Harland Gunn gives Falcons a veteran option at center

LONDON — During the Falcons’ open portion of practice, offensive lineman Harland Gunn was working on his snaps at center with starting quarterback Matt Ryan at the Arsenal Football Club training ground on Wednesday.

Gunn was inactive last week against Baltimore.

With Peter Konz (knee) on injured reserve, Gunn gives the Falcons a veteran option to play center. Undrafted rookie James Stone finished the Baltimore game, playing 56 of the 66 offensive snaps.

“I think James is a very good young football player that understands the game,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “He impressed us early on with his ability to identify fronts and change protections. He’s an intelligent young guy, but he just doesn’t have any experience.”

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan said he’s glad the team is away and in a hotel because he’s had extra time to watch film with Stone in order to make sure they are on the same page.

“James has done a great job since the first day he walked into the building,” Ryan said. “He’s a smart guy and has picked up our offense very quickly. I think (line coach) Mike Tice and (assistant line coach) Wade (Harman) have done a good job of working with our young guys.”

Gunn has played in just four NFL games, with one start. With Justin Blalock out with a back injury, he started at left guard earlier this season against the Giants.
Gunn wasn’t drafted out of the University of Miami in 2012 and was signed by the Cowboys. After Dallas cut him Gunn ended up on the Saints’ practice squad until the Falcons signed him to their 53-man roster for the final six weeks. Gunn didn’t play in a game that season, played in three games for the Falcons in 2013 and began this season on the practice squad.

The center will play a key role against Detroit’s stout defensive front.

“We are going to have to be solid up front,” Ryan said. “We really are. We are going to have to play well up front and account for where those guys are at. That’s what we are working on right now.”

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