(Reuters) - For the Atlanta Falcons, locker room table tennis battles have not only promoted interaction among players but fostered a camaraderie that has helped bring the team a win away from their first Super Bowl title.
As part of an offseason redesign, the Falcons replaced a row of lockers in the middle of the room with a table tennis table and it became such a hit with players that they added another two.
"Usually, when you're really good on the field, it starts in the locker room first. ... Those are the moments where the guys spend the time on and off the field to grow their relationship, to get it stronger," Falcons coach Dan Quinn said on Thursday.
"The best teams I've been a part of were good in the locker room. You can feel how tight these guys are. They have a real connection to one another, and they take that responsibility seriously."
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Quinn's plan to spark a deeper connection among his players worked like a charm as Atlanta won their division with an 11-5 record before two lopsided playoff wins put them into the Super Bowl for the first time since 1999.
The Falcons leave for Houston on Sunday ahead of their Feb. 5 Super Bowl clash with the New England Patriots and the players have made it clear that the table tennis has played a role.
"Last year, it was just guys on their phones," said Falcons running back Tevin Coleman. "Nobody was talking, communicating, nothing like that. The tables helped a lot. It got players like me who had never played ping pong involved."
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Larry Fine)