CHARLOTTE – The division rivalry between the Falcons and Panthers has yielded more than its fair share of exciting games, due in part to players suiting up for both teams over the course of their careers, including retired safety and current Panthers game analyst Eugene Robinson and, more recently, cornerback Robert McClain.
Although drafted by the Panthers in the 2010 NFL Draft, McClain has spent more time with the Falcons - three seasons, to be exact – than with any other team. McClain returned to Carolina late last season when fellow corner Bene Benwikere was placed on injured reserve and brought with him lessons from a four-time Pro Bowler.
"I feel as though my career really changed in my first year with the Falcons (in 2012) when I was with Asante Samuel," McClain said on Monday's edition of Panther Talk. "Just picking his brain a lot and learning not only my opponent that I'm going against, but also route combinations because there's no magic in the NFL anymore. Everybody runs a similar offense. It's really a chess match when you're out there on Sundays , and as you play more years in the NFL, you start seeing different route combinations and how things are set up in certain ways."
McClain has successfully shared those lessons with the next generation of cornerbacks within Carolina's locker room.
"The guy that's been the most help to me has been Robert McClain," rookie corner James Bradberry said. "He's a veteran. He's given me tips on how to watch film and what certain receivers want to do. He also takes great notes, so he's been very helpful to me."
McClain made good use of his time with the rival Falcons gleaning knowledge, and now he's honored to rejoin the Panthers locker room four years after being cut before the 2011 season.
"It's a lot different here, the closeness the team has from the coaches to the GM, all the way from the top to the bottom," McClain said. "I feel like I'm with family here. I'm not afraid of making mistakes when I'm on the field. Everybody trusts everybody. It's literally like being in a family."
Those mistakes, be them by McClain or the rest of the Panthers' defense, will be important to limit this Sunday in Carolina's final regular season contest at the soon-to-be-replaced Georgia Dome. "They're a very, very explosive offense. They're the number one offense in the NFL right now, so we'll have to be out there on our Ps and Qs defensively," McClain said. "We have to go out there and make sure we stop their weapons on offense."
View the top photos from Carolina's game against Minnesota by team photographer Melissa Melvin-Rodriguez.