Last Sunday, the Atlanta Falcons continued their strong second half to the season by defeating, guess who, Kyle Shanahan’s San Francisco 49ers. On the offensive line, rookies Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary put together solid showings. As their rookie seasons wind to a close, Dan Quinn spoke about the importance of the two finally playing together during Wednesday’s press conference.
“Off the field, they’ve obviously already built that [chemistry], but on the field, you need it,” he said. “The fact that [Lindstrom] is able to come back and play, it’s a big deal.”
The return to action clearly meant a lot to Lindstrom. Quinn also told reporters the story of when he joked with the rookie that he was not going to return against Carolina in Week 14 when the Falcons defeated their division rivals 40-20.
“When we knew he was going to play against Carolina, but I told him ‘maybe next week,’ he wasn’t having it,” Quinn said. “He stood up in his locker and was like, ‘No, I am ready to go right now.’ … I was like, ‘I am just messing with you, man. You are good; you passed with flying colors. Go have fun and go do it.’ He was pumped to be back.”
So, what has the transition into the NFL been like for the young men? Lindstrom spent a large part of this season on the IR due to a foot injury he suffered in week one. Mentally, the road to recovery was a smooth one.
“The big thing that [Quinn] preaches is to have a routine [and] stick to it,” Lindstrom said. “I still have three notebooks full of [notes] as if I was playing every day. So, when I came back, I felt like I had put in so much work mentally that it was really about adjusting physically.”
Lindstrom is from Dudley, Massachusetts, a small town near the Connecticut border. His father, Chris Sr., played in the NFL for three years in the 1980s and is in the Boston University Hall of Fame.
“I think [my family] has been great in shaping me throughout my life,” Lindstrom said. The rookie credits a lot of his success to his family, which has quite the resume within the sport. Chris’ younger brother, Alec, currently graces the old stomping grounds at Boston College, where he recently finished up his redshirt sophomore season.
After playing four years of football at Boston College himself, Lindstrom landed in Atlanta, where his football career would enter the next phase.
“[The transition] has been a lot of fun,” Lindstrom said. “It has been a crazy process, and it has been amazing to have so many great friends along the way.”
One of those friends is fellow rookie Kaleb McGary. The two knew each other before becoming Falcons. Today, they now work in unison to protect Matt Ryan and the Falcons’ running game.
“Being able to share this experience with Kaleb and the rest of the rookie class has been really awesome,” Lindstrom said. “Being able to go out there and compete on Sundays has been a dream come true.”
McGary shared the same sentiment when asked about playing with Lindstrom. Over the past couple of weeks, the pair has shown plenty of glimpses into the dream future Atlanta saw when it drafted them. Against the Carolina Panthers, the Falcons gave up only one sack. Against the 49ers, the two stole the show. At one point, the pair combined forces to put Nick Bosa, one of the league’s most explosive pass rushers, on his backside.
“To be out there playing with one of your buddies … it’s pretty cool,” McGary said. “I just consider myself lucky.”
Like Lindstrom, McGary, too, has found the transition from the college to the professional level an enjoyable one.
“It’s been fun, it’s been hard, and it’s been long,” he said. “A lot of the older guys have chipped in to help and give me and [Lindstrom] a lot of advice and answer our 10,000 questions.”
One thing is for certain: if Lindstrom and McGary can continue their growth and development over the next two weeks and offseason, the Falcons will boast a very strong offensive line, one the front office dreamed of when they used the 14th and 31st picks to secure the two in last summer’s draft.