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McKay touts Falcons', NFL's success in Gwinnett

DULUTH -- Throughout his career, Rich McKay has never allowed his schedule to include speeches during the NFL season.

When he stood up to address the Gwinnett County Chamber of Commerce at its General Membership meeting, it was his third such engagement since the Atlanta Falcons began play this season.

"... And we're 6-0," he said. "It makes all the questions easier."

The president and CEO of Atlanta's NFL team addressed the Gwinnett Chamber members for about 20 minutes Wednesday, talking about the success of the league's he's been a part of most of his life, dating back to his father's, John McKay, coaching career, the challenges ahead and about the future of the Falcons in general terms.

In his role with the Falcons, McKay mostly deals with the ever-growing salary cap and finances of the team, including the work on the potential new stadium. McKay didn't offer any insight into the new stadium deal, talking mostly in general terms about timing and the initial discussions with the Georgia World Congress Center.

"The solution (that best works) being a new stadium that gives us a 30-year run," McKay said, noting the idea at the time is a joint public-private financing using the Fulton County hotel tax and capital from the Falcons. "When will that finish? I don't know."

The current lease runs through 2020, but will expire when the Georgia Dome's bonds are paid off, most likely in 2017.

But McKay kept the focus on his local audience, noting that about 50 percent of Falcons staff and players live in Gwinnett County, with an impact in the millions.

He also touted the NFL's immense popularity, citing the Harris Poll's findings that 36 percent of fans rank the NFL No. 1. Major League Baseball and College Football tie for second in the poll at 13 percent.

"We make sure every one of our franchises has the opportunity to compete," said McKay, who saw his father coach the hapless Tampa Bay Buccaneers to 26 straight losses. "When you look at this sport and look at the revenue and how it is shared, you see the advantage of the league.

"Football is in a really good place."

And so are the undefeated Falcons, something McKay continued to promote. Even as the general manager of Tampa Bay when it won the Super Bowl, McKay has never been a part of a 6-0 team.

"This is a tough league. This is not an easy league to win in," McKay said. "We have 10 weeks to go. That's like mile marker eight in a marathon. The season is not really up and going. The marathon begins Nov. 1."