FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — Mack Hollins doesn't like shoes. He doesn't like utensils.
He also doesn't like the assumption he should aim only for the Atlanta Falcons' No. 2 receiver spot.
Hollins signed with Atlanta after having a career-best 57 receptions in 2022 with the Las Vegas Raiders. He had no more than 16 catches in any of his first four NFL seasons with Philadelphia and Miami, so he was seen by many as no better than No. 2 on the Falcons depth chart behind Drake London, the team's 2022 first-round draft pick.
Hollins doesn't easily accept conventional conclusions. That became clear when he was asked if he could claim the No. 2 spot on the Falcons' depth chart.
“I mean, the No. 1 spot is up and I’ll go for it,” Hollins said after a recent practice. “Drake is my roommate. He gets no free days. Every spot in my mind and every receiver’s mind is up for grabs. Just because he got a nice signing bonus, there’s no free lunches around here. No free lunches.”
Hollins' response drew a thumbs-up from coach Arthur Smith.
“I kind of like Mack’s answers,” Smith said. "You want guys that want the football. I’m OK if guys want the ball. You want guys that want it. You have a problem with guys that don’t want to work and guys that don’t want the football. It’s a good problem to have when you have guys that want to be the top guy.”
Hollins, whose eccentricities also emerged with the Raiders, shuns forks and spoons. He also dislikes shoes, except when on the football field. Basically, he embraces anything uncomfortable.
“Cold tubs,” he said Monday. “I don’t like the cold so I just dunk fully and for two minutes. I really don't like it, but because I don’t like I’ll do it.”
Hollins believes too many Americans rely far too heavily on their comfort, such as depending on air conditioning.
“And if it’s not 72 and 74, it’s a problem,” he said. “And you’re calling ‘my AC is broken’ and you’re never challenging yourself to do anything, even something as simple as like working out outside. It’s too hot. It’s too cold. This little Goldilocks soft stuff, it’s just ridiculous.”
Another Hollins complaint is “Doing too much stuff with the TV. ... Too much TV makes you soft, makes your brain soft.”
Instead, he says he finds a new challenge every year to stay sharp.
“A couple of years ago it was scuba diving and the year after that it was cycling,” he said. “Years after this, it’ll be my skydiving license, my pilot’s license. I want to get into racing cars. It’s like, I don’t know, something new that I haven’t done. I think it keeps you sharp. Bodies usually get soft and mushy, and it’s no good like that."
Hollins (6-4, 221) is anything but soft. He joins London (6-4, 213) to give quarterback Desmond Ridder two unusually big receivers, along with tight ends Kyle Pitts and Jonnu Smith. The Falcons' offense, which relied heavily on the run last season, has added rookie first-round pick Bijan Robinson at running back.
Hollins showed his size and leaping ability when he caught a touchdown pass in a joint practice with the Miami Dolphins two weeks ago and then dunked the ball over the crossbar.
Ridder said Hollins is "definitely about energy. And you know, for us, you know, he’s a big deep-ball threat, a big guy to go up and get the ball and, you know, you see him and he’s big, he’s fast, he’s muscular, he’s physical in the run game.”
The muscular Hollins appears even taller with his full, long hair.
Hollins saw his first preseason action in last week's 13-13 tie with Cincinnati, catching two passes for 20 yards on his only two targets.
It's uncertain how much time the starters will receive in Thursday night's third preseason game against Pittsburgh.
Injuries will limit Atlanta's depth at receiver behind London, Hollins and Scott Miller. KhaDarel Hodge (ankle) and Penny Hart (concussion) are out this week. Josh Ali, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and other backups contending for roster spots could see most of the snaps.
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Charles Odum, The Associated Press