FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, who led the Falcons in tackles prior to getting injured, said that he would practice on Wednesday, the first time he has done so since injuring his ankle on Oct. 28 – a good indication that Weatherspoon will play for the first time in four weeks on Sunday.
Weatherspoon was limited in his participation.
In other injury report news, wide receiver Julio Jones (ankle) did not practice nor did cornerback Asante Samuel (shoulder). Both players were limited in the number of snaps they played last Sunday because of those injuries. Defensive tackle Peria Jerry also did not practice. Jerry left Sunday’s game with a quadricep injury.
Falcons head coach Mike Smith said on Monday that he was optimistic about getting back some of the team’s injured players for this weekend’s game at Tampa Bay. Smith did not name any players but Weatherspoon, who has missed the last three games, is the only starter among the group.
“Today we just wanted to ease him back in,” Smith said of Weatherspoon on Wednesday. “I would anticipate if there’s not any residual effects from today’s practice he’ll be a full participant tomorrow.”
Before addressing the media in the team’s open locker room session prior to practice, Weatherspoon pulled on a garish yellow Dickie’s coverall suit that he said tight end Tony Gonzalez had bought for him. Weatherspoon called it his “coming back to work suit.” “I’m feeling pretty good,” Weatherspoon said.
Weatherspoon said he was not close to playing on Sunday against Arizona but said he feels a lot better this week.
“It’s tough,” he said of missing the three games. “We won two of those games. We can take that as a positive.”
Weatherspoon’s spot in the starting lineup had been taken by veteran Mike Peterson, 36, and by first-year starter Akeem Dent in the nickel package. Modestly, Weatherspoon would only say the Falcons’ defense missed his energy while he was gone, but safety William Moore was more blunt.
“He’s a big upgrade to the defense, he’s a leader of the defense and it’s good to have him back,” Moore said.