FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – A Falcons starter and one of the team’s top draft picks will miss all of the team’s offseason team activities and be shut down in terms of on-field practices until training camp, coach Mike Smith said Wednesday.
Speaking during the second of three sessions available to the media, Smith delivered the information about starting defensive tackle Corey Peters (foot) and third-round pick Lamar Holmes (foot) – the second player the Falcons took in April after trading their first-round pick last year in the Julio Jones deal with Cleveland. Neither player has participated so far in the sessions, which began last Tuesday. Holmes also did not participate in the team’s rookie camp May 11-13.
In addition, starting linebacker Stephen Nicholas, who suffered an ankle injury late last season, has yet to step on the field during OTAs. Smith said Nicholas is still ”progressing” but did not offer any more specifics on his situation.
With the struggles of 2009 first-round pick Peria Jerry, a defensive tackle out of Mississippi who blew out his knee in the second game of his NFL career and has never really showed what his potential is, Peters has emerged as an important player. A third-round pick in 2010 out of Kentucky, Peters has started 30 of 31 games since joining the Falcons and posted three sacks last season. The Falcons do not have great depth at that position, but Vance Walker and Jerry have emerged as situational players the last few seasons.
As the Falcons look to improve on their offensive line and create a healthy competition for a couple of spots, Holmes will get a late start – which will likely impact his chances to get on the field and make a difference. The 6-foot-6, 333-pounder out of Southern Miss just got out of a boot, Smith said, but the team wanted to be “very cautionary.”
With Holmes out, guard Mike Johnson, a third-round pick out of Alabama in 2010 whose development has been constrained by injuries, practiced with the second team at right tackle on Wednesday. Smith said the move was made with an eye towards having to set a 53-man roster come final cuts in September and giving the team the maximum flexibility on roster decisions.
With Nicholas out, Spencer Adkins is listed on the depth chart as his backup. Adkins played in Nicholas’ spot in the Falcons’ 24-2 loss to the New York Giants in January in their wild-card playoff game. A sixth-round pick out of Miami in 2009, Adkins has one career start under his belt – in the 2011 season finale against Tampa Bay with Nicholas out.
Two of the team’s oldest and most productive veterans on each side of the ball are not participating in the sessions – defensive end John Abraham and tight end Tony Gonzalez – as Smith noted on Wednesday that the practices are voluntary.
Recently acquired cornerback Asante Samuel – who pumped a new kind of intensity into the first OTA last week – did not participate on Wednesday because of what Smith said was an excused absence for a previous engagement. As a result, the first-team defense’s nickel formation worked without three starters – Christopher Owens took Samuel’s spot. Gonzalez was the only starter missing on the offensive side on Wednesday.