FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — Since turning in one of the greatest pass-rushing performances in NFL history, Adrian Clayborn has doled out Thanksgiving meals to the needy, shaken hands with Jay-Z — and gotten the brush-off from his dogs.
Turns out, Ace and King were none too impressed with those six sacks .
When he jumped on the floor to play with them, they ignored their owner and started jostling with each other.
“My dogs don’t like me very much,” Clayborn joked Thursday.
His canines notwithstanding, the Atlanta Falcons’ defensive end remains the talk of the league after his one-man demolition of the Dallas Cowboys, a stunning performance by a player who has struggled to overcome injuries much of his career and actually thought about quitting after being stricken again last season in the playoffs.
Fortunately, his fiancée — and now wife, Shannon — talked him out of retirement.
“She convinced me to give it one more shot,” Clayborn said. “She just told this is what I love to do. She didn’t want me to go out like this. She wanted me to go out feeling good about my career and feeling good about what I did.
“I guess she was right.”
The 29-year-old Clayborn shrugged off his once-in-a-lifetime performance, insisting his attention is now firmly on Monday night’s game against Seattle, but it’s hard to get away from it. Plenty of former teammates have called and texted, including Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett, who played with Clayborn at Tampa Bay.
Bennett described the six-sack game with one word.
Even as Clayborn sat at his locker, scrolling through his cellphone before Thursday’s practice, the TV across the room was showing highlights of every sack.
He looked up briefly, and then returned to his phone.
“It’s been a unique week,” Clayborn said. “I’m just ready to get back to work.”
In addition to going through all those congratulatory messages, Clayborn has been busy away from the field.
He joined teammates for an off-day community project handing out turkeys ahead of Thanksgiving . He was in the front row for Jay-Z’s concert in Atlanta on Tuesday night and even got an acknowledgement from the hip-hop star .
“I wouldn’t say I got to meet him,” Clayborn said. “But I got to shake his hand, so it was a pretty cool experience.”
Clayborn’s accomplishment comes with a bit of an asterisk. The Cowboys’ starting left tackle, Tyron Smith, was out with an injury.
Third-year player Chaz Green stepped into the spot — and had no success stopping Clayborn.
Blowing past the replacement tackle time and time again, Clayborn used his speed and quickness to make life miserable for Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott , who was sacked eight times total as the Falcons romped to a 27-7 victory.
In addition to the all those takedowns of the quarterback, Clayborn forced a pair of fumbles and recovered one of them himself, simply ripping the ball away from Prescott as he was going down .
Clayborn broke the Falcons record for sacks in a game and matched the second-most in NFL history. Derrick Thomas, Osi Umenyiora and Fred Dean are the only other players credited officially with six sacks in a game, while Thomas stands alone at the top of the list with seven for the Kansas City Chiefs in a 1990 game against the Seattle Seahawks.
Falcons coach Dan Quinn said he was especially happy for Clayborn given all the hardship he’s been through.
While playing for the Buccaneers, he missed most of two seasons with knee and biceps injuries. Last season with the Falcons, he sat out three games recovering from a knee injury, only to again tear his other biceps in a divisional playoff game, costing him a chance to take part in Atlanta’s run to the Super Bowl.
“When you have an injury — and he’s had his share — you go to a dark spot mentally,” Quinn said. “‘Do I want to go through all the work and the sacrifice that has to go into the rehab portion of things?’ So for him to have a moment like that, knowing all the sacrifice he put in during the offseason was worth it, to know that ‘I’m back to as good or better than I have been’ … that means more.”
Clayborn’s teammates whooped it up after his once-in-a-lifetime performance .
“It seemed unreal,” defensive tackle Grady Jarrett said. “It was awesome to see him have that performance and I know he just wants to build off of it.”
The Seahawks have certainly taken note of No. 99.
“Just a dynamic performance,” Seattle coach Pate Carroll said. “He just kept coming and kept bringing it. A big factor, obviously. We’re real concerned about it.”
The guy with the long, thick beard hopes to use last week’s performance as a springboard to his best season yet. He’s now got eight sacks for the season, propelling him into the top ten in the league.
Clayborn is realistic, though, about anything close to a repeat.
“That’s rare,” he said. “That will never happen ever again.”
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