Falcons head coach Mike Smith ruledthat center Todd McClure was out for the team’s regular season opener against the Chicago Bears today, following knee surgery on Monday. That likely means that the Falcons will turn to Joe Hawley as his replacement. Hawley is McClure’s top backup, and was drafted by the team last year in the fourth round as the heir apparent to McClure, who’s contract expires at the end of this season.
While the Falcons have not yet named Hawley the official starter, it is likely that he will earn the spot since he replaced him in past instances where McClure exited games due to injury, including last Saturday’s outing against the Pittsburgh Steelers. But with McClure out for at least the season opener, it also increases the chances that Rob Bruggeman makes the Falcons opening day roster for the second year in a row. Bruggeman has worked as the team’s third string center throughout camp and preseason. Last season, he made the team’s opening day roster, but was subsequently cut the following week and spent the remainder of the season on the practice squad. Bruggeman also spent time on the Falcons practice squad during the 2009 season.