When Kaleb McGary underwent a cardiac ablation procedure one day before the Falcons' first preseason game, it seemed unlikely the first-round pick would even be active for the start of the regular season, let alone ready to play.
But when the Falcons' starting offense goes out onto the field for their first series of 2019, McGary will be right there alongside fellow offensive line starters Chris Lindstrom, Alex Mack, James Carpenter and Jake Matthews. Incidentally, all five Falcons up front are first-round picks.
Atlanta traded back into the first round of this year's NFL Draft to select McGary with the 31st overall pick. The 6-foot-6, 306-pound tackle returned to practice in a full capacity prior to the Falcons' final preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. McGary was the starter for Atlanta's last exhibition game and looked as good as the team could have hoped for.
"Yeah, he was so excited to get going," Falcons coach Dan Quinn said of McGary after the Jaguars game. "I was too. We all were kind of ready to watch him. He had good work in practice this week. Anytime you have to have a layoff in your most busy time, it's hard, especially when you're a rookie trying to get acclimated into it. So for him to come back and (he) was really ready."
After monitoring his conditioning throughout the week leading up to the season opener, the Falcons decided that McGary was ready for a starting role. McGary was part of an investment in the offensive line this offseason. He and fellow-first-round-pick Chris Lindstrom will man the right side of the offensive line against the Vikings, and, if everything goes according to plan, for the foreseeable future in Atlanta.