FLOWERY BRANCH — Forget any suggestion that D.J. Shockley should wait another week to make his preseason debut for the Atlanta Falcons.
Shockley said Tuesday he has waited long enough — almost one full year.
Shockley had a chance to win the job as the Falcons’ top backup last summer. Then, in the fourth quarter of a preseason game at Buffalo on Aug. 17, 2007, Shockley’s right foot slipped, causing his left leg to twist awkwardly before he was tackled.
The announcement three days later that Shockley would have season-ending surgery for a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee was overshadowed by Michael Vick’s guilty plea on dogfighting charges on the same day.
Shockley’s lost chance to win the No. 2 job behind Joey Harrington to open the 2007 season only grew more painful when Harrington couldn’t keep the starting job. The Falcons also tried Byron Leftwich and Chris Redman as the starters, and Shockley knows if healthy he could have had his chance to start.
The Falcons selected Matt Ryan with the No. 3 overall draft pick in April.
Ryan could win the starting job as early as the first regular-season game. Redman is expected to begin the year as the starter or top backup. That could leave Shockley and Harrington competing for the No. 3 spot.
New Falcons coach Mike Smith said Tuesday he will wait until later in the week to announce his quarterback rotation in Saturday night’s preseason opener at Jacksonville.
Shockley says he is eager to launch another bid to win the backup job — presumably behind Ryan or Redman — and he hopes his first chance in a game comes against the Jaguars.
"This is the week I’ve been waiting for, to get back and play and see some action and actually compete," Shockley said. "I’m looking forward to it."
Smith said Shockley will play this week.
"D.J. is going to get some snaps," Smith said. "We’ve got a plan to work all those quarterbacks and they’re all going to get an opportunity."
Shockley said the 2007 quarterback carousel is a good reason to avoid thinking he can do no better than win the No. 3 job.
"Regardless of where a guy is drafted, you’ve got to go out there and compete," he said. "You can’t say this guy has it made so I’m just going to fall back. You can’t do that. You’ve got to perform each day because the reality of the situation is you’re always one play away. You have to always be ready."
Shockley has a strong throwing arm, but at the University of Georgia he was best known as a threat to run. Shockley was never compared with Vick as a running quarterback, but even after his second major knee surgery, his ability to run may give him the edge to win a roster spot.
"He’s got an extremely strong arm and he does some things with his feet, so it’s definitely a different dynamic than with the other quarterbacks that we have," Smith said.
Inside linebacker Tony Taylor, another former Georgia player who on Tuesday was named by Smith as a starter against Jacksonville, says Shockley’s threat to run makes him "a different monster back there."
"To have a quarterback who can throw the ball the way he can and run it at the same time, it’s a totally different thing," Taylor said. "He’s got the ability to do whatever he wants and whatever he puts his mind to."
Taylor played with Shockley at Georgia for three years and says the quarterback has made a complete recovery.
"I definitely think he’s back," Taylor said. "Early in the spring you could kind of see he was still a little rusty. I think he’s come a long way since minicamp. I’ve always been a D.J. Shockley fan. For him to get back to the status where he is running around and throwing the ball like he can, I’m happy for him. He’s come a long way."
Shockley, who had surgery after tearing cartilage in his left knee in 2003, was 4-of-5 for 46 yards passing and rushed for 18 yards on three carries before last year’s injury. He spent the 2006 season on the Falcons’ practice squad and has never appeared in a regular-season game.
"I’ve been going at it since last September, so I’m fully ready to go," Shockley said. "I’m going full speed. I think I’m as ready as I’m going to be."