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Leftwich says ankle injury is only ‘minor’ setback

POSTED: October 15, 2007 5:04 a.m.

FLOWERY BRANCH — Just as Byron Leftwich was celebrating his increased practice time with the Atlanta Falcons, the quarterback left the field Thursday after twisting his right ankle.

For Leftwich, it’s a painfully familiar story.

Leftwich missed 15 games with injuries the last two years with the Jacksonville Jaguars, including 10 games with a bad ankle.

The good news for Leftwich Thursday: He said the injury is not serious, and it’s not the same ankle that shut down his 2006 season.

"It’s OK. It’s a minor sprain," Leftwich said, adding the Falcons’ medical staff "didn’t want me to do anything further to it."

Leftwich said X-rays on the ankle were negative.

"I took the rest of today’s practice off and we’ll see how it feels in the morning," he said.

Leftwich, who was released by the Jaguars late in the preseason, signed with Atlanta on Sept. 18 and made his first appearance in last week’s loss to Tennessee.

Leftwich was only 2-of-8 passing for 28 yards with an interception in the relief role against the Titans.

Coach Bobby Petrino said Leftwich had moved up to No. 2 on the depth chart behind starter Joey Harrington.

Leftwich said the most important part of his move up the depth chart is he has had more snaps with receivers Michael Jenkins, Roddy White, Joe Horn and the rest of the first-team offense.

"That’s the exciting part for me," he said. "I get a chance to throw a route to Mike or Joe Horn or Roddy. I get a chance to throw with those guys in practice. We all know that the more you practice the better you become. We’re going to fine-tune some things and try to get better."

The Falcons are only 1-4 entering Monday night’s game against the New York Giants, but Harrington has earned mostly positive reviews.

Harrington has completed 67.3 percent of his passes (105 of 156). In back-to-back games against Carolina and Houston, Harrington posted one of the top 10 totals for passing yards and one of the top four games for completion percentage in team history.

Harrington was pulled after completing only 16 of 31 passes for 87 yards and an interception against Tennessee. Petrino said Monday Harrington is still the starter, but now everyone knows Leftwich is available.

"I’m going to be ready to play," Leftwich said. "I think I was ready to play last week. I’m just going to be honest with you. I’m not going to use not having the opportunity to play with the first guys as an excuse."

Leftwich overthrew an open Laurent Robinson in the end zone from the Tennessee 22.

"The bottom line is out of all that happened, if I hit that one throw it’s a different football game and everybody has a different feeling," Leftwich said. "I understand that. I understand how close it was."

Leftwich said it is "awkward" to try to lead the Falcons after playing for Jacksonville through training camp and the preseason.

"I’m just trying to get an opportunity to get in a huddle with the guys, for those guys to see my face and those guys to learn my cadence and those guys to get my football down," he said.

"No excuses last week. We didn’t win the football game. But we do have time to prepare this week."

Leftwich and Harrington each have been through quarterback controversies with other teams. Harrington says he won’t be looking over his shoulder.

"None. Not a peek," Harrington said. "Like I’ve said from day one, my job is to be ready to play for this team and when I’m looking over my shoulder I’m not doing my job. I’m focusing on other things. My days of doing that are done."


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