FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn expressed support for DJ Durkin, the former Maryland coach who was placed on leave following the practice-related death of Terrapins player Jordan McNair and subsequently fired.
Durkin was one of four coaches announced as assistants for training camp. Lance Schulters, Jamel Mutunga and Tracy Zimmer were added as Bill Walsh Coaching Fellows, while Durkin was announced as a guest coach for the camp.
Of the Maryland tragedy, Quinn said, "Unfortunate situation, of course.''
When pressed on why he added Durkin considering the controversy at Maryland, Quinn stood his ground.
"I hope people would understand, and people know me well enough, that nothing is more important than team,'' Quinn said. "The fact that I know this coach firsthand, I know what his character is, and then the due diligence that goes with that, I would certainly hope that anyone covering the team or the fan base knows that I always have the team's best interest in mind and would never put anybody in a space that would be otherwise.
"That said, it's not that unusual for me to have people come to be a part of our program and add value to it for a smaller period of time. I've done it before, and I'll do it again in the future."
McNair died on June 13, 2018, of heatstroke suffered two weeks earlier in a team workout, and Durkin was placed on leave on Aug. 11, 2018. After Maryland conducted investigations into both the workout and the culture of Durkin's program, the coach was reinstated by the board of regents on Oct. 30, then, in the face of criticism of the decision, was fired the next day by school president Wallace Loh.
Quinn started off Monday's post-practice news conference by addressing the Durkin story, even before recapping the first day of training camp.
"I know DJ firsthand, about what he is as a coach,'' Quinn said. "I've coached with him. And I know what his character is. We did all of our due diligence of calling everybody at Maryland and had our own follow-up to there. So what I would know is in the past, we've had Ron Wolf come to help me with another set of eyes. Last year, Darrell Bevell coming into the same role.
"I think it's a huge advantage that you can have somebody of respect and can look at some certain things to help your team in the evaluation.''
Durkin spent five years at Florida, working two of those seasons (2011-12) on Quinn's defensive staff.
Quinn said he has no reservations because he is familiar with Durkin's character and understands his value as a defensive and special-teams coach.
Durkin brings 14 years of coaching experience to the Falcons' training camp, including three seasons as the head coach at Maryland. Durkin was the defensive coordinator/linebackers coach for Michigan in 2015. That season the Wolverines' defense allowed only 16.4 points per game, which was sixth in the FBS.