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More adjustments: Falcons annual scrimmage becomes rain-shortened practice

Photo: David McGregor . The Atlanta Falcons linebacking corps takes part in drills during practice at Norcross High School on Friday night.

Photo: David McGregor . The Atlanta Falcons linebacking corps takes part in drills during practice at Norcross High School on Friday night.

NORCROSS -- Very little of the Atlanta Falcons' annual "Friday Night Lights" event went as planned Friday night at Norcross High School.

With the first few days of training camp wiped out thanks to the NFL lockout, the team continues to try to make up for lost time leading up to its preseason opener Aug. 12 against Miami at the Georgia Dome.

Unfortunately, one of the first casualties of the late start was the first full-contact scrimmage of the season, which is usually the centerpiece of the event.

With the number of practices during training camp limited by the new collective bargaining agreement, this year's event amounted to more of a regular practice session than the scrimmage that has been featured the previous years.

To add to the unexpected, lightning in the vicinity shortened the workout, though the players did stay around long enough for a brief autograph session before heading back to Flowery Branch.

"It's been a strange offseason, to be sure, with the lockout," Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan told the fans over the stadium's public address system before heading off the field. "(But) we've had a great first week (of training camp)."

Despite the obstacles, the capacity crowd that came out to Norcross High School -- the fourth straight year the Falcons have brought the event to Gwinnett County -- were treated to their first glimpse of this year's edition of their hometown team, however brief.

Perhaps the biggest ovation from the crowd came when first-round draft pick Julio Jones was introduced as he prepared for special teams drills what opened up the session.

The evening wasn't a total waste for the players, either.

For second-year tight end Michael Palmer, a Parkview grad, was afforded a happy homecoming to Gwinnett County.

And this year's venue brought back particularly good memories for the 6-foot-5, 260-pound former Clemson standout.

"Norcross is actually where I scored my first high school touchdown," Palmer recalled.

Even someone like Pro Bowl cornerback Brent Grimes, who was in one of his first workouts since signing a new contract with the Falcons a day earlier, was able to find positives out of the brief session despite it being cut short.

"It's crazy," Grimes said. "We wanted to come out here and get in some good work. We got some in. We didn't get to finish ... but we made the most out of it. We'll just get back on the field (today) and get better every day. We're working as we go along and we're going to deal with it."

Similarly, Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff was also upbeat about the way training camp has started despite the delays and disruptions caused by the lockout.

That includes Friday night's event, and he went out of his way to voice his thanks to the crowd at Norcross in another interview over the stadium's public address system shortly before the evening ended.

"This is a fantastic crowd. Norcross High, you guys are to be commended and we thank you," Dimitroff told the crowd. "(Falcons coach) Mike Smith and I talk every day, and according to Mike Smith, everything's right on track. Everybody should be happy about that."