vance Walker, a seventh-round pick from Georgia Tech. Terms weren't disclosed. All other picks remain unsigned. They are defensive tackle Peria Jerry (first round), safety William Moore (second round), cornerback Chris Owens (third round), defensive end Lawrence Sidbury (fourth round), offensive tackle Garrett Reynolds (fifth round) and linebacker Spencer Adkins (sixth round).
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's big for us because we envisioned him to be a contributor in the secondary when we signed him." -- Falcons head coach Mike Smith on the return of cornerback Von Hutchins who missed all of last season with a Lisfranc fracture.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
With John Abraham missing most of the OTAs, rookie Lawrence Sidbury is getting more action. "Lawrence is a guy that's got the skill set we are looking for in a defensive end," Smith said. "He played very well at the Senior Bowl when we were doing our due diligence. We were pleased to get him drafted."
Sidbury, a fourth-round pick from Richmond, is trying to make the jump from NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) to the NFL.
"He's a guy that's going to have to go through ... learning how to rush the passer in this league and have multiple moves in this league," Smith said. "But he's also going to have to shore up his run defense."
The Falcons are looking to improve their pass rush opposite of Abraham, who flipped flopped last season, rushing from left and right end. If Sidbury can progress quickly, he could land him some pass-rushing opportunities as a rookie.
MEDICAL WATCH: Placekicker Jason Elam held out of minicamp for undisclosed medical reasons.
--Cornerback David Irons (knee) is being held out of OTAs.
FRANCHISE PLAYER: P/K Michael Koenen: Tendered at $2.483M; signed tender Feb. 17.
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered)
--OT Wayne Gandy (not tendered as UFA June 1).
--OT Pat McCoy (not tendered as RFA).
--SS Lawyer Milloy (not tendered as UFA June 1).
--TE Marcus Pollard (not tendered as UFA June 1).
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS
--OL Renardo Foster.
DRAFT CHOICES SIGNED
--CB William Middleton (5/138); Terms unknown.
--DT Vance Walker (7/210): Terms unknown.
--OT Tyson Clabo: RFA; $1.545M/1 yr.
--OG Harvey Dahl: RFA; $1.545M/1 yr.
--DE Chauncey Davis: UFA; $14M/4 yrs, guarantee unknown.
--S Jamaal Fudge: Potential RFA; terms unknown.
--LB Tony Gilbert: UFA; terms unknown.
--CB Brent Grimes: ERFA; terms unknown.
--S Antoine Harris: ERFA; terms unknown.
--DT Jason Jefferson: UFA; terms unknown.
--P/K Michael Koenen: FFA; $2.483M/1 yr.
--TE Justin Peelle: Potential UFA; terms unknown.
--RB Jason Snelling: ERFA; terms unknown.
--C/G Ben Wilkerson (not tendered as RFA); $535,000/1 yr.
--LB Coy Wire: UFA; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
--LB Michael Boley: UFA Giants; $25M/5 yrs, $11M guaranteed.
--LB Keith Brooking: UFA Cowboys; $6M/3 yrs, $2.5M guaranteed.
--CB Domonique Foxworth: UFA Ravens; $27.2M/4 yrs, $4M SB/$3.38 report bonus/$16.5M guaranteed.
--DE Simon Fraser (released).
--DT Grady Jackson: UFA Lions; $8M/3 yrs, guarantees unknown.
--DT Kindal Moorehead (released).
--WR Laurent Robinson (traded Rams).
--LT Todd Weiner (retired).