NFL

Falcons WR White practices for first time in three weeks

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The Canadian Press
11/1/2013 6:48:10 PM
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FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Roddy White isn't concerned that he might not be 100 per cent healthy for the remainder of the season.

The four-time Pro Bowl receiver just wants to get back on the field and help the Atlanta Falcons end their terrible slump.

"We've got to try to string some wins back to back if we're going to get ourselves back in this race," White said Friday. "So it's going to be important for me to be out there."

Nine months after their season ended 10 yards shy of the Super Bowl, the Falcons have been one of the league's biggest disappointments. They have lost four of five and are tied for the NFC's fourth-worst record.

A season-ending foot injury to Pro Bowl receiver Julio Jones four weeks ago cost Atlanta one of the NFL's elite deep threats, and the passing attack has been further compromised by White's right ankle and left hamstring injuries.

White is eager to play Sunday when the Falcons (2-5) visit Carolina (4-3). The ninth-year veteran returned to practice Friday for the first time in over three weeks and is listed as questionable.

"It went well," he said. "I ran some routes and did some things that are in the game plan. I felt real good out there."

White played the first five games with a high ankle sprain, but had just 14 catches for 129 yards and no touchdowns -- far below the weekly statistics he accustomed to posting as the Falcons' career-leading receiver.

In helping Atlanta win the NFC South last year, White became just the fifth NFL player to have three consecutive seasons with at least 90 catches and 1,200 yards receiving.

Coach Mike Smith says White's status will be a game-time decision. White must successfully complete a hamstring test with trainers before team doctors will clear him to play.

White, who missed the first game of his career two weeks ago in a home victory over Tampa Bay, has stood on the sideline the last two weeks and is eager to return to action.

"That might be an understatement," Smith said. "He's one of the most passionate, competitive guys that I've been around. The sooner we get him back out, the better it is for everybody."

Three other starters -- left tackle Sam Baker (knee), safety William Moore (hip) and defensive end Osi Umenyiora (knee) -- are also listed as questionable.

All three practiced Friday but, like White, were limited in their participation. Linebacker Stephen Nicholas (thigh) has been ruled out for the second straight week.

The Falcons' passing attack ranks No. 4 in the NFL, but those numbers are somewhat misleading after Jones' season ended when he was leading the league in yards receiving and ranked second in catches.

Injuries to Jones and White have allowed opponents to double- and triple-team Pro Bowl tight end Tony Gonzalez, the NFL's No. 2 career-leading receiver.

Unfortunately for Atlanta, quarterback Matt Ryan, when he's not being sacked or hit, has been forced to direct an offence that's essentially one-dimensional.

With Steven Jackson hampered by a hamstring injury and the line's poor blocking, the Falcons rank last in the league in the rushing, but because they're often trailing, Ryan has had to throw the ball throughout the second half.

If White can return effectively, the team is confident that Harry Douglas will continue to improve as the No. 2 receiver and that Gonzalez might get more separation in coverage, particularly if he's matched up one-on-one.

"At the beginning of the season, you know you've got a really good team with everybody (healthy), but seeing how banged up we are right now, you've just got to find ways to win games," White said. "It's tough sledding, but it's the NFL, though."

Notes: Smith said that Jones, who is still recovering from surgery, has been at the Falcons' complex the last three days, but added that the 24-year-old has his leg immobilized and must not put weight on it. ... Starting linebacker Akeem Dent (ankle), reserve defensive tackle Peria Jerry (toe) and starting right guard Garrett Reynolds (knee) participated fully in practice and are listed as probable. ... The Panthers have three starters listed as questionable -- running back DeAngelo Williams (quadriceps), defensive end Charles Johnson (groin) and linebacker Chase Blackburn (foot).

Roddy White (Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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