Thursday, August 9, 2007
Crumpler likely out of practice for at least a week
By Len Pasquarelli
Already missing their two most notable weapons in quarterback Michael Vick and tailback Warrick Dunn, the Atlanta Falcons will be forced to begin preseason play minus another of the team's few offensive stars.
Four-time Pro Bowl tight end Alge Crumpler has been advised by an orthopedic specialist to sit out practices, likely for at least a week, to rest his surgically-repaired left knee. Crumpler, 29, has experienced discomfort in the knee during training camp and sought medical counsel last week for the problem.
This marks the second time in two summers that Crumpler, a six-year veteran, has been limited in camp. There have been some days in camp so far in which Crumpler did not work at all. He has been limited even when on the field.
Because of the surgery, Crumpler also missed considerable time in the offseason program and did not participate in minicamps.
In early April, he underwent an arthroscopic procedure to clean debris from his left knee. Crumpler had been forced to contend with swelling and pain in the left knee for the past two seasons. Last summer, Crumpler had offseason surgery on his left shoulder.
"It's been frustrating for him," coach Bobby Petrino said. "He came out, felt pretty good for a while, then came back and some pain was back again. He went down and saw another doctor. They think he just needs a little bit more time."
The loss of Crumpler for any appreciable time would be the latest setback for an Atlanta offense that is attempting to assimilate the Petrino design. Vick has been excused from camp by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell while he battles a federal indictment on dogfighting charges. Dunn underwent back surgery last month, a week before camp started, and has yet to practice.
The team's leading receiver in each of the past three seasons, and the pass-catcher in whom Vick has long demonstrated the most confidence, Crumpler's role was expected to be even further expanded in Petrino's offense. How this lost time affects that remains to be seen. But the Falcons, who statistically ranked last in the NFL in passing offense in 2006, and who remain somewhat unsettled at wide receiver, can ill afford to start the year without a player of Crumpler's caliber.
Three-year veteran Dwayne Blakley, who has drawn praise from Petrino in camp but has just 14 career receptions, will assume the starting role while Crumpler rests his knee. The Falcons have three other tight ends on the roster, but none has ever lined up in a regular-season game.
In 94 career games, including 83 starts, Crumpler has 274 receptions for 3,768 yards and 30 touchdowns. The former North Carolina star, a second-round pick in the 2001 draft, has 44 or more receptions in each of the last four seasons. Over the past two seasons, he has 121 catches for 1,657 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.