FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) Antone Smith, best known for his special teams play in his first five seasons with the Falcons, finally has a chance to show he deserves playing time at running back.
With starter Steven Jackson held out with a left hamstring injury, Smith showed impressive big-play potential in the Falcons’ 16-10 win over Miami on Friday night.
Smith’s 35-yard gain after a short catch and 76-yard touchdown run were negated by penalties, but the plays still created a buzz.
”It’s on film,” Smith said after Monday’s practice. ”You can’t take that back.”
Smith has earned more carries in Saturday night’s game at Houston and is savoring his long-awaiting opportunity.
”This will be my sixth season, with the first one being on the practice squad, so I’ve been waiting for this a long time,” Smith said. ”You’ve got to be patient and I’ve been very patient and now that my time is here I’ve just got to take advantage of it.”
Smith rushed for two touchdowns despite having only five carries in 2013. He had a 50-yard touchdown run at Tampa Bay and a 38-yard scoring run on Dec. 1 at Buffalo.
Coach Mike Smith was won over by the two 2013 touchdown runs and said in the offseason the running back deserved more touches.
”After the Buffalo game last season, which I think really showed what kind of explosion he has, we felt like we had to get him an opportunity to touch the football,” Mike Smith said Monday. ”He continues to warrant having touches. We’ll continue to use him in the backfield and as a special teams player.”
Jackson worked on the side with trainers on Monday but no timetable has been announced for his return. Rookie Devonta Freeman left Monday’s practice with an undisclosed injury.
Antone Smith and Jacquizz Rodgers could be the featured running backs at Houston.
”I know my ability,” Smith said. ”I’ve just got to go out there and play on the field every week. Every time I get an opportunity, I’ve just got to explode and make those plays.”
Smith (5-9, 192) impressed his teammates by using his speed to find open field against the Dolphins.
”He showed the explosiveness that he has and the speed that he can change a game on any given play,” quarterback Matt Ryan said after the game. ”It was fun to watch.”
Smith has kept his spot on the team by excelling on special teams. He led Atlanta with 11 special teams tackles last season.
”Up until this year, his main value has been as a special teams player and I believe he’s one of the top special teams player in the league,” Mike Smith said. ”He’s gotten an opportunity to touch the ball on the offensive side and he’s taken advantage of those opportunities.”
Antone Smith was not drafted out of Florida State in 2009. He had to laugh when asked about having his new chance on offense only after the Falcons drafted Freeman in the fourth round from Florida State.
”That’s the business, man,” he said. ”It’s about competition. I’m all for it.
”I knew Freeman before he got here. We had that relationship already. It’s a brotherhood. Florida State!”
NOTES: OT Terren Jones returned to practice. He suffered a concussion and was taken to a local hospital on Aug. 3. … The Falcons will have another practice at their facility on Tuesday morning before flying to Houston. They will have combined practices with the Titans on Wednesday and Thursday. … TE Mickey Shuler took snaps with the first-team offense.
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