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FALCONS NOTEBOOK: Exonerated after years in prison, Banks finally gets his NFL shot with Falcons; McClure reflects on career as he heads to Atlanta's Ring of Honor

Brian Banks was falsely accused of rape and kidnapping before clearing his name last May.

Brian Banks was falsely accused of rape and kidnapping before clearing his name last May.

ATLANTA — The Falcons signed linebacker Brian Banks, 27, a former football star who was exonerated on rape charges last May, on Monday.

“We are pleased to have Brian join our team,” general manager Thomas Dimitroff said. “We had a chance to work him out last year and have been monitoring his progress since then. He has worked extremely hard for this chance over the last year and he has shown us that he is prepared for this opportunity. We are happy that Brian will have a chance to live out his dream of playing in the NFL and we look forward to seeing him on the field.”

Banks, 6-foot-2, 250 pounds, spent the 2012 season with Las Vegas Locomotives of the United Football League. He played in two games and posted one tackle. He received tryouts with Kansas City, San Diego, and San Francisco, and attended minicamp with the Seattle Seahawks prior to signing with the Locomotives.

“I just want to thank God for the opportunity,” Banks said. “I want to thank God for life.”

Banks served more than five years in prison following a conviction a decade ago on rape and kidnapping charges. The woman later recanted her claim and offered to help Banks clear his name.

“I’ve had the opportunity of seeing both sides of the human spirit,” Banks said. “My journey has been crazy.”

He will try out for the Falcons as an inside linebacker.

Banks was the 11th-rated linebacker in the country coming out of high school in 2002 and had made a verbal commitment to Southern California before his legal troubles.


Headed for Falcons’ Ring of Honor, McClure reminisces about long career

ATLANTA — Falcons owner Arthur Blank announced recently that center Todd McClure, who is retiring after 14 seasons with the team, will join the franchise’s Ring of Honor in the future.

McClure, who was drafted in the seventh round of the 1999 draft, announced his retirement earlier this month. Flanked last week by offensive line mates Sam Baker, Justin Blalock and Tyson Clabo along with quarterback Matt Ryan, McClure made it official at the Blank Family Foundation Headquarters in Buckhead.

“Jeff Van Note is in our Ring of Honor, as he should be, and you’ll be up there as well,” Blank said. “There are not many folks that end up in that ring for us over the many, many years. You deserve to be in that Ring of Honor.”

McClure was humbled by the gesture.

“I don’t know if I have the right words for that,” McClure said. “When you look up in the rafters and you see those names, (Steve) Bartkowski, (Jessie) Tuggle, (Jeff) Van Note and (Deion) Sanders ... to be mentioned with those names, I don’t feel worthy. But it would be a great honor and I thank (Blank) for that.”

The Falcons indicated they were ready to make changes at the center position when they drafted Peter Konz last season. The team didn’t try to talk McClure out of retirement.

“It’s a business,” McClure said. “I understand the business. These guys were ready to move on. I understand that. I wasn’t going to play for another team, so I’m done.”

McClure reflected on his time and memorable players during stint with the franchise:

Toughest athlete: “I tell people all the time that it was Kris Jenkins when he was at Carolina. He’s definitely the toughest guy that I’ve ever had to block.”

Best athlete: “The best athlete that I’ve seen? I’m going to say (cornerback) Brent Grimes. His athleticism is unbelievable.”

Best moment I: “All of the years run together for me, but when we went up to Lambeau Field (in 2002) and beat the Packers when they’d never been beaten before in the playoffs. The snow started coming down and I looked up at the scoreboard. It said ‘Lambeau Field,’ and I saw that we were ahead at the end of the game. That was a special moment for me.”

Best moment II: “One of the most special moments was after the Seattle (playoff) victory this year. The peaks and valleys of that game, the highs and lows were just unbelievable. To win that game, I can’t describe the feeling and in the fashion that we did, it was definitely an emotional high. It was something that I’d never experienced and probably will never experience again.”

The quarterbacks: “When I first got here, Chris (Chandler) had been playing for a long time, and he taught me a lot about how to read blitzes and what he was looking at. I learned. It was tough early on. Mike (Vick) was just an unbelievable athlete. He got this city excited about this football team and then ran into some tough times. He’s rebounding now. Matt (Ryan) is just a true pro. As soon as he walked in the door, you knew he was going to be successful.”

The running backs: “When I first got here, it was Jamal Anderson and Bob Christian was the fullback. Then Warrick Dunn and T.J. Duckett. I know I’m going to leave some guys out. Michael Turner, Quizz (Jacquizz Rodgers) and (Jason) Snelling. I blocked for a bunch of guys who can run the football. It’s definitely been a pleasure.”

Worst moment: “The Bobby Petrino year (2007).”

Toughest part: “Going out, knowing that we were just 10 yards out (from making the Super Bowl last season), that’s the toughest part. But it’s a part of football. You can’t play forever. I fulfilled my dream as a kid. I got to play football.”

Seventh-round pick: “When I got drafted in the seventh round (from LSU), my goal was just to make the team at that point. My goals kept getting raised as they years went along. I never would have thought it and when I look back on it, 14 years has flown by very fast. ... It’s been a great run. There’s just been the one thing where I came up short. I didn’t get that ring, but it’s time.”

Reality check: “When I first got here and was drafted in 1999, they were fresh off the Super Bowl appearance. I thought that we were going to go right back and that it would be easy. It is not. It didn’t quite happen like that.”