FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. - Roddy White finally looked himself Thursday, his right foot propped up on a stool in front of his locker, a big smile on his face as he talked about his ankle and hamstring.
He hasn't felt this good all season.
White is confident he'll be back in the lineup for the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, nearly a month after his last game and closer to 100 per cent than he's been since training camp.
He was close to playing last weekend at Carolina after returning to practice late in the week, but the Falcons decided to err on the side of caution this time. White acknowledges that it might have been a mistake to play at the beginning of the season when he was clearly still bothered by a high ankle sprain.
"Any time you're an athlete, your body finds ways to overcompensate for any injuries you have," White said. "I wanted to be out there with my teammates from the start of the season. ... Should I have rested it? Maybe so. Maybe I would be completely healthy by now and ready to go. But it is what it is at this point. I'm ready to play now. I can go out there and try to help get this thing turned around."
The Falcons (2-6) are one of the league's most disappointing teams, largely because of a major series of injuries that took out the team's other top receiver, Julio Jones, for the rest of the season.
Atlanta hosts the first-place Seattle Seahawks (8-1) on Sunday, having lost five of its last six games.
"It's always frustrating when you don't win," White said. "It's more difficult when you're not affecting the game. It's tough just sitting on the sideline. You want to be out there. You want to help your team."
White has been listed as limited during both practices this week, but that is merely a precaution to make sure he can handle the workload.
So far, so good.
"I'm pretty sure I'm going to be out there on Sunday," he said. "I wanted to get out there and have a full week of practice before I played in a game. This is the first full week I've gone through. So I'll be ready to play."
White was initially injured in a preseason game, spraining his right ankle. He played the first five games but hardly looked like a player who was just the fifth in NFL history to have three consecutive seasons with at least 90 catches and 1,200 yards receiving.
He had only 14 catches for 129 yards and no touchdowns before injuring his left hamstring in Week 5.
The Falcons were off the following week, and White has since missed three straight games — snapping a streak of 133 straight games he had played in since entering the league in 2005.
With Jones and White both on the sideline, quarterback Matt Ryan has been forced to rely on a patched-together receiving corps that includes Drew Davis, known mainly for his work on special teams, and former scout team player Darius Johnson.
It's no secret that tight end Tony Gonzalez is Ryan's favourite target, so opposing defences have taken extra steps to shut him down. Ryan has tried to be more aggressive in getting the ball to those lining up on the outside, but the result has been seven interceptions in the last two games.
Not surprisingly, Ryan is eager to add a healthy White to the mix for the second half of the season.
"He's been a really, really good player for us for a long time," the quarterback said. "It's tough to replace the explosiveness he brings. We would love to have him back whenever that is."
NOTES: OT Sam Baker (knee), DT Peria Jerry (toe) and LB Stephen Nicholas (thigh) remained limited in practice. DT Corey Peters (knee) was out for the second day in a row.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org
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