By Matthew Asher
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Because the Falcons clearly haven’t had enough issues with injuries already this season, if Matty Ice and company want to hand New England their first loss of the season, they now may have to do it with up to six offensive backups taking on starting roles.
While the Falcons as a team have been banged up pretty much the entire season thus far, the big news regarding injuries for the game is the possible return not of a Falcon, but of Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (back/forearm). Gronk has been recovering from back surgery he underwent during the summer. In typical fashion, Pats head coach Bill Belichick has not revealed if Gronk will actually play, as he was limited in practice both Wednesday and Thursday. Coach Mike Smith did say that regardless of whether Gronk will play or not, the team is preparing like he will play and will adjust if he does not.
Three of the injured offensive starters are left tackle Sam Baker (foot/knee), center Peter Konz (knee) and right guard Garrett Reynolds (knee). The other three starters are wide receiver Julio Jones (knee), Roddy White (ankle) and running back Steven Jackson (hamstring).
Just like last week, running back Jackson didn’t participate in any practices this week. The Falcons are not putting Jackson on the injured reserve list because he’s expected to be out another one to three weeks. Until then, expect to see him on the list even though he will definitely not be playing. Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling will again fill in for Jackson, as they both did a great job last week combining for nearly 200 yards of offense.
Both wide receiver Roddy White (ankle) and tackle Sam Baker (foot/knee) did not participate in practice on Wednesday. Falcons fans can breathe a little easier because both were able to return on Thursday, albeit in a limited role, but the good news is they did practice. If Baker is out, Jeremy Trueblood or Ryan Schraeder are the two likely replacements.READ MORE: NASA's Mega Moon Rocket Arrived At The Launchpad Ahead Of Liftoff
Atlanta’s other starting wide receiver Julio Jones (knee) was limited in practice Wednesday and Thursday. Again, if Jones and/or White are limited during the game, backups Harry Douglas and Drew Davis will have to step up and fill the rather big voids left by the Pro Bowlers.
Konz and Reynolds were limited in practice on both Wednesday and Thursday. Joe Hawley is listed as Konz’s backup and Harland Gunn would fill in for Reynolds if either man is unable to play. The final offense player listed is backup running back Josh Vaughan (ankle). He was able to fully participate in practice both Wednesday and Thursday.
Seven of the eight players listed this week are offensive players. Backup cornerback Robert McClain (knee) is the only defensive player but he has been able to fully participate both Wednesday and Thursday.
Kickoff is scheduled for 8:30 pm EST.
- Probable: a 75% chance the injured player will be medically cleared for the game
- Questionable: a 50% chance the injured player will be medically cleared for the game
- Doubtful: a 25% chance the injured player will be medically cleared for the game
- Out: there is no chance the injured player will be medically cleared for the game
For more Falcons news and updates, visit Falcons Central.MORE NEWS: Diesel Is Now Below $5 A Gallon For The First Time Since March
Matthew Asher is a freelance journalist. From an early age, sports have played a major role in his life. He graduated from Emory University with a B.A. in Journalism. After college he spent 2 years working with CNN Sports and still occasionally writes sports articles for several publications both in the United States and Canada. His work can be found on Examiner.com.