Baker missed three-consecutive games before returning to the starting lineup in Week 9 at Arizona. Then he was back in street clothes for Sunday’s 33-10 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
Baker has been inactive for five games total this season. He was slowed at the beginning of the season with knee and ankle injuries then went down with a left knee injury against the New England Patriots in Week 4.
"Sam’s been dealing with his knee all season long,’’ Smith said. "He’s fighting through it. We got him back out there after a four-or-five-week time period of allowing him to rest. He wasn’t ready to go this week. And, yes, it is a concern. When you can't go out and play consecutive games, you have to be concerned about it.
"Sam’s doing everything that he can in terms of getting back out there. We want to make sure that he’s 100 percent before we put him back out there on the football field.’’
Baker confirmed to ESPN.com that he has undergone platelet rich plasma treatment (PRP) treatment with his knee apparently specific to his patellar tendon, although he declined to discuss details of the procedure. PRP treatment involves using a patient’s own blood to treat muscle, ligament or tendon injuries. It involves spinning blood to separate the platelets and injecting them into the injured area. It is unclear how many times Baker has undergone such treatments.
If Baker’s knee doesn’t respond soon, the Falcons might have no choice but to place him on injured reserve. The expected return of linebacker Sean Weatherspoon from short-term IR in the next 48 hours means the Falcons will have to make a roster move. Placing Baker on season-ending IR would open up a spot for Weatherspoon, although there are no indications the Falcons plan to shelve Baker, other than the concern expressed by Smith.
Lamar Holmes, the starting right tackle at the beginning of the season, has started five games at left tackle in place of Baker. The organization still believes Holmes has Pro Bowl potential.