Curtis Lofton has his speed back

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- I just finished a great interview with Atlanta Falcons middle linebacker Curtis Lofton. Some of what we talked about will be used in Atlanta’s Camp Confidential profile, which is scheduled for Saturday, and some will be used in our regular-season preview in early September.

But there is one portion of the interview I’d like to share with you now. That’s because something Lofton said was very unique. It’s not often that an athlete will publicly criticize himself, but Lofton just did so in a very harsh manner. Lofton’s numbers weren’t bad. He started 15 games, led the team with 142 tackles.

“Looking back on the film of myself from last year, I look real old,’’ said Lofton, who is 25. “I wasn’t as explosive as I could have been. I felt like I left a lot of plays out there that I normally would have made, that I should have made and I didn’t make them.’’

Wow, brutal honesty. After getting over the shock of hearing Lofton’s self-critique, I asked if there was a reason why a guy felt he suddenly looked old in only his third NFL season.

“I really don’t want to make any excuses, but I did have surgery on both my knees this offseason,’’ Lofton said.

Lofton didn’t want to go into details about what was done to his knees. But said the surgeries were arthroscopic and were done mostly to clean up some minor damage.

“I’m feeling like a whole new man now,’’ Lofton said. “I didn’t have my burst and now I’m getting my burst back.’’

That’s good news for the Falcons and Lofton. He’s a player they’ve liked since the moment he arrived in 2008. There has been steady growth, but the Falcons and Lofton both have been thinking he’s been on the verge of becoming a big-time playmaker for a couple of years. Maybe now that the knees are healthy, that will happen.

“What I’m going to ask from myself is to be a good leader for the guys and start making more plays,’’ Lofton said. “I couldn’t make the plays I wanted to last year and I didn’t even realize how slow I was until I went back and looked at the film. The burst is coming back now and that should allow me to go out and make a lot more plays.’’