November 5, 2001 — So how does an NFL player spend a Sunday afternoon during a bye week?
“I watched football,” Atlanta Falcons starting center Todd McClure said. “I just laid on the couch and watched football.”
Todd was back in Baton Rouge, La., last weekend. He flew home after practice on Thursday.
“It’s a lot of visiting relatives and eating,” Todd said. “That’s what it always boils down to.”
Parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles galore. They were all there, awaiting Todd and Heidi McClure’s visit during the Falcons’ off week.
Thursday night, Todd and Heidi fried fish with Todd’s grandparents. The next night, they enjoyed a roasted pig — “cochon de lait” in Cajun country — with the whole clan. The weekend continued with a barbecue at Heidi’s parents’ house.
Three days off in mid-season feels like three months for players accustomed to bruising six-day work weeks.
“There’s not a whole lot of it during the season,” Todd said.
Especially when you have a 4-month old son at home.
“It’s been a while since we’ve been to a movie,” Todd said. “We used to do whatever we wanted to. Now we’ve got to think about the kid before we do anything.
“Whenever I have off time, it’s the chance to get stuff done that I don’t have time to do during the week. So it’s running errands, doing work around the house, taking care of the son, you know?”
Todd and Heidi, middle school sweethearts, were married before Todd’s rookie season in 1999. He never lived the life of a single professional athlete — and he has no regrets.
“Whenever we have off days, I guess some of the single guys will go out downtown and do whatever,” said Todd, 24. “I guess being married has a lot more plusses to it. You’re not out doing all that. You’re at home resting when you need to. And when married guys come home from work, a lot of times your wife will have a meal cooked.
“You should ask Ephraim about what it’s like being single.”
Media darling Ephraim Salaam, Atlanta’s starting right tackle, was, as usual, shuffling a deck of UNO cards in front of his locker at noon on Wednesday.
“So Ephraim,” I asked, “is it as easy as I would assume for pro athletes to meet women? Are there groupies?
“It’s easy to get dates. Hell, even Kadela can get dates,” Salaam said, raising his voice for the sake of rookie tackle Dave Kadela, seated nearby.
“Easy, brother,” Kadela mumbled in response. “Easy.”
“It’s quality dates, though,” Salaam continued. “That’s the thing.”
Unlike Todd, Salaam has no baby at home to tend to. But he still avoids the club scene. Instead, he goes to an average of three movies every week.
“Mainly I go to the movies by myself, because I can’t stand people talking to me during the movie,” said Salaam, 25, who owns a movie production company — 4XL Entertainment — with New Orleans Saints tackle and former San Diego State teammate Kyle Turley. “I’m a real movie-goer. That’s my release from dealing with the stress of this so-called job.”
Todd’s releases are golf and fishing, but he rarely has time to do either during the season. So he’ll often settle for a Monday-night cigar.
“I like to do that to unwind,” Todd said.
The Tuesday of the bye week, Todd actually managed to sneak in a round of golf. He went with one of his Sugar Hill neighbors, a Falcons season ticket holder who owns a hardwood floor company.
“So, you hang out with your neighbors,” I said. “Are you treated just like any other guy on the block?”
“I wouldn’t say that,” Todd said with a snicker. “Every time I pass them down the street, they want to talk about football.”