FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- There were about 60 rookies on the practice field, all trying to prove themselves on day one.
But on the opposite end of the field from where the press stood was Falcons first-round Draft pick Takk McKinley, an edge rusher from UCLA.
The first impression of McKinley was his NFL Draft night interview with Deion Sanders in which he dropped a couple F-bombs on live television and held a picture of his late grandmother who raised him near Oakland, California. With a passion unmatched by any other draft pick that night, he told all the quarterbacks in the league he was coming for them, but in a much more colorful way.
But on the first day of rookie camp at the Falcons headquarters, McKinley was on the sideline, rehabbing his shoulder. He played two seasons with a broken glenoid and had surgery before the Draft. While he is expected to be ready in time for the regular season, McKinley won't be doing anything on the field anytime soon.
When asked how his first day of camp was, he just let out a big sigh.
"It is very frustrating. I like to compete. I like football. I don’t like to be on the sidelines and just watching. I’d rather be out there with my brothers making plays and stuff like that," McKinley said. "I understand it’s a process, I got to get the shoulder right. And once it’s right, I want to help the Atlanta Falcons any way I can to get wins."
He did sled work, ladders and conditioning drills to stay in shape. Off the field, he's in all the meetings, learning the playbook and getting ready for his chance to compete for a starting job, something rookies in Atlanta have a serious chance of accomplishing.
"Being a brother, you can say it all you want, but you got to prove it to the guys. I can say I’m a brother all day to you guys, but the reality I got to prove it on the field. I can’t wait to get my shoulder right and prove it to my teammates," McKinley said.
And the rookie knows how good of a chance he has to make the team. With the defense needing someone opposite of linebacker Vic Beasley to rush the pass, the Falcons knew exactly the type of guy they were going after. In his senior season, he had eight sacks and 18 tackles for loss.
Head coach Dan Quinn likes what he's heard so far about the No. 26 overall pick.
"I was impressed talking to the training staff, he’s going to put it in on the side," Quinn said.
McKinley will go through similar offseason regimens as Julio Jones, Adrian Clayborn and Desmond Trufant who are all coming back from injuries. But for McKinley at rookie camp now, his time in Atlanta will be cut short because he is on the quarter system at UCLA and still has to finish.
On Sunday, McKinley will go back to California and continue rehabbing six days a week while learning the playbook. Any questions, he'll FaceTime with the coaches. It's much like what tight end Austin Hooper went through last year at Stanford.
"It sucks that I’m on the quarter system and can’t stay here the entire rookie mini camp," McKinley said, adding to his frustration.
That fire McKinley had in his eyes on Draft night is still there. He said all of it still hasn't sunk in, even after signing his rookie contract on Thursday. But as the dozens of other rookies start their NFL careers, McKinley will be working out in Los Angeles, dreaming of the day he'll get to those quarterbacks.
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