FLOWERY BRANCH — Tye Hill says having to stand on the sideline while healthy and watch the Atlanta Falcons’ first five games has been more difficult than missing 20 games due to injuries with the St. Louis Rams.
Hill’s wait for playing time could end this week when the Falcons play at Dallas. The cornerback is one of the Falcons’ options to replace Brian Williams, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in Sunday night’s win over the Chicago Bears.
Williams and Hill are locker-room neighbors. Hill said he didn’t want his opportunity to come at the expense of his friend’s injury.
"That’s definitely not how you want to get put in, but this is the NFL and that’s how a lot of people get their opportunities to play," Hill said Wednesday.
The Falcons traded a seventh-round draft pick in 2010 to St. Louis for Hill on Sept. 1.
Hill, who started 21 games with the Rams from 2006-08, has been inactive every week for the Falcons.
"I’ve sat on the sideline and watched, but I’ve never sat on the sideline and watched while I was healthy," he said.
Coach Mike Smith says the loss of Williams creates an opportunity for Hill, Chevis Jackson and rookie Chris Owens.
"With the loss of Brian we have to have contingency plans," Smith said.
The Falcons’ unofficial depth chart released Wednesday listed Brent Grimes and Chris Houston as the starting cornerbacks. Jackson is expected to play nickel back, the role he held in his 2008 rookie season.
Jackson replaced Williams against the Bears and gave up a touchdown pass on his first play. He said he is confident he’ll be ready for a return to a more prominent role.
"If anything it’s better to have a year under my belt," said Jackson, the 2008 third-round pick from LSU. "My confidence is fine. I never lost confidence. I know I can play this game. I’m a good player. I just have to go out there and perform."
Hill was the 15th overall pick out of Clemson in 2006. He started 10 games as a rookie and had three interceptions. He was limited to eight games, including seven starts, in 2007 and suffered a knee injury after starting the first four games last year.
Smith said Hill and the coaching staff have had to be patient as the cornerback learned the Falcons’ defense.
"It is kind of hard, I’m not going to lie about that," Hill said, adding "I’m still learning, of course. I’ve only been here two months. But I’m picking it up pretty well.
"They want to make sure I learn everything. They have to have a comfort level and I also have to have a comfort level to get out there."
Hill said he is ready.
"I fully believe if my number is called I will be ready," he said. "I’ve been working pretty hard to try to catch up. ... It’s going to be a learning process all season. But as far as being comfortable enough to play, yeah."
NOTES: RB Jerious Norwood said he expects to miss this week’s game at Dallas with a hip injury he suffered in Sunday night’s win over Chicago. "I doubt I’ll be able to go this week," said Norwood, who did not practice. FB Ovie Mughelli (calf) also did not practice, leaving the team short-handed at running back and fullback. Smith says he hopes to have Mughelli back on Thursday. Smith says Norwood is "day to day." ... The team released QB D.J. Shockley, the former Georgia star, from its practice squad and signed former Florida State RB Antone Smith, who worked with the scout team offense on Wednesday. ... S William Moore (hamstring) did not practice and may not play this week, according to Smith.