- Vaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer
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Maybe White wanted to play this Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Maybe he wanted to keep his consecutive-games streak of 133 alive.
Whatever happened behind closed doors this week, it didn’t result in any game-time decision or any last-minute drama. The Falcons got it over and done with by listing White as "out" on the final injury report, with hamstring and ankle injuries.
White himself admitted he should have approached the high-ankle sprain he suffered in the preseason a little differently. Fans took to Twitter and insisted he sit out until completely healed. White ignored the chatter, played through the pain, then vowed to get his body healthy during last week’s bye.
Unfortunately, White made that statement before suffering a hamstring injury in a Week 5 loss to the New York Jets. You figured it was bad news for White when he stood on the sideline that Monday night with a dejected look on his face, knowing he couldn’t return to help his team.
This past week during open locker room, White tried to mask his pain behind a few smiles and jokes. In reality, his heavily wrapped left hamstring showed he wouldn’t be ready to take the field Sunday.
The Falcons now enter their Week 7 meeting with the winless Bucs without their two top receivers. Julio Jones suffered a season-ending foot injury the same night White pulled up with the hamstring. It leaves the Falcons extremely thin at receiver. Quarterback Matt Ryan will have to rely more on tight end Tony Gonzalez and slot guy Harry Douglas.
Newly signed Brian Robiskie is a big target and knows the system, but even his father, Falcons assistant head coach/receivers Terry Robiskie, isn’t anticipating miracles. And former practice-squad players Kevin Cone and Drew Davis have one catch between them this season.
True, it will be more difficult now than ever for the injured-plagued Falcons to rebound from their woeful 1-4 start. But if they have any hope of salvaging this season or even rebounding next year, they need White to be healthy first.
The team doesn’t reveal the extent of injuries, so the severity of White’s hamstring strain is unclear at this point. The fact that teammate Steven Jackson will miss his fourth consecutive game with some type of hamstring injury might not be a good sign for White.
Regardless, the Falcons and White were wise to be cautious. White might be overlooked sometimes because Jones thrills the crowd with spectacular catches deep down the field. But White is just as crucial to the offense’s success.
He was more of a decoy while playing hurt the first five games. Had he been healthy, maybe those red-zone woes wouldn’t have surfaced.
People tend to forget White is a four-time Pro Bowler. People tend to forget White entered this year riding six consecutive seasons of 1,000-plus receiving yards.
Former NFL safety John Lynch, now an analyst for Fox and who attended Friday’s practice, gushed about White’s pass-catching and how it will be missed. White is respected around the league because he’s played at such a high level for so many years.
Now that he’ll be in street clothes for the first time in his NFL career, folks might appreciate him even more.