Though the New York Giants and Houston Texans have gotten a lot of attention as underperforming teams this season, the Atlanta Falcons have to be right there with them, at 1-4. Coming off their bye week, they'll play the remaining nine games of the season without wide receiver Julio Jones, and unfortunately, he's not the only member of the team with health problems.
Roddy White, WR, (hamstring/ankle): This appears to be shaping up as the week White is forced to miss the first game of his professional career. Some might argue that it should have come sooner; in retrospect, even White acknowledged the high ankle sprain has been more problematic than he expected. Nonetheless, he was determined to try to gut it out until the team’s bye week in an effort to contribute at some level.
After suffering a setback with the ankle in Week 4, then a hamstring injury in Week 5, it appears a single bye week isn’t enough time to get him back in playing shape. In fact, White was recently seen limping in the facility, as reported by ESPN.com’s Vaughn McClure. Not practicing at all this week certainly isn’t improving the chances that we'll see him on the field Sunday and at this point, it seems even White would acknowledge that he needs to get his body right in order to better help his team.
Steven Jackson, RB (hamstring): Jackson is another Falcons player who apparently has yet to get his body right. With no explanation coming from the Falcons through Thursday’s practice, his obvious absence was a bit puzzling. From the outset, Jackson’s hamstring injury was expected to cost him multiple weeks, but there were hints that he would be returning following the team’s Week 6 bye. That bye has now come and gone and Jackson has yet to practice with his teammates. According to McClure, Jackson is now expected to miss his fourth straight game.
Significant hamstring strains can take multiple weeks for recovery, and had there not been hints prior to the Week 5 game that Jackson was “close” to returning, this continued absence might not garner as much attention. Is the team simply being cautious, or is there something more serious to explain his situation? It sounds as if Jackson’s healing just hasn’t progressed in the latter phases, as the team had hoped.
Speaking to reporters after practice, coach Mike Smith offered this assessment: "It's a hamstring that's been tough to come back from at this point in time." Smith noted that once doctors have cleared Jackson to return to practice, he will be back out there with the team. With Jackson not even being cleared to practice yet, it becomes virtually impossible to make a game plan for a return.
He is a high risk for re-injury, not only because hamstring strains are known for recurrence but because of his age (30), his history (multiple soft tissue injuries) and his position (running back), all of which are associated risk factors. While it’s understandable that no one wants Jackson to return too soon and suffer a major setback, the increasing length of his absence is in and of itself worrisome, in that it reflects just how serious this injury actually was, an injury he suffered not even two full games into the season.
Jason Snelling, RB (concussion): On a positive note for the Falcons, Snelling returned to full practice this week after suffering a concussion in Week 5. As long as there are no setbacks, he should be available this weekend. That may turn out to be a big deal, as Jackson continues to be out of the picture.