Turner wants bulk of Falcons’ carries

Mike Smith says he’s looking to find more help for Michael

Turner in the Falcons’ running game.

The plan worked last week, when it was easy to rest Turner in

Atlanta’s lopsided 31-7 win at Indianapolis. Turner had less than

half of Atlanta’s 41 carries.

By comparison, Turner had all but one of the carries given to

running backs in the Falcons’ previous game, a win over

Detroit.

Smith’s new plan to spread out the carries will be tested in

this week’s important game against New Orleans with first place in

the NFC South on the line.

Turner said Wednesday he’d like a heavy load of carries.

Smith said the workload will be determined by the ”feel of the

game.”

Smith said he decided in the Falcons’ bye week between the wins

over the Lions and Colts to take some of the load off Turner. Smith

said he and his assistant coaches decided that rookie backup

Jacquizz Rodgers could be trusted with a more important role.

”That was something that through our evaluation in our bye week

we saw that we needed to make sure that we felt comfortable with

Jacquizz in basically all phases, not just only as a third-down or

a change-of-pace back,” Smith said.

”He’s proven that he can run the ball from all of our personnel

groupings. He has a much better understanding than when he got here

in regards to his protection responsibilities. Jacquizz is becoming

the player we envisioned that he would be when we drafted him. He’s

been a great addition and through the second half of the season,

he’s another weapon that we’ll be able to put out there on the

field for our offense.”

Turner had 19 carries for 71 yards and a touchdown against the

Colts, modest totals by his standards.

Rodgers and Jason Snelling combined for 18 carries for 59 yards.

Rodgers’ 10 carries for 44 yards were his high totals for the

season.

”Any chance you get an opportunity to make plays for your team,

it’s always a good thing,” said Rodgers, a fifth-round pick from

Oregon State. ”I’ve got to keep building and getting better every

week so it can help me be a better player and help the team.”

Turner didn’t sound convinced the distribution of carries in the

easy win over the Colts would set the pace for the second half of

the season.

”You know, we pretty much had the game in control last week,”

he said. ”It’s no need for anything fluky to happen out there and

it also gave us a chance for Jacquizz and Snelling to get some

work, too, and show what they have. It works good on my part. I’m

still fresh for the next game and we got the W. That’s what

matters.”

Turner has had four games with more than 20 carries this season,

including back-to-back games with 27 carries against Carolina and

Detroit. He has 692 yards rushing with seven touchdowns.

He said he’s ready for a heavier dose against the Saints.

”If it needs to be, I’ll do whatever it takes to win,” he

said. ”We need this win. We want this win.

”Getting in the 20s and 30s, I’m fine with that. The more I get

it, the more I touch it, the more I feel it. I feel the game.

Hopefully I’ll wear the defense out, wear our opponents out, and

pop some big carries in the second half.”

Saints defensive tackle Tom Johnson said he noticed the Falcons

gave Turner more rest against the Colts.

”They’ve got three guys they like spreading the ball to,”

Johnson said.

”They’re trying to spread the workload on Turner. He’s their

go-to guy on first and second down and then the rest of their guys

are rotating for third down, so they’re one of those teams that is

going to want to pound, pound, pound, and open plays for their wide

receivers.”

Smith said after Wednesday’s practice he will make decisions on

the carries during the game.

”We try to set parameters, but those are just parameters,”

Smith said. ”It’s really going to be the feel of the game and

who’s got the hot hand and how they’re trying to defend us. Michael

is our No. 1 back, there’s no doubt about it, and sometimes if he’s

getting stronger as the game goes on, it’s going to be tough not to

give him those carries.”

That’s just what Turner likes to hear as he continues to move up

the Falcons’ records. In only his fourth season with Atlanta,

Turner already has rushed for 46 touchdowns, two shy of Gerald

Riggs’ record of 48 rushing TDs from 1982-88.

Turner already is fifth on the team’s career rushing list with

4,633 yards, behind Riggs (6,631), William Andrews, Warrick Dunn

and Jamal Anderson.

”That’s where I want to be,” Turner said. ”I want to be up

there in franchise history as far as running backs go. That’s why

they brought me here, to make big plays and do good things for

them.”

NOTES: TE Tony Gonzalez (back), OT Sam Baker (back), DE Ray

Edwards (knee) and S William Moore (quad) missed practice. CB Brent

Grimes (knee) and DT Corey Peters (knee) were limited. DE John

Abraham and C Todd McClure had days off Smith routinely gives to

his veteran players.

AP Sports Writer Brett Martel in New Orleans contributed to this

report.