So much of the Falcons' playoff talk this week is about the veteran Falcons that have been around for some, if not all, of Atlanta's playoff losses in the past five years.
What about the guys that are new to the team or are rookies this season? For starters, they see the past as the past.
"I haven't been here in past years," cornerback Robert McClain said, the Falcons' nickel cornerback and first-year Falcon. "Atlanta's been a successful team, but I've heard about the losses in the playoffs in the past. It's a different year and a different team. That's something that happened in the past and we're here now. We have to prove to everybody that we're a different team."
Players like McClain, who are in their first year of service with the Falcons, in some ways have the same mental approach that some of their more tenured Falcons teammates have. They see each season as one with a new roster and a new locker room. Although there may be carryover from one season to the next with the roster and coaching staff, every season is different. McClain doesn't think you can look at this year's Falcons team and say they will experience the same outcome as years past just because it's history.
To McClain and the Falcons, history doesn't always repeat itself.
Because the Falcons' history in the playoffs is what it is, many veterans check in on the younger players to make sure their head is in the game. It's more of a brotherhood, however, than something that constantly nags. McClain said there are no divisions in the locker. Younger players don't stick solely with their younger peers, they intermingle with the veterans and that's how wisdom and confidence is spread throughout.
"Everybody here watches out for everybody," he said. "It's not just young guys with young guys and old guys with old guys. We're a team so everybody makes sure everybody's mind is right. Everybody's attention is on point right now because we know we have to do it in the playoffs."
As McClain begins to enter his first playoff week preparations in his career, he said it's not uncommon to think about the magnitude of what can occur. In the playoffs both teams know what is on the line and they fought their way to get there for the opportunity to be champions. For most, it's a dream they've had since childhood. Playing in the Super Bowl can be the culmination of a career, but only if you're on the winning side.
It takes an approach that is razor-sharp. McClain and his teammates allow themselves to think about what's happening because it drives them to do one more rep in practice or one more hour of study. Everything is there for the taking, but it can all be taken away as well.
"You kind of take that one-game mindset, you still take it one game at a time, but you just add more attention to it," McClain said. "It's going to be more intense than the regular season. (In the regular season) you know you have one game the next week to make up for last week. Now it's one-game elimination. You have to put everything on the line because you either win or you go home."