Atlanta Falcons: McClure is the glue that holds the line together

081612 ATLANTA: Falcons 14 year veteran center Todd McClure leads the team on to the field to play the Bengals at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Thursday, August 16, 2012.      CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

081612 ATLANTA: Falcons 14 year veteran center Todd McClure leads the team on to the field to play the Bengals at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Thursday, August 16, 2012. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

FLOWERY BRANCH — Sitting around the large table for Thanksgiving dinner with the McClure family, Joe Hawley kept wondering why he was invited to the feast.

At the time, he was considered the latest heir apparent to take over the center position for the Falcons from Todd McClure.

Most veterans frown upon prospective replacements and give them bad advice about how to survive in the NFL. But McClure, who’s been snapping the ball to the team’s quarterback since 2000, is a little different.

Instead of throwing out false signals or misinformation, he embraces all of the offensive linemen the team brings in, even those slated to potentially take his job.

Hawley is from California and had no family in the area, so the McClures opened the doors of their house to him and some other linemen on the team.

“That was just amazing to me that he would invite a guy that he barely knew, that really in essence was trying to compete for his position,” Hawley said. “Off the field, he’s just so friendly it’s awesome. He’s such a great person.”

McClure, who’s set to enter his 14th season with the team, was taught by his parents to treat others the way you want to be treated.

“I always said when I came into this league that I’m going to help every guy out,” McClure said. “I’ve seen different situations where guys would tell the guy that just got drafted at their position, they may tell them the wrong thing or something to make them mess up. I’ve always felt that I’m going to help the guys behind me and the best guy is going to play.”

Since 2000, four different coaching staffs have concluded that McClure was the best guy for the pivotal position.

“It’s worked out for me,” McClure said. “I feel like I’ve touched some guy’s careers that have been here with me. I’ve helped them out and helped them become better football players. In the end, that’s what it’s all about.”

Last season, McClure had right knee surgery late in training camp. Hawley started the first two games, but quarterback Matt Ryan was sacked nine times.

“He’s like a father-figure to me,” Hawley said. “He’s taught me a lot, more than any film or anything.”

McClure was selected in the seventh round of the 1999 draft. In his second practice he tore the ACL in his right knee and missed the 1999 season. He became entrenched as the starter in 2000.

Over the offseason, McClure was a free agent and contemplated retirement before agreeing to a one-year contract. He’s not sure if this will be his last season.

“I’m going through training camp and I’m feeling really good, so I’m not going to make up my mind right now,” McClure said. “I play it day-by-day and enjoy this year. At the end of the year, I will see where I’m at, where my body is at, and make a decision then.”

He’s seen some of the highs and lows of Falcons’ lore during his tenure. He was on the team that reached the NFC title game under Jim Mora in 2005. He also had a front seat for the Michael Vick federal dogfighting trial and the Bobby Petrino 13-game head coaching stopover.

But over the past four years under Falcons coach Mike Smith, he’s been rejuvenated as the team has reached the playoffs three times. Their status as a playoff contender and a Super Bowl threat played a key role in his decision to return.

“We have the makings of a really special team,” he said.

McClure has started 166 of 168 games over his career and holds the franchise record for most consecutive starts, with 144. While he doesn’t know when he’ll retire, McClure seems pretty certain that he can’t match former center Jeff Van Note’s 18 seasons with the Falcons.

“He’s a special guy for that,” McClure said. “He’s a tough guy. I’m just going to take it year by year, if I make it to 18 I do, but I’m going to enjoy this year and see where I’m at. I’m still having fun.”

McClure knows the offensive line must improve from last season, when quarterback Matt Ryan was sacked 26 times and hit 84 times. He believes that the screen passing attack that new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter is implementing will help the line immensely.

“We accept that as a challenge,” McClure said. “We know that Matt had too many hits on him last year.”

Ryan knows that McClure will have the unit ready.

“He knows what it takes to be productive in this league,” Ryan said. “All of those guys look up to him. I think he’s done a great job with it. … I think those guys feed off of it.”

Hawley and right guard Justin Blalock look forward to sitting around that same large table at the next Thanksgiving dinner with the McClures.

“Being from Louisiana, they are taught to cook at an early age,” Blalock said. “They just made your typical stuff, but with their own Cajun flair on it that kicked it up a notch or two.”

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25 comments Add your comment

FalconFANatic

August 17th, 2012
2:04 pm

FIRST! GO FALCONS!

Norb Hecker

August 17th, 2012
2:10 pm

The Real Rick

August 17th, 2012
2:17 pm

LETS FLY BIRDS!

The Real Rick

August 17th, 2012
2:17 pm

LETS FLY BIRDS!

Norb Hecker

August 17th, 2012
2:21 pm

Glad to see the “Rodgers Brothers” play a lot.

Michael M.

August 17th, 2012
2:24 pm

The Falcons are a Super Bowl threat ? First things first………………..Start winning some ballgames even if they are preseason ones off the go

2nd …………………….shed the back-up quarterbacks and make room for Dominique Davis , the two on there now are just taking up roster space and costing money and Davis has the desire to succeed

3rd……………..need a upgrade on an all-purpose get me a first down power running back

4th…………………Still need to improve on the O-line

5th………………dominate the NFC South, including beating the Saints

6th………………..win a playoff game with the late great team

7th……………..blow out some winning teams for a change

8th………….stop the penalties and interceptions period

9th……….get hot at the end of the season as D-led mentioned earlier post as that seems to be the favorite for the Superbowl each year lately

10……….????????????????

Help me out people

JSS

August 17th, 2012
2:24 pm

Enough cheerleading, time for one the these players who should be at the point of development to push McClure aside and let the next natural step in their ascendency happen… Oops, it’s the Falcons, never mind!

Michael M.

August 17th, 2012
2:32 pm

Falcons cheerleaders are a whole lot prettier JSS

JSS

August 17th, 2012
3:16 pm

Yeah, but that ain’t you! You guys have all the looks of Jughead’s girlfriend in the old Archie’s comic strip or maybe the Sea Hag!

WooYeah

August 17th, 2012
3:36 pm

Good article on a great veteran.

McClure, Tuggle, Jamal Anderson (the RB)… We’ve found some pretty good player in the late rounds or undrafted free agency. Was Clabo one too?

Michael M.

August 17th, 2012
3:54 pm

Runner-

August 17th, 2012
4:08 pm

To be honest, I think McClure is what is the problem with our O-Line. The QB pocket Matt is supposed to step up in collapses extremely fast. I think a huge, strong, burly center would solve all of our O-Line problems. Sure that would leave Sam as our weak link, but I think we can manage with him at LT. Also, too much emphasis has been placed on the RG spot, probably the least important of all the O-Line positions for a right handed QB.

FalconsFam

August 17th, 2012
4:32 pm

I respect what Todd McClure has done over the years. I believe Todd McClure has been a leader on the O-line and a stalwart for many years. I also believe it is time for a new leader on the O-line. Sometimes guys hang around so long that they stunt the growth of other potential leaders. IF Joe Hawley is ever gonna be a starting center in the NFL he needs to be able to take the spot from McClure this preseason. This is and should be Todd McClure’s last year in a uniform. If Hawley can not take the job this year from(No offense) a 36 yr old undersized center then he is nothing more than a career backup and the Falcons are in desperate need of a starting center going forward. I don’t think Peter Konz is going to be asked to play center. I think Konz is going to be the RG for his entire career. He’s got the perfect size for the position. He is a little too tall for the center spot IMO at 6′5. McClure has been the glue for quite some time but somebody has got to show up very soon with their own bottle of Elmers or the 1st rd pick in next years draft is a forgone conclusion…Khaled Holmes out of SoCal.

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Nique

August 17th, 2012
4:39 pm

The O-Line as is isn’t gonna get the job done! I thought we were suppose to be seeing competition, but all we’ve seen so far is the same old same old from last years opening game. While Reynolds has improved, I’d like to see some shake ups & others get a chance with the ones. We we’re promised something that i don’t feel like we’re getting! We had 4 downs within the 5 yesterday & not one of those were runs, you can’t win in the playoffs like that! You have to be able to run the ball when it gets cold, when your outdoors. No i know there weren’t running plays called, but that’s because the line was getting manhandled at the point of attack on running plays all night, so for that change in play calling Dirk I’m thankful for your ability to adjust the calls as needed, but the harsh fact still remains that our O-Line while it seems improved pass protecting, still has proven to be inept in short yardage situations & has yet to show that we can pick up the tough yards on the ground which are the difference between advancing & another 1st round exist in Jan! No I’m not one thesse doom & gloom fans, i believe the rest of the team has looked really good, well the starters & Dom Davis, & the O-Line’s pass blocking has also improved it seems, but we really have to do something about this short yardage & holes for the ground game, especially if so much of our deep passing game is going to be predicated upon the play action. I just wanna see some competition as we were promised that we would have. I’d like to be sure that the starting 5 out there are our best 5 & right now I can’t definitively say that bc I have been given the chance to see the other competators get a fa shot with our ones & against the opponents ones.

Nique

August 17th, 2012
4:47 pm

If we are content with Reynolds at RG, i don’t think that should prohibit Konz from being in the fight to start at center, but I haven’t seen him at center any! We didn’t spend our 2cnd rounder on him to be on the bench, we can’t afford to be complacent at any of our O-Line positions regardless of how much we’re planning on rotating players on the O-Line this year, great rotate, but the best 5 should be starting & getting the bulk of the time!

FalconsFam

August 17th, 2012
4:54 pm

Reynolds has not improved. Hopefully Konz will get a chance to run with the ones at RG next game. Mike Smith struggles to shake things up on the O-line. Deep down he clearly wants Reynolds to be the guy or he would not have marched him right back to the top of the depth chart at RG knowing he was garbage last year. Smitty likes Reynolds at RG for some reason. If Konz does not get a shot at RG with the 1st stringers in preseason, you will know there was no real “competition” for starting jobs. There maybe competition for the other 4 spots but not for starting jobs. Holmes can’t even dress out for games. Is his toe healed or not? Lol. Is he that far behind in skill that he can’t even dress out and play 3rd string? This draft is going to Hades in a hand basket real fast.

Esquire

August 17th, 2012
5:34 pm

McClure’s a class act…….

Falcon James

August 17th, 2012
5:46 pm

It is obvious McClure is a staple on the line. Last year proved it when he was out a couple games. Most of us thought Ryan would not survive the third game. I give him credit for how many years he has played. I agree that the screen game will take some pressure off, but bottom line is we need to hold the pocket open and we need the OL to open some holes. We have a lot of work ahead of us.

Bubba Gump Shrimp

August 17th, 2012
6:01 pm

Wow-wee, all you dudes sure know a lot about pro football. I can’t believe you’re not coaching for one of the existing 32 teams yet.

This season, watch and learn, crybaby fan base. Watch and learn.

JSS

August 17th, 2012
6:53 pm

Bad South asian prawns, like we gonna trust your food poison ideas of football strategy… Nah!!! Get that bottom lip fixed!

Garrett Reynolds

August 18th, 2012
8:46 am

I’ve been replaced at RG with Justin Blalock!

[...] that really matter? Maybe not on the field, but for PR’s sake, it’s solid. Read this story if you haven’t already, because believe me, it’s worth your [...]

Tom

August 19th, 2012
8:59 am

Good article. Sounds like Chris Vivamore’s voice, though.

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