FLOWERY BRANCH — The Atlanta Falcons’ depth chart at wide receiver doesn’t look much like coach Mike Smith planned.
Smith confirmed Thursday that Harry Douglas will miss the season with a knee injury. Pro Bowl receiver Roddy White is in a contract holdout, and so suddenly the Falcons’ three-receiver formation includes Eric Weems, who has one career catch, and Brian Finneran, who hasn’t started a game since 2005.
Both Weems, who rooms with Douglas at the Falcons’ training camp, and Finneran, who missed two seasons with knee injuries, said they felt pain for Douglas when he hurt his left knee in practice Wednesday.
“The way he went down was a bad feeling, a bad feeling,” Finneran said.
The teammates’ fears were realized when Smith said Douglas tore his anterior cruciate ligament and is out for the year.
Smith said Michael Jenkins, Finneran and Weems would be the starters in a three-receiver formation “if we had to go right today.”
“Of course there’s a lot of water to go under the bridge between now and the first game,” Smith said.
The team signed receiver Robert Ferguson, who has played seven seasons with Green Bay and Minnesota, in time for him to join Thursday afternoon’s practice.
Weems spent most of the last two seasons on the Falcons’ practice squad, and had only one catch for 4 yards last season. Finneran caught 21 passes, including his first touchdown catch since 2005, but did not start last season.
General manager Thomas Dimitroff said the team may have to wait until NFL roster cuts to find help at wide receiver.
“A lot of players become available on Sept. 1,” Dimitroff said. “This is not a time of year where there are a lot of players available.”
Weems originally signed with the Falcons in 2007 as an undrafted rookie from Bethune-Cookman and played in six games last season. Even if White ends his holdout, Weems seems destined for a more prominent role this year, as he also will have a chance to replace Douglas on punt returns.
“I returned a little bit in college,” Weems said. “I’m definitely comfortable doing that.”
Weems, receiver Chandler Williams and running back Jerious Norwood fielded punts on Thursday.
The bigger concern is obviously the sudden lack of experience and depth at wide receiver.
“I’m very disappointed for Harry personally but in terms of us building our team for 2009, injuries are something that are going to happen,” Smith said.
“As I told our players this morning, one man’s misfortune is another guy’s opportunity and that’s what we have to keep in mind. Somebody else can step up and have an opportunity to perform.”
Douglas was filling in for White with the first-team offense in training camp before his injury. He had 23 catches for 320 yards and a touchdown as a rookie last season. He had a 61-yard punt return for a touchdown against Carolina — the Falcons’ first since 2004.
Weems said Douglas “has a big spirit.”
“He’s going to take his rehab seriously and he’s going to be back next year,” Weems said.
Other receivers in camp include Troy Bergeron, better known in Atlanta for his time with the AFL Georgia Force, and three undrafted rookie free agents: Bradon Godfrey of Utah, Aaron Kelly of Clemson and Darren Mougey of San Diego State.
Finneran said he has appealed to White to end his holdout and return to the team.
“Absolutely. We’ve been doing that the last few days, from day one,” Finneran said. “We need Roddy.”
White has missed the first six days of training camp and has accrued fines of more than $95,000 — or $15,888 per day. He is working out with former Alabama-Birmingham teammates in Birmingham, Ala.
White’s agent, Jonathan Feinsod, had no comment in an e-mail response on Thursday when asked if the injury to Douglas had an effect on the negotiations with the Falcons.