Falcons eager for Weatherspoon's return

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon is eager to get back on the field -- maybe even a little too anxious.

Just ask defensive coordinator Mike Nolan.

"He’s a lift in the meetings right now," Nolan said of Weatherspoon. "Half the time, I have to tell him to be quiet because he makes all the calls as if he’s playing. In meetings, guys make the calls, and he’s making the calls. And I say, 'Nah, how about the guys that are in the game or in the film?’"

Nolan will be glad to see Weatherspoon back in the weekly highlight packages, whenever it happens. Weatherspoon was placed on injured reserve on Sept. 17 with a designation to return after he suffered a foot injury against the St. Louis Rams.

According to NFL rules, teams are allowed to place one player per season on IR with a designation to return. That player is eligible to return to practice six weeks after the date he was placed on IR and return to the active roster eight weeks after the designation date.

That means Weatherspoon was allowed to return to practice last Wednesday, although he remained sidelined. He is eligible to return to the active roster in time for the Week 11 game at Tampa Bay, and Weatherspoon previously announced intentions to face the Buccaneers.

He's been encouraging his teammates on the sideline during games since getting off crutches.

"Spoon is a very positive guy," Nolan said. "I believe everyone not only likes him as a person, but obviously they respect him as a player. [His return] will mean a lot. It will be a couple of weeks, but that will be good."

Weatherspoon recorded 13 tackles in the first two games before suffering the injury in Week 2. The Falcons seem likely to ease him back into the lineup with limited practices at the start, depending on what type of conditioning he has done behind closed doors.

Weatherspoon’s return also will present a lineup challenge for Nolan. The coach has been pleased with the progress of undrafted rookie starters Joplo Bartu and Paul Worrilow and doesn’t want either to take a step back. At the same time, Bartu was Weatherspoon’s backup before the injury, while Worrilow is coming off a 19-tackle game at the other outside linebacker spot.