The questions about whether Takk McKinley wanted to play for the Atlanta Falcons came up fairly early in his tenure with the team, largely owing to his habit of liking Cowboys-related tweets or tweeting cryptic things that could be interpreted as a desire to play elsewhere. As is the case with almost everything players share on social media, our standing advice has been that unless Takk makes it clear he wants out, you should probably not read too much into it.
Well, we’re here, and it appears that Takk is not happy he’s still an Atlanta Falcon after the team elected not to move him at the deadline.
These @AtlantaFalcons turned down a 2nd round draft pick when I requested to get traded last year.— Takkarist McKinley (@Takk) November 4, 2020
The same @AtlantaFalcons turned down a 5th and 6th round draft pick from multiple teams when I requested to get traded this year. I only have 17.5 career sacks.
There’s a lot to unpack here. First is the confirmation that Takk asked to be traded last year, something that the team managed to keep tightly under wraps last season. Second is the (unconfirmed, it should be noted) salvo that a team offered a second-round pick in a lost season and the team didn’t take it, which is a little astonishing if true because the Falcons also didn’t pick up his fifth year option. Third is the (again unconfirmed) Takk-sourced report that the team, reportedly seeking a fourth-round selection for Takk, may have turned down fifth and sixth-round picks in exchange for the mercurial pass rusher. Fourth is that Takk apparently believes there are at least three clowns in the Falcons organization, or that the Falcons are an organization deserving of three clown emojis. Either way, that’s not great.
It’s obvious that the relationship between McKinley and the Falcons is deeply fractured. Kelsey Conway, one of the team’s in-house reporters, passed along a quick and ominous statement from interim head coach Raheem Morris, who said that Takk is acting immature.
Raheem Morris says Takk McKinley will definitely be held accountable for his actions.— Kelsey Conway (@FalconsKelsey) November 4, 2020
Whether he’s injured or the team just isn’t interested in playing him, it looks like we won’t see Takk against the Broncos on Sunday.
Morris says Takk won't be able to help the team for the Denver Broncos.— Kelsey Conway (@FalconsKelsey) November 4, 2020
Morris was asked several questions about McKinley’s tweet. Below is a transcript of his remarks, courtesy of the team.
On whether McKinley will be held accountable for his tweets:
“I just got that message when I was coming off the field from walk-through. Obviously, Takk has a groin issue right now and Takk is out and won’t be out there today, but Takk will definitely be held accountable for his actions and everything that goes along with it. That’s with missing whatever he missed today and all of the things he’s missed in the past, so you definitely have to go through the issues and go through all of the stuff you have to deal with and you have to deal with that as an organization. Have to hit it right in the face.”
On whether the organization has discussed the matter:
“No, we haven’t. I guess it just came out. We were out at walk-through and had a great walk-through for Denver, so we’ll figure that out as we go. We’re dealing with the players who will help us go out and be 1-0 vs. Denver right now and we’ll deal with that later.”
On handling disgruntled players as a head coach:
“I don’t know if it’s disgruntled being on the team. I think it’s just immaturity. Right now, it’s just an immature way to act about the situation. Unfortunately, the trade deadline for the NFL is not as popular as the one in the NBA. People get confused with the NBA trade deadline and our trade deadline and how those things work. We’re trying to make it a little bit more popular, trying to make it a little bit better for the guys but that’s not naturally how it works in the NFL. I’ve been coaching this game for a while now. Very rarely do trades happen. Very rarely do things happen. The wrong way to go about is definitely the way Takk is handling it now with a pout. So, as soon as we get an opportunity to talk to him about those things, and how he’s handling that situation, that will be the first and foremost thing you handle first. Then you figure out getting him healthy as far as his groin and then you figure out if he’s even going to be on the team, if that’s even possible at this point. We’ll move forward and we’ll move forward swiftly and we’ll move on accordingly, but right now, the one thing I do know is he won’t be able to help us for the Denver Broncos.”
On whether or not McKinley requested a trade:
“I can’t tell you about either time of a requested trade because the requested trade never came to me directly. All of my conversations with Takk has been on how our focus was to get him back, to get him back as healthy as we could so he can go out and show his best ability and his best timing for our football team this year to go out there and perform. That’s been me and his personal conversations. That’s what I alluded to about the immaturity of going to social media. I don’t have social media, so I won’t be talking to you guys on social media. Anything I have to say, I’ll tell you in person, in a conversation. That’s how I choose to handle my business.”
On whether there were signs that McKinley had matured:
“You have to be honest. You got the memo from Thomas and Dan, I think at the combine, that they weren’t going to pick up his option. Then, after that, he kind of went silent but I do know that he went away and did a great job of training, getting his body in the best possible shape to come back this year and absolutely tear it up. I know his mind was right. I know he had his training regiment down. I know he just had his family members around him and he was out on the west coast. Then, when he came back, you could see it. He looked different. He looked like a different person. He looked like he was in better shape. He looked like he was ready to go. And then, had a really good game versus the Seattle Seahawks. Came out, played really well versus the Dallas Cowboys. Then he got hurt within, let’s say 15 plays into that game, and you start to have those troubles again when you have to sit out and you’re not able to play. Part of the reason that he’s going to have some issues is when he’s not playing football. When he’s playing football and playing at a high level, he’s a great person to be around. When he’s in this mode right now where he doesn’t want to talk and kind of shies away from personal interactions and contact, that’s a problem.”
On whether suspending McKinley is an option for the Falcons:
“There’s always an option to suspend and there’s always an option just not to play. There’s always an option for us to do everything we do. I know a lot of his money is guaranteed, but we’ll obviously talk to Rich about that and go through that whole process. Obviously, we’ll talk to Takk and get that thing done because we’re not going to sit here and talk about that through the papers or through media or however you want to do it. That’s a grown man conversation with another grown man.”
Atlanta’s clearly hoping to get a compensation pick when Takk walks, which this tweet would seem to indicate he’s very likely to do this upcoming offseason. Whether Takk plays the rest of the way is now very much in question, given both his clear contempt for the team that drafted him and the injuries that have robbed him of much of the season. At minimum, the team could choose to fine or suspend him for putting them on blast on Twitter.
The shame of this is that Takk is not a bad player, as his excellent first game performance this year would indicate, but he is one who has not piled up sacks and has dealt with injuries frequently in his career. Had things broken differently on the injury front, the team might’ve gotten that fourth round pick and appeased Takk, or he may have ended up being happier in Atlanta.
This whole situation seems like a mess, and would seem to confirm that Takk’s frustrations with the team have been simmering for a long time. As Takk notes, his 17.5 career sacks (and this post) mean that frustration likely runs both ways, making the possibility of a happy ending in Atlanta for either party deeply unlikely.