This season is a year when the benefit of having a veteran-led team is as critical as ever. The Falcons have the benefit of veterans who have been in Atlanta long enough to know the way the Falcons operate.
The offensive line, literally and figuratively, revolves around 13-year veteran center Todd McClure. The franchise record holder for consecutive games started feels like some of the younger guys on the line have spent their time listening and learning and it showed today.
"I felt pretty good out there today, even having two new guys beside me," McClure said. "We haven't really missed much. Not a lot has to be said out there. We have a lot of non-verbal communication and when you can do that it's big, you know you're on the same page. I don't think it's going to take much."
The returning veterans like left tackle Sam Baker, newly re-signed right tackle Tyson Clabo, backup tackle Will Svitek and McClure know the continuity they help bring to the position group charged with protecting quarterback Matt Ryan will put the franchise QB in good hands. The work ethic across the line is shared.
Ryan was pleased with the signing of Clabo, pointing out what the five big guys up front do is as critical to what the Falcons do as anything else, but also recognizes some of those young guys McClure was lining up with on Friday may be placed into the starting spotlight.
"I think they've been a staple of what we've done, especially offensively," Ryan said. "I think it's great that we signed back Tyson. I think that was really important and he's going to help us a bunch."
The veterans on the line — and on the entire team for that matter — will not let the recent success of the franchise fall by the wayside. On the heels of a tough playoff loss to the eventual Super Bowl champs, the Green Bay Packers, last season, there's still a lot out there to accomplish.
"To be back out here working and knowing that there's isn't a Super Bowl champion crowned this year and we have a shot to go out and be crowned champs, it makes it special," the center said. "...I think if we can stay healthy and go out play the type of ball, we're going to have that shot. Obviously, take it one game at a time, but with that end goal in mind."
Read that again because that is the power of veteran leadership. Twilights of careers or not, guys like McClure are here to do everything they can to ensure the recent three-year run of these Atlanta Falcons will not end.
"The older guys, we know what we have here," he said. "We know what type of players that we have. The coaching staff and the organization have put everything in place for us to go out and be successful. Now we've just got to go out and make it happen."