Falcons have decisions to make on more than two dozen players

Justin McCray’s bizarre NFL odyssey heads to Atlanta  

In 2015, Justin McCray had graduated from Central Florida and spent a year on the Tennessee Titans’ practice squad as an undrafted free agent. 

His parents, Cliff Sr. and Debra McCray, apparently have that silly “everybody has to get a job” rule. So, after he was cut, he found a job as a bellman at an Orlando resort and continued to dream about making it in the NFL.

“I got $100 one time,” said McCray when asked about his biggest tip Tuesday. “It was definitely worth it. Me and my brother (Jordan, his twin). We took 13 bags up five flights of stairs because the elevator was down.”

McCray, 27, who agreed to terms a one-year deal with the Falcons on Thursday, will not have to worry about climbing stairs with bags.

McCray, an offensive lineman listed at 6-foot-3 and 317 pounds, will be counted on to add some depth behind a offensive line that gave up 50 sacks and 135 quarterback hits in 2019. 

McCray went on the play for the Orlando Predators of the Arena Football League, before getting discovered by the Packers at his second Pro Day in 2017. 

The McCray brothers talked the Central Florida coaches into letting them participate in the school’s Pro Day. His performance impressed the Packers and before he played an Arena game with the Tampa Bay Storm, he was off to Green Bay, where he made the 53-man roster in 2017.

There won’t be any longshot Pro Day stories from 2020, with the majority of them canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

“It’s a shame that a lot of kids aren’t able to do their Pro Days this year,” McCray said. “Because if it wasn’t for that second Pro Day, let alone my first, I wouldn’t be where I am today.” 

In 2015, both of the McCray brothers signed with the Predators. 

“Honestly, Arena football was awesome,” McCray said. “I was catching passes. Playing with my brother. We were having a lot of success on the team. The only thing was that it wasn’t paying much. It was still football. We still got to travel and play the game that we loved. It was a really good thing.”

McCray was all set to keep playing with the Tampa Bay Storm.

“I actually took my physical for the Tampa Bay Storm,” McCray said. “I’d got a called for the workout in Green Bay a couple of days after that, so I didn’t actually end up playing (for the Tampa Bay Storm).”

Jordan McCray was in training camp with the Bears last season. He played in the XFL for the Tampa Bay Vipers before the season was suspended.”

Justin McCray played in all 16 games with the Browns last season and made four starts.

In 2017, McCray caught the eye of the Packers and offensive line coach James Campen, who played from 1987-93 for the Saints and Packers. Campen coached McCray with the Packers and the Browns. Campen now is with the Chargers.

With injuries hitting the Packers in 2017, McCray found himself starting at right tackle to replace Bryan Bulaga in Week 2 of the season. He played in 13 games and made eight starts, six at right tackle and two at right guard.

In 2018, he played in 12 games and made five starts for the Packers. He played 344 snaps at right guard, 104 at left guard and 32 snaps at left tackle.

The Falcons have openings at backup swing tackle and backup center/guard with the departures for Ty Sambrailo and Wes Schweitzer in free agency. McCray has played all five positions, including center. 

“In the (exhibition) season only, the years in Green Bay I started games in the (exhibition) season at center,” McCray said. “I’ve played quite a bit of snaps there.”

The Falcons didn’t tell McCray where they will try to play him. 

“I know they just told me they want me to come in and compete,” McCray said. “They know I’ve played a lot of positions. They know I have a lot of versatility. It gives them different areas where I could end up being at.”

With the players not allowed to work at the facilities, McCray and his brother are working out at home. 

“My Pops has been a high school coach for a long time, so we’ve got a decent amount of equipment back here at his and my mom’s house,” McCray said. “A decent about of backyard. So, we’ve been running, my brother and I have been running in the backyard and lifting in the front.

“So, it’s honestly not as good as we have been doing up until the week before last, but I’m still staying in pretty good shape and feeling good about it.”


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