Valdosta Daily Times

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December 26, 2013

Peters injury leaves 11 players on Falcons’ IR

Flowery Branch — The Atlanta Falcons are finishing the season with 11 players on injured reserve, including two additions this week.

The Falcons, who complete their disappointing season on Sunday against Carolina, placed defensive tackle Corey Peters on IR on Thursday. Peters left Monday night’s loss at San Francisco with a right Achilles injury.

Earlier this week, rookie safety Zeke Motta was placed on IR after undergoing neck surgery.

It is a fitting end to a season filled with injuries. Among other prominent names on IR: wide receiver Julio Jones, left tackle Sam Baker, right tackle Mike Johnson, fullback Bradie Ewing and defensive end Kroy Biermann.

Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, running back Steven Jackson and receiver Roddy White missed three or more games with injuries.

“It’s been a difficult year for a lot of guys,” coach Mike Smith said after Thursday’s practice. “I feel for the guys personally because they’ve all worked hard and they’ve all had expectations to have a clean season and a good season. For us as coaches, it’s part of the NFL. Some years you’re going to have more. Some years we’re going to have less.”

The Falcons (4-11) may be without Weatherspoon and running back Jacquizz Rodgers against the Panthers. Weatherspoon was inactive against the 49ers with a knee injury and hasn’t returned to practice this week.

Smith said Weatherspoon’s knee “hasn’t responded” and the goal is to have the linebacker run on the side during Friday’s practice.

Rodgers is going through the NFL’s concussion protocol.

Peters, second on the team with 5 sacks, was emotional on the sideline at San Francisco following his injury. Peters, who has started 53 of 56 career games, is a pending unrestricted free agent.

The injuries have provided new challenges for quarterback Matt Ryan, who has played behind an offensive line that has been shuffled on a weekly basis.

“It’s been tough sledding, there’s no question about that,” Ryan said Thursday. “We’ve had a number of guys nicked up. It’s part of the game. It’s the part you don’t like about it, but it is part of the deal. Some seasons shape up that way. You’ve got to find a way to adapt and overcome. We haven’t done a good enough job of that.”

Ryan Schraeder, an undrafted rookie from Valdosta State, started at right tackle against the 49ers. Peter Konz and Harland Gunn rotated at right guard.

Ryan has had to throw to such fill-in receivers as rookie Darius Johnson, Kevin Cone and Drew Davis.

The line, which also included center Joe Hawley, left tackle Lamar Holmes and left guard Justin Blalock, gave up only one sack against the 49ers. Given solid protection, Ryan completed 37 of 48 passes for 348 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions in the 34-24 loss.

“You learn from whatever situation you get put in,” Smith said. “I think Matt has shown a lot of resiliency throughout games and throughout this season. I felt like he played one of his better games of the season on Monday night. I think it is apparent when he has time and we can keep the pocket clean that he can dissect a defense.

“But it’s a learning experience, having to bring younger receivers along, having to interact with them differently. I think it will bode well for us in the future.”

Smith noted the Falcons avoided such widespread injuries in his first five seasons.

“We’ve been very fortunate in our first five years in terms of the number of guys that we’ve had put on injured reserve,” Smith said. “The great thing is all of these injuries are ones they can recover from and we anticipate getting them all back.”

Notes: The signed safety Sean Baker and defensive tackle Adam Replogle to the active roster from the practice squad. Smith said it is possible the two will be on the active roster against Carolina. Replogle (6-3, 294) was signed as a free agent out of Indiana. Baker (6-0, 209) was signed by Tampa Bay as a college free agent out of Ball State in 2012 and was signed to the Falcons practice squad on Oct. 22.

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