By Danny Cox
With only one game standing between them and heading to New Orleans to play in the Super Bowl; the Atlanta Falcons are looking extraordinarily healthy on the injury report front. As a matter of fact, only five names make up the entire official report that had to be turned into the NFL by Friday afternoon. Not too shabby, right?
Well, even if only five of 53 active players are listed on the injury report, when two of those five are key pieces of your defense; it’s a cause for concern.
The most noticeable name on the list is that of defensive end John Abraham, who is listed as “questionable.” Even though that looks rather daunting for Falcons‘ fans out there, coach Mike Smith and the rest of the team believe that he will be able to go once Sunday and the San Francisco 49ers arrive.
That includes Abraham, himself.
“I feel good,” Abraham said. “My workload was ramped up every day as the week progressed. Everyone is hurt at this time of year, but this is the NFC championship, so we all have to go.”
The ankle injury plaguing Abraham happened in the second quarter of the win over the Seattle Seahawks last week. He played a mere 15 snaps before getting hurt and wanted to go back in, but stayed on the sidelines after Atlanta’s medical staff recommended he say out of the game.
He led the team with 10 sacks in the regular season and a career-high seven pass breakups. Abraham has 122 sacks during his time in the NFL and is the active career sacks leader in the league.
Abraham is obviously not at full strength, and that is evident by the fact that he has been limited in Falcons‘ practices for three straight days this week. Coach Smith believes that he can still push off on his left foot well enough to be efficient in the game and close the pocket around Colin Kaepernick, the elusive 49ers quarterback.
“I think he can be very effective,” Smith said. “With the way the score was at that point and time, we felt like it was not in our best interest to put him back out there. He’s done a nice job this week. He’s participated in practice all week, so we’re anticipating he’ll be ready to go.”
The other big name sitting as “questionable” is defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux. If he were not able to play against Seattle, it would be another big blow to the Falcons’ defensive line. Babineaux had 3.5 sacks, five pass breakups, and one interception during the regular season.
Those two not being able to play are the biggest fears for the Atlanta Falcons at this point as the game with the 49ers draws closer. The other three names on the injury report are all listed as “probable” and will be able to go if necessary and needed. All of them participated fully in practice on Friday.
Moore actually returned against Seattle after missing the four games prior due to a strained hamstring. He declined t say how he hurt his hand, but it will be beneficial for Atlanta if he can play. During the regular season, Moore had four interceptions and eight pass breakups in 12 games played.
Nicholas is a valuable asset on the defensive side of the ball, and that is proven by the fact that he has started 16 of 17 games this season for Atlanta. He will most likely be able to play.
Owens is a backup used occasionally, but he is all healed up and ready to go. His return to practice on Thursday was the first time he had been back since getting hurt in the Dec. 22, 2012, game against the Detroit Lions.
- LB Stephen Nicholas (foot)
- S William Moore (right hand)
- CB Christopher Owens (hamstring)
- DE John Abraham (ankle)
- DT Jonathan Babineaux (shoulder)
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Danny Cox knows a little something about the NFL, whether it means letting you know what penalty will come from the flag just thrown on the field or quickly spouting off who the Chicago Bears drafted in the first round of the 1987 draft (Jim Harbaugh). He plans on bringing you the best news, previews, recaps, and anything else that may come along with the exciting world of the National Football League. His work can be found on Examiner.com.