Tuesday, April 29, 2014
Sam Baker expects full clearance this week
By Vaughn McClure
Atlanta Falcons offensive tackle Sam Baker, who underwent season-ending knee surgery last year, told ESPN.com he expects to receive full clearance this week.
``I’m feeling good,’’ Baker said Monday night. ``In a couple days, I should be cleared. I’ve been running, doing everything, and I should get fully cleared in a couple days. It’s great, especially because we’re getting ready with the offseason stuff, to be able to get out with the offense and to be able to go back to doing plays and stuff like that.’’
Baker had problems with his left knee last season and attempted to resolve the issue with platelet rich plasma (PRP) treatment, but it didn’t respond. In November, the team announced he would undergo surgery and be placed on injured reserve.
``It was kind of a strange surgery, so probably a couple of months after, I was able to move and bend it pretty good,’’ Baker said.
Baker played in just four games last season after starting all 16 games in 2012 and performing well at left tackle. The former first-round draft pick is due to make $7.25 million this season with a cap value of $6.05 million.
Although the Falcons have expressed faith in Baker as their left tackle, his position moving forward could depend on which way the team leans in the draft. The Falcons could target one of the top three offensive tackles – Auburn’s Greg Robinson, Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews, or Michigan’s Taylor Lewan – in the first round, if they keep the sixth overall pick. Such a selection could lead to Baker being shifted over to right tackle.
"I think having a tackle that you can bring in who is versatile enough to play both left and right is very important for the National Football League in today’s game," general manager Thomas Dimitroff said recently when asked if the team might consider moving Baker. ``We’re confident that Sam is going to be ready to go. And we expect him to return to the form that he was in 2012.’’
Baker understands those high expectations, especially following last year’s dismal showing by the offensive line.
``I think the whole goal of the team is to just try to move forward and get some cohesiveness on the line, get some new guys in there and just get back to work,’’ Baker said.
The theme of the offseason continues to focus on becoming a stronger, tougher team, particularly up front.
``I don’t take that personally at all,’’ Baker said. ``Those are words that a lot of people throw around. For us, we’re just back to business. We’ve got a new offensive line coach [Mike Tice]. And we’re going to get to work.’’
The Falcons begin organized team activities May 27.