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Falcons' Finneran, a Villanova star, has persevered

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Falcons' Finneran, a Villanova star, has persevered


By Mike Jensen

Inquirer Staff Writer

Atlanta Falcons receiver Brian Finneran usually could spot the guy brought in to take his job.

There was always a guy.

"Nature of the beast," Finneran said the other day.

This season, it was a fifth-round draft choice who suffered a torn knee ligament late in camp. Only then did a Falcons personnel executive tell Finneran, "Nice job, you did it again."

Undrafted Villanova graduates quickly cut by two teams are not supposed to then hang around the NFL until age 34, especially when they miss the 2006 and 2007 seasons with separate knee injuries.

Finneran, who turns 35 later this month, is about to play in Saturday night's NFC playoff game between the Falcons and Green Bay Packers. He will not be the star. If the Falcons are in a tight spot, however - third and not too long, something like that - don't be surprised to see the old guy out there playing slot receiver. Of Finneran's 19 catches this season, only one went for longer than 20 yards. But he caught three touchdowns and 11 of his catches were for first downs.

"For the most part, I've been that third-down guy most of my career," Finneran said.

He's gone from an Eagles rookie who kept to himself, and was cut after three games, to a locker room leader, unafraid to call out even the Falcons' top receiver for not fully utilizing his talents. He has been with Atlanta since 2000.

The prime of his career was spent with Michael Vick as his quarterback.

"The exciting part was, you never knew what was going to happen. The scramble drill was a big part of what we did," Finneran said. "You could be 70 yards down the field and he'd still yank it up to you. Always stay alive."

Finneran doesn't argue with Vick's own self-description of the quarterback's Falcons years.

"Mike always worked hard on the football field," Finneran said. "But as a quarterback, you've got to know everything about that offense, about the line, where the running backs are supposed to be. No question he could have worked harder in the film study room. It's been said before. I think he did the first couple of years, then got a little lax."

As for the idea that Vick is only now getting topflight coaching, Finneran wasn't slighting the Eagles' staff when he said, "I think Mike was coached [in Atlanta]. He had all the opportunity to put in a little extra time. These coaches are here all the time."

Finneran got along with Vick. He's just not afraid to speak his mind, including to teammates' faces.

"It's almost like a pay-it-forward type deal," Finneran said. "I had guys do it with me. I try to emphasize that with all the young guys around. Eric Weems, one of our special-team studs, I kept reminding him: 'Do the right things. Don't let it go to your head.' "

Do some guys not want to hear it?

"Oh, yeah," Finneran said. "A lot of times, we'll have rookies come in here and literally not want to hear it. It goes in one ear, out the other. I tell them to get in the [playbook] and study rather than go out. Sometimes, they blow you off. More guys have mental mistakes cost them their job than physical mistakes."

Roddy White didn't always want to hear it but had the physical prowess to stay in the league until his work ethic caught up. White told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution earlier this season about Finneran: "He's one of my friends on the team now. When I first got out here, we didn't see eye-to-eye. He always told me that I was talented and that I could run and jump and do all of this stuff. But he said, 'You don't put the work in.' He'd say, 'It makes me sick to see guys like you who are capable of doing great things in this league and you don't want to give up the effort.' "

Finneran had been the Walter Payton Award winner as Division I-AA national player of the year at Villanova. His confidence really emerged in a season in NFL Europe with the Barcelona Dragons. But as a rookie with the Eagles in 1999, after being cut by Seattle in 1998, Finneran picked up his own veteran lessons.

"Brian Dawkins tried to help me with special teams, backing him up on punt protection," Finneran said. "I was left slot. I had a tough time blocking guys coming off the edge, with up-and-under moves. He taught me to slow down. Fast eyes, slow feet. It really stuck with me. I played that spot down here for eight or nine years."

After that brief stint with the Eagles, Finneran said: "My wife said I should have kissed a little more [butt] when I was up there. I was just mainly shy, maybe didn't have all that confidence. I realized that networking and schmoozing are important."

He doesn't know his 40-yard dash time now, just that it never defined him.

"When I came out of Villanova, I ran like a 4.59 [seconds] - I was consistently 4.65,'' Finneran said. "Not terrible, but not what you want. But I've seen more guys come through here who run 4.45 but can't catch a cold. A lot of it is heart, a lot is technique. Mostly, it's catching the football.''

And not looking over your shoulder worrying about the other guy.

Read more: http://www.philly.com/inquirer/sports/20110114_Falcons__Finneran__a_Villanova_star__has_persevered.html#ixzz1B0vRmZ4z

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B. Finn is a "True Falcon" in every since of the phrase. Hope he gets himself a ring. I love how this team has players like Finn, Weems, Grimes and etc. that have had to overcome to get where their at. I have no doubt about the overall resolve of this Falcons team...they will get it done. Rise Up! +1

Edited by Mid-Nite-Toker
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B. Finn is a "True Falcon" in every since of the phrase. Hope he gets himself a ring. I love how this team has players like Finn, Weems, Grimes and etc. that have had to overcome to get where their at. I have no doubt about the overall resolve of this Falcons team...they will get it done. Rise Up! +1

Oh yeah.

I remember seeing Finneran in Pre-season in 2000 making plays and then wondering what happened to him during the regular season. He was on the practice squad.

Finn has DEFINITELY paid his dues and I've always enjoyed having him on the team. I think he and McClure are the last of the "Dan Reeves" guys... undrafted or late round guys that are team first and have heart and that were here when Dan was the coach.

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The truth is Finneran should be a model for guys trying to have a long career in the league. He always worked hard and focused on improving the areas he needed to improve (the guy once nicknamed "Skillet Hands" now is considered to have the best hands on the team).

He makes a great point here: mental mistakes will get you cut quiker than physical mistakes. The fact is there are tons of guys that have the physical attributes to make it in the NFL. But the guys that make it also master the mental side.

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