Tatupu injury could alter Falcons' plans

July, 21, 2012
7/21/12
2:49
PM ET
There is some pretty significant news coming out of Atlanta on Saturday. Falcons coach Mike Smith told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu recently suffered a pectoral injury and, at very least, will miss the start of training camp.

It remains unclear how serious the injury is and Tatupu is scheduled to meet with a specialist. But we’re talking about a 29-year-old linebacker that has had injury problems during his time in Seattle, sat out last season and said he contemplated retirement before signing with the Falcons. Maybe the injury is minor and Tatupu comes back quickly. Or maybe it’s more serious and could put an end to his career.

Either way, it helps the chances of second-year pro Akeem Dent ending up as the starting middle linebacker on opening day. I think that’s been the hope of the Atlanta coaching staff since the departure of Curtis Lofton to New Orleans in free agency. I think Tatupu was signed as insurance in case Dent wasn’t ready to take over the starting job.

Instead, the Falcons now may be without that security blanket and Dent could be the starter --ready or not.

Pat Yasinskas | email

ESPN Tampa Bay Buccaneers reporter

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