Thursday, January 10, 2013
Falcons' Robert McClain catches on fast
By Pat Yasinskas
Whether he’s out on the field or in the meeting room, Robert McClain sees Asante Samuel on one side and Dunta Robinson on the other.
In both settings, McClain tries to stay directly at the midpoint of both of the veteran Atlanta cornerbacks.
“I’ve learned so much from those two,’’ McClain said in a phone interview Wednesday. “Asante is a ball hawk and he knows so much about the game. Dunta is the physical guy, but he also studies hard off the field. I’m just trying to take the best parts of both of them and combine them into my game.’’
That’s working quite nicely for McClain, who seemingly came out of nowhere to become a key contributor as Atlanta’s third cornerback.
“I think you could say I came into the right system at the right time and just fit in,’’ McClain said.
It wasn’t always so easy for McClain. A seventh-round draft pick by Carolina in 2010, he barely played as a rookie and didn’t make the roster in his second preseason. He spent part of 2011 with Jacksonville, but was sitting out there as a free agent this past offseason.
The Falcons signed McClain and brought him to training camp, where those on the outside thought he was a long shot to even make the roster.
“I never doubted I could play in the NFL,’’ McClain said. “But I knew my time was kind of running out. That’s why, in training camp and in the preseason, I played every single snap like it was my last.’’
The coaching staff noticed and McClain made the roster. But his chance at major playing time came only after Brent Grimes suffered a season-ending injury in the first game. After experimenting with a couple of alternatives, the Falcons settled on McClain as their third cornerback.
He’s solidified his spot in that role and even started when Samuel was banged up. But the Falcons are healthy going into the playoffs and McClain is once again leaning on Samuel and Robinson for advice.
“They told me the playoffs are way more intense and that it’s crucial to make plays every chance you get because there are no second chances,’’ McClain said. “They told me to just go out and play fast, play smart and be intense.’’