ATLANTA -- In what will be a significant setback to the Atlanta Falcons' hopes for upgrading their passing game in 2007, wide receiver Brian Finneran has re-injured the left knee which sidelined him for all of 2006, and likely will miss a second straight season.
Finneran will undergo medical testing to determine the extent of the damage, but sources told ESPN.com on Monday evening that the initial indication is that Finneran again tore the anterior cruciate ligament in the knee.
If further examination confirms that suspicion, the injury, the second ACL tear in less than 10 months, almost certainly will be season-ending and could also threaten Finneran's career.
The seven-year veteran initially tore the anterior cruciate ligament early in training camp last July in a non-contact incident in which he was simply making a cut. His absence from the offense contributed to the fact that the Falcons finished last in the NFL in passing offense.
The latest injury occurred on Saturday during the team's weekend minicamp as Finneran was continuing his rehabilitation with some light running. Finneran did not participate in any of the on-field activities at the minicamp and worked mostly on his own. There was no definitive timetable for his return from the initial injury, but the prognosis was that Finneran probably would have been ready for the start of camp.
Finneran, 31, is expected to seek a second opinion on the latest injury and the results might not be available for several days. Not until further tests are concluded will Finneran and the team plot a course of action.
Arguably the wide receiver that quarterback Michael Vick trusted most, and his second-favorite target to four-time Pro Bowl tight end Alge Crumpler, Finneran is a possession-type receiver who is particularly effective on third down. His long frame, at 6-feet-5, 217 pounds, presents a big target, and he is fearless in going over the middle.
When he went down with the knee injury last July, the Falcons' passing game never really recovered. Former first-round picks Michael Jenkins (2004) and Roddy White (2005) were unable to pick up the slack and the Falcons were forced to trade for Ashley Lelie before the start of the season.
This offseason, the Falcons signed 11-year veteran Joe Horn, released by New Orleans early in the spring, and hope he will provide leadership on and off the field. Second-year veteran Adam Jennings, a sixth-round pick who played sparingly as a rookie in 2006, has enjoyed a solid spring. The coaches also have been impressed with rookie Laurent Robinson of Illinois State, a third-round choice in this year's draft.
Still, as last season demonstrated, replacing Finneran is a difficult task.
In 86 games, with 35 starts, Finneran has 187 receptions for 2,647 yards and 15 touchdowns. His best season was in 2002, when he started in all 16 games and registered 56 receptions for 838 yards and six touchdowns.
The former Villanova standout entered the NFL with Seattle as an undrafted free agent in 1998. He was released by the Seahawks, signed with Philadelphia in 1999, and then joined the Falcons late that season.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.