Inside slant: Atlanta Falcons Week 8 preview

Need the inside scoop on the Buccaneers' NFC South rivals? Look no further than the "Inside Slant." Every Thursday offers a preview of the weekend's games for the rest of the division. Go inside Atlanta's bye week preparations in this article.

Typically, the bye week is the time for things to calm down, where everybody exhales, re-energizes.

Not with the Falcons. Not by a long shot.

The surprising release of veteran nose tackle Grady Jackson on Tuesday night generated a new wave of bad feelings and skepticism through the locker room. There already was the belief by several veterans that new coach Bobby Petrino and his staff were making the move to a younger roster in preparation for future years.

The release of the run-stuffing Jackson, whose 21 tackles led the Falcons' defensive linemen, validated things to some players.

Cornerback DeAngelo Hall was critical of the move and of management's overall decision-making.

"A lot of guys kind of feel like everyone from the top down is kind of turning it in," Hall said. "I ain't ever been a part of something like that, so I won't start now. I'll go out there and continue to play as hard as I can and make as many plays as I can make to help this team win.

"It's tough to go out there and lay it on the line when you feel as though no one else is laying it on the line. As far as, not players, obviously the players are going to play as hard as they can. When you feel like you're not getting -- I don't want to say coached 100 percent -- maybe they are thinking of something else. It's kind of hard for other guys to play 100 percent ... knowing that everyone's not on board, from the front office on down."

The scorching reaction from Hall was shared by several players, just not publicly.

Coach Bobby Petrino said that Jackson's release had nothing to do with money, health or off-field issues.

"It had absolutely nothing to do with anything but football," Petrino said. "It was just the way we wanted to go. We felt like for our best opportunity to win games, the next nine games that we played, that this was the right move to make, and that's really all there is to it. We made the move and we're moving forward."

Said Hall: "If that's the case, they need to cut about 52, they can cut me, too, they can cut all 53 of us. Ain't nobody playing the way they should be playing right now. Obviously. We're 1-6.

"To single out Grady is asinine. It's ridiculous. We got so many players that haven't made a play around here. It don't make no sense. We gave a lot of people jobs. To sit there and single Grady out and say that's the reason why, that's ludicrous. If you've got something else better and more concrete to go off of, I'd love to hear it. I'm not buying that one."

Rookie Trey Lewis, a sixth-round pick from Division II Washburn University, will start at nose tackle and will be backed up by Montavious Stanley. Lewis has started twice and played in six of seven games. He's been highly productive, which is why there wasn't much apprehension to get rid of Jackson.

"It was unexpected because I thought Grady was playing fine, and I don't know what the reasoning behind it was, but I guess they have faith that I can take over," Lewis said. "Any rookie right now with the Falcons is getting their share of lessons. Everything has happened in this organization that can happen to you as a rookie. New coaching staff, the whole (Michael) Vick thing.

"You really see the business side of everything with the cuts. It goes to show you this is a business and you've got to treat it as such. We've been taught a lot of lessons real fast."


--QB Byron Leftwich had surgery Wednesday morning to repair ligaments damaged by a high ankle sprain. The procedure, which is becoming more common among NHL players, according to coach Bobby Petrino, consisted of the ligaments being moved firmer against the bone.

The timetable for recovery is probably three to four weeks, which, with the Falcons having a bye this weekend, could have Leftwich on the field for Atlanta's Thanksgiving night home game against the Colts.

Leftwich opted for the procedure in order to get back quickly but also to secure the ligaments for long-term durability, Petrino said.

Joey Harrington will take over the starting job he held for the first six games until Leftwich is healthy. If Harrington leads Atlanta to victory in Leftwich's absence, there is a possibility that Petrino could stay with the hot hand.

BY THE NUMBERS: 13 -- Tackles for loss by NT Grady Jackson last year, tops in the league. Jackson was released by the Falcons on Tuesday.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm on board because I have so much to play for. I'm not only playing for this team. I'm playing for myself. I'm playing for my family, for job security. I've got one year left on my deal. I'm playing for another deal. Whether it's here or somewhere else. I got tons of reasons why I got to keep playing.

"I didn't just sign a lucrative deal where I can sit around and watch this ship sink. I can't do that. I got one more year left on my deal. I feel I can go out and get a ton of money, whether it's here or somewhere else. I'm going to keep going out there making as many plays as I can. If guys don't throw my way, there's nothing I can do about it, but if they do throw my way, I've got to make them pay." -- CB DeAngelo Hall in why he won't quit on the season.


--Though Quinn Ojinnaka is slated to replace Renardo Foster at left tackle, recently signed behemoth Harvey Dahl will get the chance to compete for playing time there, Petrino said. Ojinnaka is far more educated in the system but he is a smaller (6-5, 292) player who is more well-versed in the zone-blocking scheme.

--RT Todd Weiner began running drills on his surgically repaired left knee Tuesday. Medical officials spent Wednesday gauging how he responded. Coach Bobby Petrino gave no timetable as to when he felt Weiner would return.

--TE Alge Crumpler (left knee, ankle) will spend the rest of this week and the early part of next week rehabilitating his injuries. He said he expects to be recovered in time to play the 49ers on Nov. 4.

--OLB Stephen Nicholas, who missed the past three games with a high ankle sprain, has increased his rehab workload, but no timeframe was given as to when he would be back.

--MLB Keith Brooking said that even though some veterans feel that coaching and management are phasing them out and have an eye toward the future, players are united. "Regardless of what people think or say, that the locker room is falling apart, that has not taken place," Brooking said. "We are moving forward and all of that. We've just go to start winning."

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