By Cedric Williams

With just a few days instead of the usual full week to get ready for their next game, the Atlanta Falcons went back to work with a walk-through practice Monday afternoon at Flowery Branch.

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Unlike most weeks, the Falcons probably won’t practice in pads at all this week. But that didn’t prevent three key starters from sitting out from Monday’s workout in hopes that they’ll be able to recover from what ails them in time for Thursday night against the NFC South rival New Orleans Saints at the Superdome.

Wide receiver Julio Jones (toe/hamstring), center Mike Person (ankle) and linebacker Justin Durant (elbow) who didn’t practice at all last week and was inactive Sunday against Washington, were the only three players to not practice during Monday’s walk-through.

Jones was on the field for most of Atlanta’s offensive plays on Sunday and had five catches for 67 yards, but he seemed slowed down by his injuries and fell short of the 11-plus catch, 146.6 yard per game average he had set over the Falcons’ first three games.

Person left Sunday’s game in the third quarter and did not return. Head coach Dan Quinn announced late on Monday that Person would not play Thursday, and that he would be replaced in the lineup by second-year man James Stone.

Quinn went on to say that although neither Jones nor Durant practiced Monday, he expected them to play on Thursday.

Quinn learning quick lessons about Falcons-Saints rivalry

A topic Quinn seemed much more excited to talk about on Monday, rather than which of his players are injured and might not play in the next game, is what he’s learned of the longtime Falcons-Saints rivalry which will be on the display for the first time during his tenure as Falcon head coach this Thursday.

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A lifelong football man, Quinn is well aware of how the Atlanta and New Orleans franchises both began their histories in the NFC West, but then moved to the brand new NFC South, along with Carolina and Tampa Bay, when the league instituted realignment in 2002.

What Quinn didn’t realize until now was how much the Falcons and Saints don’t like each other.

“I have been briefed,” the head coach said. “It’s one of the fun parts about the NFL. We’re looking forward to it.”

Quinn seemed especially intrigued by the similarities between the Atlanta and New Orleans programs. Both clubs went through many years of losing in the 70s and 80s. They both then began to experience their first taste of winning in the early 90s, before finally reaching the promised land — in the late 90s for the Falcons and the 2000s for the Saints.

“Both of our systems, there’s not so much that we just throw in new each week,” Quinn said. “We just want to be detailed in how we do it.

“We know they have some featured players for sure, both offensively and defensively,” Quinn said. “For years, [Saints’ head coach, Sean Payton,] and has his crew have been tough to go against as you could imagine: The way they use receivers, the way they used tight ends. They are really tough at running back, then defensively, all of the different packages that they have. We have our work cut out for us for sure. We have tons of respect for them.”

Kickoff on Thursday night is scheduled for 7:25 p.m.

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Cedric Williams, a lifelong St. Louisan and proud UMSL alum, has been a full-time reporter/photographer covering St. Louis area sports for nearly two decades. Most recently, he has been working as a credentialed beat writer covering the NFL, as well as college and high school sports for the St. Louis American, Patch.com, and other outlets from around the area. Please share any comments, questions, or feedback with Cedric at cedricwilliams510@gmail.com. His work can be found on Examiner.com.