Falcons have punt returning options

FLOWERY BRANCH -- It doesn't look like rookie Robert Alford will return punts for the Atlanta Falcons this Sunday in Arizona.

Alford, who fumbled his only chance at a return this past week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, admitted he held the ball too loose on the play. The turnover didn't sit well with head coach Mike Smith or special-teams coordinator Keith Armstrong.

"Well, obviously we've got a couple of other guys we're going to look at," Armstrong said Tuesday. "We'll make a decision during the course of this week as to who we're going to go with. So, thank God we have some options."

Alford took over as the primary punt returner after Harry Douglas became the No. 1 wide receiver. Douglas moved into that role after Julio Jones suffered a season-ending foot fracture and Roddy White missed a game due to hamstring and ankle injuries.

Douglas fumbled a punt himself earlier in the season but sounded like he never wanted to be relieved of his duties in the first place. The Falcons likely would be better off keeping him from returning punts for now in order to preserve his health.

When asked if Dominique Franks, who was primary punt returner last season, would be an option, Armstrong remained secretive.

"We'll see," he said.

The Falcons need a spark in the return game. Through six contests, they are tied for 29th in the NFL in punt returns.