The sound you might have heard coming from South Hall on Thursday was the first shoe dropping. Now, Falcons fans sit and wait for the other one.
Thursday morning, the franchise got word that second-year wide receiver Harry Douglas was done for the year after tearing his ACL in a Wednesday practice. More bad news out of Flowery Branch followed in the afternoon, when coach Mike Smith confirmed that second-round pick William Moore could miss up to a month with a knee injury.
In football, injuries happen, so losing a couple of second teamers might not seem like cause for existential crisis, but this is the Atlanta Falcons we’re talking about — a tragically unlucky, and sometimes just plain bad, NFL franchise. Fans have seen enough poor fortune in the team’s 43 years to spot a curse ... err ... a trend when they see one.
Meanwhile, the team’s top receiver, Pro Bowler Roddy White, is a no-show six days into training camp. Douglas was filling in with the first team offense in his absence, but now that the curtain’s drawn on his 2009, we’re left with Brian Finneran (fine, if this was 2005) and Eric Weems (great, if this were Bethune-Cookman).
The Falcons moved quickly Thursday to sign free agent Robert Ferguson and fill out the depth chart, and they could sign another receiver soon. That’ll be enough to replace Douglas’ 23 receptions from last year, but it doesn’t solve the puzzle left at punt returner. And it is nowhere near enough to satisfy the team’s need for a legitimate No. 1 wide out.
No matter how you feel about White and his on-field antics, it is hard to argue against his production. Those unsportsmanlike conduct penalties may be an irritant, but 2,500 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns in the last two seasons make a soothing balm.
And now it seems the team’s negotiations with the star receiver are breaking down. For almost a week, general manager Thomas Dimitroff expressed confidence that talks wouldn’t turn sour. But his comments Thursday indicate both sides are hardening their positions.
“I’m a little bit disappointed with how things have slowed down,” Dimitroff told The Associated Press. “As we all know, Roddy is under contract and would have to play at his current contract.”
White is set to earn $2.5 million this season under that deal, signed prior to his rookie season in 2005. He’s reportedly looking for something in the neighborhood of Larry Fitzgerald’s four-year, $40 million contract. Odds are long that he’ll cash in at that level, but seasonlong holdouts are a rarity in the NFL, and odds are much better that White will make his appearance with the team prior to September.
But it’s hard to blame the Falcons fan for preparing for the worst.
Brent Holloway is the sports editor for The Times. His columns appear on Fridays.