Long-time Falcons center Todd McClure is set to retire on Thursday per an AJC report, following a tweet from former Falcon receiver Brian Finneran yesterday of McClure’s intention. McClure will hold a press conference and file his retirement papers according to the AJC.
McClure is the longest-tenured Falcon currently on the team, first joining the team as a seventh round draft pick in 1999. He would miss his rookie season with an injury, going down with an ACL tear on the opening day of training camp. But he would return and land the starting center job midway through his second season and never relinquish it. Over the course of the next 13 seasons, he would log 195 starts, missing only 4 starts from 2001-12. Before missing time at the start of the 2011 season, McClure had made 144 consecutive starts without missing a game. His 198 total appearances are fourth most in team history, and his 195 starts are the third-highest.
Consistently undersized as far as NFL centers go, McClure learned to be effective with leverage and intelligence. He anchored offensive lines that for three consecutive seasons (2004-06) finished atop the league in rushing yards, and ranked fourth in 2002. During the time when the Falcons were quarterbacked by Michael Vick, McClure routinely called out the team’s protections. That intelligence and experience helped a young Matt Ryan, who has since become the 9th-least sacked quarterback in NFL history.
The Falcons will likely employ a competition between Peter Konz and Joe Hawley at center to replace him in 2013. Hawley started three games in 2011 as a replacement for McClure.
Tom Ziemer of the Wisconsin State Journal reports that running back Aaron Stecker has decided to retire. Stecker, currently unsigned as an undrafted free agent was signed by the Falcons midway through the 2009 season.
He played in nine games, rushing 5 times for 15 yards and adding 5 receptions for 34 yards. Stecker finishes up a ten-year NFL career, where he began with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2000 before signing with the New Orleans Saints in 2004. He was most productive with the Saints, rushing for 1109 yards during his five-year stint there. He finishes his career with 1526 rushing yards on 386 carries (4.0 avg) and 8 touchdowns. He also added 166 receptions for 1175 yards (7.1 avg) and 3 more scores. A noted special teams player, Stecker also added 43 tackles in coverage in that realm and had 170 kickoff returns for 3934 yards (23.1 avg) and 1 touchdown.
Falcons long snapper Mike Schneck announced his retirement on Thursday, the eve of him becoming a free agent.
Schneck was signed by the Falcons in October 2007, and held down their long snapping duties ably until a back injury cost him the remainder of the 2009 season this past November. Schneck was an 11-year veteran playing the past three years with the Falcosn, following two seasons with the Buffalo Bills, and six seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He was voted to the AFC Pro Bowl team in 2005 as a snapper.
Currently, the Falcons do not have a long snapper on their active roster. Joe Zelenka finished the season as the Falcons long snapper, but he too is a free agent.
Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk.com reports that Falcons center Jeremy Newberry is retiring. Newberry signed with the Falcons a month ago to add some veteran depth to the offensive line.
Per the report, Newberry’s knee had been bothering him since having surgery a few years back. But the knee had been getting worse and worse according to a league source.
It is possible the Falcons might re-sign center Alex Stepanovich, who the team released in order to make room for Newberry on the roster.
Earlier this month, a report appeared on ProFootballTalk.com reporting that the Falcons might move in a different direction from starting center Todd McClure due to his holding out from voluntary off-season workouts. Earlier today, Dan Parr of Pro Football Weekly indicated those reports are overblown.
Pro Football Talk reported that McClure is seeking a new deal and is holding out from off-season workouts and threatening retirement. It also indicated that the Falcons in response to McClure’s actions started looking at free agent centers including Jeremy Newberry.
Pro Football Weekly reports that while McClure is seeking a new contract, he is not expected to miss mandatory workouts later in the off-season and is not facing pressure from the Falcons for missing the workouts. Parr’s report indicates that the Falcons would like to add a young center via the draft to groom behind McClure, but are not considering to replace him in the near future. The Falcons also aren’t likely to give into McClure’s desires to have a new deal.
McClure signed a new five-year contract extension in December 2006 worth $10 million.
Brett Romberg, center was one of the two free agents signed this off-season as well.
Falcons offensive tackle Todd Weiner announced his retirement yesterday. Weiner had been a mainstay for the Falcons at right tackle since signing with the team in 2002. This past season, he filled an invaluable role as a reserve left tackle when starter Sam Baker went down with injury early in the year.
Weiner played most of this past season injured, having undergone knee surgery last off-season. Knee injuries limited him to only 8 games in 2007. He came back this past season as a backup, but started 11 games at left tackle once Sam Baker went down with a back injury early in the season. Upon Baker’s return, he still split snaps with Weiner over the final few games of the season. Weiner had the following to say to the AJC about his decision to retire:
“It’s been something that has been weighing on my mind for quite some time to be honest with you. After going through the season that we had, and the amount of discomfort and pain that I was going through with the knee, it was just time.”
Weiner finishes an 11-year career where he started 116 games, including 96 with the Falcons. Weiner was a pivotal piece on an offensive line that led the league in rushing for three straight seasons between 2004-06. He was originally a second round pick by the Seattle Seahawks in 1998, playing four seasons primarily as a reserve with that team. Per the AJC, the Falcons will have $4.75 million in cap relief towards this season.