Falcons safety William Moore will miss his fourth straight game with a hamstring injury on Sunday, perhaps putting into question whether he will be ready for the team’s playoff game in two weeks.
Moore has a history with hamstring injuries. He suffered two during his rookie season of 2009 that, along with a knee injury, limited him to two games that year. Moore has played all 16 games in a season only once in his four years, missing 22 of 64 games.
Head coach Mike Smith said on Wednesday that Moore’s return to the playing field was a matter for doctors to decide. Moore has not practiced or played in a month. He injured himself in a 23-13 win over New Orleans on Nov. 29.
Moore has flourished in new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan’s system and become known as a ball hawk. He has four interceptions, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery, and turnovers have been a key component of the Falcons’ success this season. At plus-12, they rank sixth in the league in turnover margin, while they rank 20th in total yards allowed.
With Moore out, the Falcons have used a combination of 11-year veteran Chris Hope — who has started all of the games in Moore’s absence — and converted cornerback Dominique Franks, who has been surprisingly effective in that role.
“I would like for William to be ready to go, but the doctors have got to make that determination,” Smith said on Wednesday. “We’re to a point in the process that we need to get him as healthy as can be.”
Sunday’s game is essentially meaningless, except, perhaps, for implications involving draft order. The Falcons already have sewn up home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, and Tampa Bay has been eliminated from postseason contention. So as much as Smith has said the Falcons will pull no punches, there is no reason for them to try and rush Moore back.
For the most part, the same goes for wide receiver Roddy White. The only reason for White to play would be to extend his streak of consecutive games played to 128. Remarkably, White has never missed a game in his career.
White has a knee injury and participated in practice on Friday on a limited basis, the first time all week that he practiced.
While several other players also are on the injury report, the others all were listed as questionable and have practiced for most of the week. White (knee) and defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux (ribs) have played with their injuries for multiple weeks.
The only other Falcons player ruled out is cornerback Christopher Owens (hamstring). Owens’ absence only would come into play on special teams and if any new injuries should arise.
Tampa Bay did not rule out any players, but reserve guard Roger Allen was listed as doubtful with a groin injury.