FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Roddy White doesn’t shy away from the diva tendencies of many successful receivers.
He’s still confident and outspoken, but White has taken on a different role for the Atlanta Falcons this season.
For the first time in his eight-year career, White is no longer the Falcons’ undisputed best player at his position, not with Julio Jones entering his second season.
If White’s numbers are down this year, so be it.
“I told them earlier in the season that I don’t want to be the most targeted receiver in the NFL,” White said Tuesday. “We’ve got a lot of good playmakers and we’ve got to spread the ball around. We’ve got to get everybody involved in the game plan.”
White promises he won’t be upset if Jones, last year’s No. 6 overall draft pick, catches more passes and scores more touchdowns for the Falcons.
That doesn’t mean White won’t speak his mind, but with goals like winning his first playoff game and helping Atlanta reach the Super Bowl, he wants to put the team first.
“I think Roddy has a great attitude,” coach Mike Smith said. “Roddy has been a perennial Pro Bowl player, and I think he’ll continue to be that kind of player. Where his numbers are going to be, who knows? But I can assure you that defenses are going to have to figure out how they’re going to defend Roddy White. He’s that type of player.”
While earning his fourth consecutive Pro Bowl invitation last year, White led the NFC in catches for the second season in a row.
But in last week’s preseason loss to Baltimore, quarterback Matt Ryan targeted Jones seven times and White five times.
Jones caught six passes for 109 yards, one of them a one-handed grab for a touchdown.
White had three catches for 46 yards.
Now that No. 3 receiver Harry Douglas has returned from a rib injury, White might have even fewer chances.
“Like I said, if we’re going to go out there and sling it, then we’ve got to get everybody involved, especially Julio and Harry,” White said. “They’re going to be very important to our offense and what we do out there on the field.”
Though Jones’ size and speed could make him more of a deep threat, Smith still considers White to be the team’s top target.
“He’s our No. 1 receiver, and you’ve got to try to defend him first and foremost,” Smith said. “And then certain weeks they’re going to try to stop somebody else, and Roddy’s going to get his opportunities.”
And White is going to keep defending himself, as he did in a tweet Sunday with one of his 99,850 followers:
“If your going to be a fan be a fan of the game stop acting like you know football when you don’t know nothing squirt why am I talking to you,” White wrote.