FILE- In this Dec. 22, 2012, file phot, Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) falls into the end zone for a 16-yard touchdown as Detroit Lions cornerback Chris Houston defends during the second quarter of an NFL football game at Ford Field in Detroit. In his second year with the Falcons, Jones says he's grateful to have a position coach so dedicated to his success. (AP Photo/Rick Osentoski)
FLOWERY BRANCH -- For Michael Palmer, things are not getting old, just better.
In the former Parkview standout's third NFL season he's back in the playoffs with the Falcons for the third season, but he still sees the postseason as games to relish.
"I am really more excited this year than I've been the past two, honestly," the tight end said. "I can't wait to get out on the field (today).
"Maybe the longer I am playing the more I am really appreciating it and realizing how hard it is and you have older guys like Tony (Gonzalez) who haven't won a playoff game yet and you really just want to go out there and play hard and go out there and get them at W."
When offered a comparison between the import of a high school Friday or college Saturday, Palmer agrees that in the playoffs the professionalism of the NFL season fades and the intensity climbs toward the must-win feel on those other days. It's not a long season any more.
And this will be the Falcons' third try in this iteration to earn that first playoff win and the second time they've earned a first-round bye week. This year, it wasn't a week off.
"It's been different this year. My rookie year we had the bye, we had more time off. Last week we practiced four times," Palmer said. "We really worked hard during the bye week and worked on a lot of things that we can improve on and really just worked out by ourselves."
As the backup to starter Gonzalez, Palmer's preparation for this and every Falcons game is twofold. He readies himself for his packages and special teams along with learning alongside Gonzalez.
"I go in every game preparing like I am starting," Palmer said. "You sit there with Tony (Gonzalez) and you do everything that he does. You talk about the game and plan with him because you are always one play away from going in."
Palmer learned how tenuous even his health is when he missed three games with a shoulder injury this season and in his limited time he caught six balls for 22 yards and a touchdown. He still hasn't caught a pass in the playoffs. And Palmer understands, especially growing up a Falcons fan, the importance of winning a playoff game and perhaps more.
"It'd mean a lot. We just need to kind of get that monkey off our back and just win one game. That's where it starts," Palmer said. "I think there is pressure to win a game in general, even if you hadn't played the previous year, because it's the playoffs. It's different and every team is that good. There's more intensity."
For the local player, Palmer said he gets plenty of calls each home game for tickets and laughs at the idea that his phone would ring more this week. He doesn't let on if the calls are troublesome, rather he beams on playing for his childhood team.
"I am very blessed. I am very blessed, I grew up a big Falcons fan and here I am playing in the playoffs and hoping to bring a Super Bowl back to Atlanta," he said. "I can't say it enough, I am very blessed."