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Reduced role for Michael Turner?

As I read through the highlights of the season wrap-up news conference Falcons owner Arthur Blank, coach Mike Smith and general manager Thomas Dimitroff had a little earlier Wednesday, one thing caught my eye.

The Falcons said that running back Michael Turner’s touches likely will be reduced moving forward. I find that very interesting on several levels.

Although Turner finished the season with 1,340 rushing yards, I didn’t think he looked like the same back as he did in earlier seasons. Turner looked slow, especially as the season went on. After Week 11, he had only one 100-yard rushing game and that was against a dismal Tampa Bay defense in the season finale.

Turner was dealing with a groin injury for much of the second half of the season and that might have played a role in keeping him quiet down the stretch.

But there’s something else. Turner will turn 30 in February. Turning 30 is almost never a good thing for a running back, especially one who has more than 300 carries in each of the past four seasons.

Turner remains under contract through 2013 and I don’t think the Falcons are ready to part ways with him. But I think it’s safe to say that they already have signaled they plan to reduce his role.

The Falcons increased the playing time of rookie Jacquizz Rodgers as the season went on. I don’t see Rodgers taking over Turner’s role because they’re different types of running backs. Turner is a power back and Rodgers is a speed back. But I think the Falcons may gear their offense a little more toward taking advantage of Rodgers’ speed.

Jason Snelling has been Turner’s main backup and he is a power back. But Snelling never has been viewed as a potential long-term successor to Turner. I think the Falcons could spend part of the offseason looking for another power back to pair with Turner.