White's growth helps Falcons flourish

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FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. --- Roddy White is smiling more than ever.

The Atlanta Falcons are winning, their offense is controlling the clock and the three-time Pro Bowl receiver is thriving under pressure.

"I just like the competition it brings out in me, going out there and trying to perform well," White said Monday.

White was still grinning a day after chasing down San Francisco cornerback Nate Clements and stripping the ball loose. Clements thought he was about to score and secure a 49ers' victory after his interception of Matt Ryan.

Instead, Falcons guard Harvey Dahl recovered the loose ball, and Atlanta resumed a game-winning drive that included four catches by White for 60 yards.

With a 3-1 record, the Falcons are tied with three other teams for the NFC's best record.

White is becoming one of the league's top receivers -- though his first two years were hardly much fun. After being drafted 27th overall in 2005, White found Atlanta's nightlife too enticing to ignore.

"A couple of times, coach (Jim) Mora used to sit me down and tell me, 'We are waiting on you. Come on. Come on,' " White said. "I took it the wrong way, like a grain of salt. 'I'll get it, I'll get it,' I would say, but I just never got it."

When Mora benched him in 2006, White's reputation in the receivers' meeting room was strained. A two-year standoff with veteran receiver Brian Finneran wasn't getting any better.

"Roddy didn't like me very much his first couple of years here because I was on him pretty hard, trying to tell him to stay out of the streets and do the right thing," Finneran said. "But he knows now that it was all because I love him."

White said deep down he knew Finneran was right.

"When I first got out here, we didn't see eye to eye," White said. "He always told me that I was talented and that I could run and jump and do all of this stuff, but he said, 'You don't put the work in. It makes me sick to see guys like you who are capable of doing great things in this league and you don't want to give up the effort.' "

White's switch clicked during 2007, when he became the first Falcons receiver in seven years to have 1,000 yards receiving in a season, despite working with a quarterback carousel that included Joey Harrington, Byron Leftwich and Chris Redman.

Since the start of 2008, White is second in the NFL in yards receiving on third down. His 32 catches this season ranks second in the league, and he ended Week 3 as the league's No. 4 receiver in yards after the catch over the past three seasons.


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