Falcons notes: defending the offensive line's honor

FLOWERY BRANCH — Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey defended his offensive line’s style of play Wednesday.

New York Giants defensive end Justin Tuck called the Falcons “dirtbags” Monday and noted their “reputation.”

Earlier this season, defensive linemen from Green Bay and Detroit made allegations against the Falcons’ offensive line.

When asked if the linemen were clean, Mularkey said, “Absolutely.”

The Falcons contend that they are physical and just block, hit, push and shove until they hear the whistle stop blowing.

Mularkey clearly takes umbrage with the allegations.

“We thrive on doing things right,” Mularkey said. “We thrive on playing physical. We’ve been doing that for four years. Nothing is ever preached beyond the whistle. Ever.”

The Falcons’ offensive line was a finalist last season for John Madden’s most valuable protectors award, which goes to the league’s top line.

Early in his career, Falcons right tackle Tyson Clabo had a brief stay on the New York Giants’ practice squad. He has met Tuck and couldn’t believe that he called the Falcons’ linemen “dirtbags.”

“He didn’t mean it,” Clabo said. “He’s a nice guy.”

When pressed, Clabo continued to defend Tuck.

“I’m telling you, I don’t think he meant it,” Clabo said. “We’ve met. We are not close or anything, but I just don’t think he meant it. He’s like a really nice guy.”

Clabo would not deny that Green Bay and Detroit players have accused the Falcons of playing dirty.

“That’s true. There have been others who have said similar things,” Clabo said. “My response to them is that we play up to the whistle. We are going to go continue to do that. That’s kind of the way we play.”

Clabo went to the Pro Bowl last season.

“We are not going to hit anybody late,” Clabo said. “We are just going to play to the whistle. If you want to call it dirty, call it dirty. What else can you do?”

Clabo finished fourth behind Detroit’s Ndamukong Suh in a midseason poll by Sporting News that ranked the NFL’s dirtiest players.

Center Todd McClure was proud of Tuck’s claim.

“I kind of take it as a compliment,” McClure said.

Problems at linebacker

With Sean Weatherspoon missing practice with a head injury, the Falcons are getting thin at linebacker.

Stephen Nicholas (toe) already is doubtful, and Mike Peterson was placed on injured reserve before the final regular-season game.

Robert James is listed as Weatherspoon’s backup on the team’s depth chart.

When asked if Weatherspoon was in the NFL’s concussion protocol, Falcons coach Mike Smith said, “He will be back out tomorrow. In terms of your question, we anticipate he’ll back out tomorrow.”

Tight end Tony Gonzalez, defensive end John Abraham, running back Michael Turner and McClure were held out of practice Wednesday.

Wide receiver Harry Douglas (groin), cornerback Brent Grimes (knee), wide receiver Kerry Meier (groin), safety William Moore (groin), tight end Michael Palmer (knee) and Nicholas (toe) did not practice Wednesday.

“Hopefully, we’ll get the majority of these guys back tomorrow,” Smith said.

Lofton wins award

Falcons middle linebacker Curtis Lofton was named the NFC’s defensive player of the week for the last regular-season game. Lofton finished the 45-24 victory over Tampa Bay with 14 tackles, one tackle for a loss and an interception returned 26 yards for a touchdown.

Snead’s name hot

Les Snead, the Falcons director of player personnel, is one of the hot names to fill one of the vacant general manager jobs in St. Louis, Indianapolis or Chicago. The Falcons have granted permission to the Rams to interview Snead.

Snead broke into the NFL as a scout with Jacksonville. He has been with the Falcons for 13 years and is considered one of general manager Thomas Dimitroff’s top lieutenants.