Smith optimistic about injured defenders

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith sounded cautiously optimistic about the knee injury suffered by linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, and expects free safety Thomas DeCoud back in the lineup off a concussion.

Weatherspoon injured his knee in Sunday’s 27-26 win against the Washington Redskins. It remains unclear whether it is the same knee injury that landed him on the injury report prior to the Green Bay game.

"I do not have an update on Sean," Smith said Monday. "We met this morning, and there was no update. I anticipate that if there’s anything that you guys need to know, we’ll let you know. If not, (then) on Wednesday, we’ll see where he’s at. (I) believe that he’ll be ready to go at some point in time this week."

The Falcons next play Dec. 23 at San Francisco on ESPN's "Monday Night Football."

If Weatherspoon is unable to go, Stephen Nicholas would return to the starting lineup alongside rookies Paul Worrilow and Joplo Bartu. Nicholas had five tackles and a forced fumble after Weatherspoon left Sunday’s game.

As for DeCoud, he missed the Redskins game after suffering a concussion against Green Bay. DeCoud stood on the sideline Sunday.

"Thomas will go to the next step in the protocol," Smith said. "He will be participating in practice on Wednesday, but it will be non-contact. We’re anticipating that we’ll have Thomas back, barring any setbacks in practice."

Smith reiterated his stance from last week about not having any intentions of shutting DeCoud down for the season.

"The doctors will make that decision based on what they say," Smith said. "If they have cleared him to go out and play, we need to have Thomas out there on the field. It gives us the best chance to win."

The Falcons went with rookie seventh-round pick Zeke Motta in place of DeCoud on Sunday, and Motta admitted making a few mistakes in coverage.

"I thought Zeke did some good things," Smith said. "Obviously, as we mentioned, there are some learning opportunities, some learning situations on certain plays. I thought as the game went on, he played much better.

"There at the end of the ball game, I thought that he made some very physical tackles. And it was his first time starting in the National Football League, and he did a good job for us."