FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — There wasn't much drama heading into Falcons' training camp.

The team had managed to get defensive tackle Grady Jarrett and linebacker Deion Jones signed to contract extensions, and there's a belief Julio Jones' will come soon. 

But as the Falcons began running out onto the field on a hot, humid day in Flowery Branch, the team released the names of the guest coaches attending training camp. 

At the end of the list, former Maryland coach D.J. Durkin who was fired from the head coaching job at Marland months after the death of a student-athlete.

There's some controversy.

Durkin was hired as the coach at Maryland in 2015. Three years later during a May practice, offensive lineman Jordan McNair was hospitalized after showing signs of heat stroke and exhaustion. A few days later, he died for what was eventually called complications from heat stroke. While investigations into what led to the practice-related death were conducted, there were reports of Durkin running a program with a "toxic" culture of bullying, according to ESPN. The school later said it found no such culture in its investigations but did admit to a failure in medical procedures.

The school eventually reinstated Durkin after his administrative leave but was fired one day later.

Quinn and Durkin know each other from their time together at the University of Florida. Durkin was part of Quinn's defensive staff. His familiarity with Durkin is what Quinn used as a defense for bringing him in for camp.

"I think it’s a huge advantage that you can have someone that you respect and look at certain things to help your team and the evaluation," Quinn said. 

"Unfortunate situation of course," he said, referring to Durkin's controversial past. "But as far as eyes and look at the defense and special teams to help us, I definitely knew the advantage of that."

Quinn said he spoke with people at Maryland about bringing Durkin in as a guest coach.

"The fact that I know this coach firsthand and know his character and the due diligence that goes with that, I would certainly hope that anybody covering the team or the fan base know that I always have the team’s best interest in mind and would never put anybody in a space that would be otherwise," Quinn said.

"I know D.J. firsthand and what he is as a coach. I coached with him, I know what his character is."

It is normal for coaches to bring in guest coaches during camp to get another perspective. Alabama's Nick Saban had Durkin in as a guest coach to observe at the end of the 2018 season but made it clear he was not part of the staff.

The Falcons opened camp Monday. Their first preseason game is August 1 in the Hall of Fame Game against the Denver Broncos in Canton.


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