October 21, 2001 — Marty Carter’s locker was full on Monday. It was empty on Wednesday. And the Atlanta Falcons practiced as if nothing had changed. Such is life in the NFL.
“It’s weird,” Falcons starting center Todd McClure said. “And it shows you how … cutthroat this business is. You’re here one day and you’re gone the next. There are no guarantees in it.”
Carter, an 11-year veteran and Atlanta’s starting strong safety, was cut Tuesday after another disappointing performance by the Falcons defense in Sunday’s 37-31 overtime loss to San Francisco. The LaGrange native had been with Atlanta since 1999.
“I think it came as a surprise to everybody,” said Todd, who learned of the move from former teammate Calvin Collins — signed by the Minnesota Vikings earlier this week — who had read about it on the Internet. “I don’t think anybody was expecting it. You don’t normally see a starter get cut in the middle of the season. It was a surprise to me.”
But Todd has been through this before. After three years in the league, he has learned one certainty: Nothing is certain in the NFL.
“I can look at the team photos from when I first got here and the team photos now,” Todd said. “I bet half the guys that were in the first one aren’t there now.”
These are not just teammates. These are friends. Sometimes it’s fate, sometimes it’s free agency, but saying goodbye is never easy.
Todd remembers the day this preseason when friend and former Falcons guard Anthony Redmon was let go. Their lockers were side-by-side.
“He came up to me and said, ‘Todd, take it easy man. I want you to take care of yourself. I’m out of here. They let me go.’
“I said, ‘You’re lying.’ I thought he was messing with me, playing a joke.
“But he said, ‘No, I wouldn’t lie to you about this.’
“Your heart just drops. You just feel sorrow. You feel really sad for the person, because you know it hurts them — and their families.”
That’s the part fans don’t often think about. For every roster move, there is often a family on the move, as well. It’s life on the run — like living in the military, only with more colorful uniforms.
“I think it affects my wife more than anything,” Todd said. “She worries about it more than I do, because she’s made friends with some of the wives here and she knows they’re not going to be here forever. We may not be here forever. Odds are, nobody will be with one team for a long amount of time with free agency.
“I try not to think about it too much.”
Former Falcons offensive line coach Art Shell told Todd the one thing he needed to know about job security in the NFL — there isn’t any. The minute you get to the league, Shell said, is the minute they start trying to replace you.
“I think it all depends on how you’re performing on the field,” Todd said. “Right now, I feel like I’ve been doing a pretty good job. So if something were going to happen to me, then that would come as a big surprise.
“I try to think of it as God’s got a plan. If He wants me to be somewhere else, then that’s the way I’ve got to go with it.”
Baton Rouge, La., native Todd McClure will have several fans in the stands today at the Louisiana Superdome for the Falcons game against the New Orleans Saints. Last year, for his son’s first pro game in New Orleans, Todd’s father Leo secured 70 tickets for family and friends.
But whom will these Louisianans be rooting for — their team or their native son?
“I think all my relatives, whenever the Falcons play the Saints, they’ve got to be Falcons fans,” Todd said with a chuckle. “But they might be different after the fact, you know.”