Vivlamore filling in for D. Orlando Ledbetter.
Todd McClure returns for a 14th NFL season, all with the Falcons, after signing a one-year contract this offseason. The center, drafted in the seventh round (No. 237 overall) in 1999, says he welcomes a chance to pass on his experience with the offensive lineman the Falcons took with their first two selections this year.
After a recent Organized Team Activities workout, McClure spoke on several topics including the team’s new offense, which will include a big screen game. Here are excerpts of the interview.
Q. What are your thoughts about the moves the Falcons made by drafting offensive lineman with their first two picks this year?
A. It’s been like this pretty much my whole career with younger guys coming in. I’ve always said I’ll try to teach as much as I can, pay it forward. I told these guys when they came in if they have any questions don’t hesitate to ask because we are making our team better. If I can teach those guys a little thing that can help us win games, that’s what I’m here for.
Q. Do you take all the criticism of the offensive line personally?
A. Not really. I’ve kind of dealt with that my whole career since I’ve been here. This group of up front has taken a lot of heat when things haven’t gone good. When things do go good, you don’t hear much about it. You take it in stride. Art Shell told me when I first got in the league as soon as you sign that piece of paper they are trying to find someone to replace you. It’s just the reality of the NFL but if you keep going out and producing on the field the rest will take care of itself.
Q. Do you have a chip on your shoulder going into this year considering the talk?
A. We always want to go play good. We try not to listen too much to what is going on outside and what people are saying. Every time we step on the field we want to do our best. So we know those areas we have to improve for this team to be successful. Everybody wants to talk about playoffs but we’ve got to win game one. Once we get to that point, hopefully we’ll take care of business.
Q. Can you describe the new offensive coordinator [Dirk Koetter]?
A. You can see right now we have explosive guys on the edge and the perimeter. We’d like to get them the ball. Dirk is doing some great things with the offense. Obviously we want to get better with our screen game. We haven’t been too good in that area lately. We are putting a big emphasis on that and you can already see some of the things we are doing we are going to have some big plays in the screen game.
Q. Do your responsibilities change [in the new offense] in terms of play calling or verbiage?
A. You know one of the things they try to do, this staff coming in, they tried to use the same verbiage where all of us on offense didn’t have to re-learn new terminologies. They just kind of adjusted their schemes and their terminologies to what we were doing so it’s been an easy adjustment.
Q. With the screen game are there differences techniques?
A. We are emphasizing those things and there are different coaching points that maybe we haven’t heard in the past or different ways that we are executing. Blocking schemes on our screens, I think, are going to be real beneficial for us and make us better. As offensive lineman we love to have a screen game that the [opposing] defensive line has to respect. They are not just pinning their ears back and rushing the quarterback. It’s an offensive lineman’s friend having a screen game going and we will get it going.
Q. How is new offensive line coach Pat Hill different than [previous coach] Paul Boudreau?
A. I don’t want to get into too much comparing one guy to the other. Pat brings a lot of experience to this team. He’s been a head coach for 15 years. He didn’t focus on just the offensive line. He’s seen the big picture of offenses and he can bring that to the table for us. And there are some little technique adjustments that he is going to try to help us out with that I think will put us over the edge.
Q. Did you ever consider not coming back for another season?
A. There was never a doubt this year. I wanted to come back. I’m still having fun playing. If I wasn’t having fun, I wouldn’t be playing. I still feel good. I’m just glad to be back. … I played 14 years. My body doesn’t feel the same as it did when I first started playing football when I was 10 years old. I’m still moving around well.