Takkarist McKinley is passionate. You saw it right after the Falcons traded up to select him with the No. 26 pick in the 2017 draft. On Friday, McKinley spoke to the media following rookie minicamp, and his passion for this team and the game was evident.
McKinley is sidelined for the time being as he rehabs a shoulder that required surgery. He played through the injury at UCLA, and he said he’s eager to see what he can do once he’s fully healthy. But not being able to get on the field with his teammates is frustrating.
“I like to compete. I like football, and I don’t like to be on the sideline just watching,” McKinley said. “I like to be out there with my brothers, helping make plays and stuff like that. So I understand it’s a process. I’ve got to get the shoulder right, and once it’s right, I’m going to help the Atlanta Falcons — do what I can to get wins.”
For now, McKinley is spending his time on the sideline watching, learning, and making sure he’s physically at his peak.
“I wasn’t able to do stuff that I wanted to do, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be in shape and do sled work, do ladders, et cetera, just to keep my body in shape,” McKinley said. “But it’s just good to be in Atlanta and just be here.”
McKinley said there’s no timetable for his full recovery, but that he’ll be rehabbing the shoulder six days a week and trying to get a little better each day. After today, he’ll head back to UCLA to satisfy an NFL rule that sends rookies from schools on the quarter system back to their university until final exams have concluded. McKinley will be with his teammates in Flowery Branch on Saturday, and he’ll head back to UCLA Sunday.
It isn’t ideal for McKinley to not be here with his teammates, but it won’t keep him from getting up to speed.
“I don’t think it will be too much of a challenge.” McKinley said. “Like I said, it sucks that we’re on the quarter system and I can’t be here the entire rookie minicamp, but there’s ways to Skype, FaceTime if I’ve got any questions.”
McKinley knows he needs to put in the work now if he wants to earn the opportunity to contribute with the Falcons.
“I mean, for me, everything is earned, and I don’t want the job handed to me,” McKinley said. “I understand there’s vets here, and they’re all out there competing. That’s what I want to do. I want to compete. I don’t want nothing in life ever to get handed to me, so I’m OK with competing. If I don’t win the job, I don’t win the job, but just know I’m going to work to get that job.”
And McKinley is already fitting right in here in Atlanta.
“I love Atlanta. Great fan base,” McKinley said. “I just can’t wait to be able to play in the new stadium and get sacks, third down. I mean, come on — rise up.”