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Falcons’ contract rejection woke up Takk McKinley, but will it last?


Goober Pyle
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Raheem Morris learned something early about Takk McKinley. A coach can’t just go up to him and tell him he’s doing something wrong. Emotional players often don’t respond well to attempted corrective measures. It’s best to first get a sense of the man’s mood. Move in slow. Read the room, even if there’s only one person in the room.

“People struggle with Takk because of a lack of communication,” said Morris, the Falcons’ defensive coordinator. “But when you coach good players, and Takk is that, you know they’re going to be emotional. Ronde Barber was like that. Not Takk-ish, but emotional. When you tried to correct him on something, you were either with him or against him. So you had to know when to back off.”

The Falcons are not backing away from McKinley. Not completely, anyway. They need him. He looms as one of the biggest wild cards this season, because if he can help elevate an anemic pass rush instead of being an unhealthy distraction, the Falcons are better off and so is he.
 

So the Falcons are not backing away. But they have begun detachment by declining McKinley’s fifth-year contract option. They made the mistake of paying a fifth year to Vic Beasley, and they’re not going to risk millions on hope again. McKinley has talent, but there has been too much wreckage in three seasons to suddenly anticipate success. He’s coming off his third shoulder surgery in four years. He projected himself as a double-digit sack guy but has managed only six, seven and 3 1/2 in his three seasons. He has lacked focus, at times irritating teammates with inconsistent play. He had a strange episode in January 2019 when police in Los Angeles detained him for a mental evaluation after some sort of an issue that was never publicly explained.

On Twitter, he has “liked” tweets suggesting that he wanted to play for Dallas and that questioned the futures of coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff. When Georgia’s defense was getting steamrolled by LSU in the SEC title game, McKinley tweeted, “Looking like us,” with a laughing emoji, which was completely accurate but probably not the message a player on a 3-9 team should be sending out to the public. But McKinley made the smartest move of his career in May: He closed his Twitter account.

Quinn said the Falcons had no concerns about McKinley before the 2017 draft, but that’s not completely true. There was some division in the football operations department. Coaches loved his fire and athleticism. Scouts believed he had talent but expressed concern about his focus and his ability to stay on the rails emotionally. He was a risk. Ultimately, the Falcons spent the 26th overall pick on McKinley for two reasons: 1. They needed pass rushers; 2. Quinn was a defensive line coach by trade and had a lot of cachet because he was coming off a Super Bowl appearance in his second season.

We will have to wait and see whether all the backlash, certainly the option rejection, has done McKinley some good. For now, he’s saying all the right things, conveying humility even in a remote news conference the other day. He has slimmed down to about 248 pounds, down about 20, in hopes of regaining speed off the edge. He says he is motivated. But nobody has played a game yet.

Does the contract situation motivate him?

“If we’re being real, it does,” he said. “I’ve got my reasons why it motivates me. I did have control, with what I could’ve done the first three years. They made their decision. That lit a fire in me, and that’s cool. It got me in the best shape of my life. It got me to make my game better. Hopefully, it will all work out for me.”

His reaction on draft night in 2017 is easy to remember. When the Falcons picked him, he rose from a chair and held up a large picture of his late grandmother, Myrtle Collins, who was his biggest mentor during his broken childhood but had died six years earlier. As television cameras focused on him, emotions and tears flowed and McKinley shouted, “I made a promise to her! I told her! I was gonna go D-I. I’m gonna get out of Richmond! I’m gonna get out of Oakland! I was going to go to the NFL. I made that promise to her, and 30 seconds later she passed away. This is who I do it for. Come on, man!” And then, as the NFL Network’s Deion Sanders held a microphone to him:
 

McKinley said, “It means every ******* thing. Excuse my language. Fine me later.”

“Fine me later” went viral. There would be no fine from the league. It was great theater and the pure emotion we love about sports.

McKinley closed his draft interview with “I love you grandma. It’s only the beginning.” But that moment surpasses anything he has done on the field, and on some level, he seems to acknowledge that.

“Obviously, I wish my first three seasons could be 10-plus sacks,” he said. “But it doesn’t always happen that way. Life is a roller coaster. You feel me? Nobody’s life has just been up. It’s always up and down. It’s been very inconsistent, but that doesn’t mean I’m about to give up. I still believe in myself. My coaches believe in me. My teammates believe in me. My family believes in me. I know what I can do. For me, the biggest thing is finishing. I left a lot of sacks out there last year. This year I’m going to try to not do the same thing.”

He said he had “too many almost-sacks,” adding: “If I finished, I don’t think anybody would be talking about the Falcons declined Takk’s fifth-year option.”

But fear for one’s paycheck can be a great motivator.

“You don’t realize, time flies,” he said. “I’m going into my fourth season, but (it feels like) I just got drafted. Sometimes as a pro you kind of forget. Like, ****, you feel like you’ve got time. But when the declined my option, it’s like, ‘Man, if I want to be in this league, I’ve got to do something better.’”

So he ate healthier. He ran more. He led a more disciplined existence. Somewhere in there, fatherhood probably helped. On Father’s Day, he had an Instagram post holding his son, Journey, who was born July 26, 2019, with these words: “My son you have been the biggest blessing on this earth and I’m proud to be called dada. When you was born I told you that I refuse to be like my dad who decided not to be in my life. You’ll never have to worry about anything.”

Maybe he woke up. Maybe he is learning to deal with failure.

“I’m sure there’s a lot of that,” Morris said. “He wants to win and do all he can to help the team win. But he puts more of a burden on himself than he should, and at times that affects him in terms of how he plays the next couple of snaps.”

McKinley clearly was stung by the Falcons’ decision on his option, as evidenced by an Instagram post three weeks ago: “They don’t believe in you.”
 

Morris again: “Sometimes that can affect the athlete with a negative vibe. Sometimes it affects them with a positive vibe. He’s showing right now it’s affecting him in the right way.”

McKinley said this offseason “made me hungry.” He thought he was hungry before, but it’s amazing what can happen when your career hangs in the balance.

“One day I’m going to stop playing football,” he said. “I’d hate for that to be one to two years from now.”
 

 

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30 minutes ago, Goober Pyle said:

“He wants to win and do all he can to help the team win. But he puts more of a burden on himself than he should, and at times that affects him in terms of how he plays the next couple of snaps.”

Yep. Can’t make others play ball. Gotta be consistent snap to snap and eventually you will eat too if you got teammates worth anything. *cough Beasley 5th year option*

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6 minutes ago, caponine said:

More excuses, stop talking and just do it. Seems like almost every day he has something to say but says nothing. He is motivated this year because he will lose a check lol which means he aint really cared before ?? He's eating healthier and working out in year 4?? Wow 

 

These responses are so stupid and pointless. Roddy White went through the same thing. He's not saying something new every day, he can't help what articles get put out and when. He hasn't even made a single excuse. 

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51 minutes ago, Goober Pyle said:

Raheem Morris learned something early about Takk McKinley. A coach can’t just go up to him and tell him he’s doing something wrong. Emotional players often don’t respond well to attempted corrective measures. It’s best to first get a sense of the man’s mood. Move in slow. Read the room, even if there’s only one person in the room.

“People struggle with Takk because of a lack of communication,” said Morris, the Falcons’ defensive coordinator. “But when you coach good players, and Takk is that, you know they’re going to be emotional. Ronde Barber was like that. Not Takk-ish, but emotional. When you tried to correct him on something, you were either with him or against him. So you had to know when to back off.”

This makes sense with his background. The mentality of relying on yourself will shut you out to help from others and how we are supposed to be able to rely on other people as well.

Takk being lighter and talking about what DFJ is telling him to become like a pitcher and learn how to change your pitches snap to snap as a rusher. His shoulders are gonna thank him first for not always going bull/power to speed. Bringing in a chop. Learning a spin. Speed to power...

You could tell Takk got frustrated in 2018 and some last year. If he is getting discouraged play to play because someone else isn’t doing their job, but is blaming himself for it? He has to imagine if other players like Grady, Julio or Matt took plays off because of discouragement.

You can’t preach about others if you don’t do things right yourself. How you gonna teach what you don’t know? He needs to be open to constructive help instead of staying in his own world. Seems like he is getting a different mindset this year. Option or not.

It was always gonna be a smart move to wait and see on a guy with shoulder injury problems and now the 5th years can’t be rescinded/are guaranteed.

Hoping the best. It’s definitely more of a mental thing with Takk. Can’t be all on you and then beat yourself up when others make mistakes either.

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3 minutes ago, Dem Birds said:

These responses are so stupid and pointless. Roddy White went through the same thing. He's not saying something new every day, he can't help what articles get put out and when. He hasn't even made a single excuse. 

You can always tell who actually reads the articles. Lol. The new DC is talking about Takk. Takk was interviewed. People just like to complain. Constructive never works after all. Just be like us Takk! :lol:

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6 minutes ago, Dem Birds said:

These responses are so stupid and pointless. Roddy White went through the same thing. He's not saying something new every day, he can't help what articles get put out and when. He hasn't even made a single excuse. 

He literally just blamed his awful NFL career on life , did you read the article ?? He's not good at communication ?? What , so that means he's not suppose to communicate with his teammates?? All excuses as to why he has not lived up to his 1st round draft spot. There's been at least 3 articles in the last week about him ...........

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9 minutes ago, caponine said:

He literally just blamed his awful NFL career on life , did you read the article ?? He's not good at communication ?? What , so that means he's not suppose to communicate with his teammates?? All excuses as to why he has not lived up to his 1st round draft spot. There's been at least 3 articles in the last week about him ...........

Takk didn't blame it on that, Morris did. All I've heard Takk say is "I could have controlled it (getting his fifth year) the last 3 years" when talking about his production. Not an excuse. Ownership. He said he had too many almost sacks and if he had finished no one would be talking about them not picking up his option. That's ownership. 

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11 minutes ago, Dem Birds said:

Takk didn't blame it on that, Morris did. All I've heard Takk say is "I could have controlled it (getting his fifth year) the last 3 years" when talking about his production. Not an excuse. Ownership. He said he had too many almost sacks and if he had finished no one would be talking about them not picking up his option. That's ownership. 

Ironic. Takk and Cappy are a lot alike. :ninja:

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   2 hours ago,  Goober Pyle said: 

Well, not Gobber, but Jeff Schultz said:

McKinley has talent, but there has been too much wreckage in three seasons to suddenly anticipate success.

34 minutes ago, Tim Mazetti said:

Yes it has come to this. The Falcons have such bad luck drafting Edge players....Spooky.

 

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Edited by Goober Pyle
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