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Leftwich's status uncertain; Falcons enter bye week banged up

POSTED: October 27, 2007 5:05 a.m.

ATLANTA — The Atlanta Falcons limped into their bye week all banged up.

The most pressing concern was the status of quarterback Byron Leftwich, who went down with what appeared to be a high ankle sprain in his first start for the Falcons. He underwent an MRI on Monday, but coach Bobby Petrino wasn’t sure how long Leftwich might be out.

"I’m hoping Byron’s on a timetable that he’s back at some point," Petrino said.

Leftwich, who had replaced Joey Harrington as the starter last week, was hurt on the first series of the second half against the Saints. He gingerly walked off the field with help from trainers and was replaced by Harrington.

Leftwich played well, completing 15 of 23 passes for 145 yards and a touchdown. He also led a pair of scoring drives that ended with field goals by Morten Andersen, giving the Falcons a 13-7 halftime lead.

Harrington was 12 of 18 for 128 yards, but produced only a single field goal. The Saints won it on Reggie Bush’s 4-yard touchdown pass from Drew Brees with just over 5 minutes remaining.

Four-time Pro Bowl tight end Alge Crumpler didn’t even play. He was held out of practice last week with a sore left knee and deactivated just before the kickoff, ending a streak of 40 straight games.

Crumpler had arthroscopic surgery on his knee the past two offseasons. Petrino said the stress of more knee problems combined with a sore ankle made it impossible for the tight end to play two games just six days apart.

With two weeks to get ready for the next game against San Francisco, the Falcons believe Crumpler will be ready to go. He reacted well during training camp when given time off.

"I don’t think it’s where he’ll need to get something done," Petrino said, referring to the possibility of another operation. "Hopefully he’ll come back for the San Francisco game like he did when he took the rest in preseason camp, feeling refreshed and faster."

Though Crumpler and the Falcons (1-6) have two weeks to regroup from another loss, it’s clear this team is already looking toward 2008.

"It’s still a long season, but we’re running out of time," running back Jerious Norwood said. "We are making progress, but we just aren’t translating it into any victories. This hurts."

The Falcons also lost starting left tackle Renardo Foster to a knee injury late in their 22-16 loss to the New Orleans on Sunday.

"Neither one looked good on film," said Petrino, who sounded more pessimistic about Foster’s chances of playing again in 2007.

Foster, an undrafted rookie from Louisville, was making his second start in place of Wayne Gandy, who’s out for the year after tearing up a knee. Now, the spot will go to second-year player Quinn Ojinnaka, though the Falcons already are scanning the list of available linemen to add depth.

The Falcons have played the last two games without either of their No. 1 tackles. Todd Weiner underwent arthroscopic surgery that will keep him out as long as six weeks.

"If Renardo is out for the year, we’ll have to bring somebody else in," Petrino said. "Hopefully we’ll get Weiner back at some point."

Petrino tried to sound optimistic, though it’s getting increasingly hard to find any good news. He pointed out that four of the losses have been by a touchdown or less.

"We’ve been right there," the rookie coach said. "We need to learn how to win the game."Notes: Petrino gave the players Monday and today off. They will return to practice Wednesday and Thursday before getting a three-day weekend.



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