White, a first-round pick in 2005, launched his NFL career when Atlanta had never managed back-to-back winning seasons. Only one Atlanta receiver, Andre Rison, had posted three straight 1,000-yard seasons.
It’s a new era in Atlanta.
The Falcons are working to extend a streak of five straight winning seasons. A major reason for the success is White, whose active streak of six straight 1,000-yard seasons has doubled Rison’s previous team record.
Anything short of a repeat trip to the NFC championship game will be a disappointment. Anything less than 1,000 yards from White would be a letdown.
White said the bar has been raised from his first years in Atlanta.
“We’ve changed faces around here, we’ve taken off and haven’t looked back,” White said Sunday. “We’ve had a lot of success. We’ve won a lot of games and had a lot of great moments. We’ve set the expectations bar very high around here, and every year we’ve got to live up to it.”
Former Falcons standout cornerback Deion Sanders, now an analyst for NFL Network, said White is “the standard” for Atlanta receivers.
“Roddy is one of the best in his generation,” Sanders said while watching White in Monday’s practice. “He consistently has good hands and runs good routes. He can go underneath across the middle. He’s not scared to do any of that. He’s a big guy.”
Sanders said White has contributed to the success of Julio Jones, the team’s emerging star at wide receiver. White has not missed a game in his eight seasons, and Sanders said that gives Jones an important example to follow.
“That right there is unbelievable,” Sanders said of White’s iron man streak of 128 games. “People don’t realize that’s one of the reasons Julio is so good. You get to watch this guy practice. You get to watch this guy show up for every game. You get to watch this guy put in the work. He’s the standard.”
White, 31, caught 92 passes for 1,351 yards and seven touchdowns in 2012 as the Falcons finished 13-3 in the regular season and advanced to the NFC championship game. He is only the fifth NFL player to post three consecutive seasons with 90-plus catches and 1,200-plus yards.
White is the Falcons all-time leader with 622 receptions and 8,725 yards receiving.
Following the retirement of center Todd McClure, White and defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux, another 2005 draft pick, have the longest active tenures in Atlanta.
The Falcons had their second day in pads on Monday. The challenge for White and his teammates in training camp is to keep raising the bar.
White said he doesn’t shy away from the raised expectations.
“No, not at all,” he said. “We know we’ve got a good football team. We’ve got to go out there and execute and win a lot of games and try to set ourselves up like we did last year. We’ve got be excited, and everybody’s got to play their part and play their role, and we’ve got to go out there and win.”
The five straight winning seasons have all come with coach Mike Smith and quarterback Matt Ryan.
Smith said having White on the field for every game has been a key to the team’s success.
“It says a whole lot about him,” Smith said Monday. “Roddy is one of the most competitive guys I’ve ever been around. When it’s time to put the ball on the tee and kick it he’s ready to go. He’s got a great attitude. When he does have an injury or he has something that’s tweaked, you can’t keep him out. That’s the kind of guys you want to have.”
White is a four-time Pro Bowl selection — all in his five years catching passes from Ryan. The two have developed an on-field chemistry that already was obvious early in training camp.
Late in Monday’s practice, White was running toward the sideline, his back to Ryan as the quarterback fired a pass in his direction. At the last possible second, White turned just in time to catch the pass in front of safety Shann Schillinger.
White flashed one of his trademark grins and chuckled as he ran back to the line.