FLOWERY BRANCH — Brian Finneran allowed himself a satisfied smile.
Another year. Another comeback.
Finneran, 34, is back for his 11th season with the Falcons and on Wednesday proclaimed he felt healthy and ready for the team’s preseason schedule, which begins with Friday night’s game against Kansas City.
A proclamation of good health is notable for Finneran following major knee surgeries in 2006 and 2007 and another season-ending knee injury last year.
Finneran didn’t hesitate when asked if he felt a sense of satisfaction to be playing years after many believed his career was over.
“Absolutely,” he said. “After I did it the second time in 2007, even for a few weeks I was done in my head. Mentally, I was done.
“But I just kept chugging along and working hard and I’ve got two years under my belt now and feeling pretty good. I had a couple of banged up knees last year but nothing serious and I’m back now healthy and I just keep going and working hard. It’s a tough sport. Guys get banged up every week. You just try not to be that guy.”
The severity of the 2006 and 2007 injuries allowed Finneran to almost casually dismiss the torn left posterior cruciate ligament that ended his 2009 season in December.
Finneran has recovered from far worse knee injuries.
The receiver suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in his 2006 training camp with the Falcons. He also suffered cartilage damage and a displaced knee cap.
The devastating injury could have ended Finneran’s career. He needed a year to recover but then also missed the 2007 season when the left ACL again blew out.
That was when even he believed his career was over.
Instead, the 34-year-old receiver played in a combined 26 games the last two years and is back for his 11th season with the Falcons. He made a quick recovery after suffering back spasms at the start of training camp.
“He had a couple of days where he was flat on his back but he was able to get back out here with us,” coach Mike Smith said Wednesday.
Finneran expects to play in Friday night’s first preseason game against Kansas City.
“The knees feel good,” Finneran said Wednesday. “I had a little back issue early in camp the first practice and then I got over that quick. When you’re 34 years old, camp is never fun and never feels that great. But I’m feeling all right now. I’ll be ready to go Friday night.”
The Falcons need Finneran, who for a decade has been a valuable possession receiver. Others, especially two-time Pro Bowl pick Roddy White, are targeted for big plays. The Falcons count on the 6-foot-5 Finneran to move the chains.
Of Finneran’s 217 career catches with Atlanta, 167 have been for a first down or touchdown.
The Falcons need Finneran because Michael Jenkins, expected to be the No. 2 receiver behind White, suffered a shoulder injury and could miss four to six weeks. Harry Douglas, a contender to move up as a starter, is still recovering from the season-ending knee injury he suffered in last year’s training camp and will miss Friday night’s game.
Finneran may not play long against the Chiefs. Smith likely will remove his starters and older players in the first half.
“We’re going to work Brian like all the old guys in terms of number of snaps in the preseason,” Smith said. “We’re familiar with Brian and what he’s capable of doing.”
Eric Weems, Troy Bergeron, rookie Kerry Meier and such undrafted free agents as Brandon Harvey and Andy Strickland are expected to take most of the snaps at receiver.
“We are deep at that position and if anything this is going to give an opportunity for guys to step up and get some more experience,” said quarterback Matt Ryan. “... It gives me more time with them.”