ATLANTA -- Defensive tackle Rod Coleman, who leads all NFL interior linemen in sacks for the past five seasons, will make a belated 2007 debut for the Atlanta Falcons when the team hosts the surging New York Giants on "Monday Night Football."
Coleman finally returned to the practice field Oct. 4 after a difficult offseason that included two surgeries, and Falcons officials took a cautionary approach in determining when he was ready to get back into the lineup.
The return of Coleman, who plays the under-tackle position and is key to Atlanta's pass rush, means that the Falcons, who are struggling at 1-4 under first-year coach Bobby Petrino, will have their starting defensive line intact for the first time all season.
Besides Coleman, the Falcons will welcome back defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux, a third-year veteran who missed the last three games with strained knee ligaments.
Coleman nearly returned to the lineup last week in the Falcons' loss at Tennessee, but the medical and training staff felt he needed one more week of conditioning and a little more time to strengthen his surgically repaired knee.
The ninth-year veteran underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Sept. 7 for what the Falcons said was a procedure intended to clean out debris from the joint. But Coleman later said that the procedure actually addressed a broken right kneecap that he feels he sustained when he landed awkwardly during a drill in training camp.
Coleman, 31, suffered a ruptured right quadriceps during an April jet-ski accident and needed surgery, forcing him to miss virtually the entire offseason program and much of training camp. About the time Coleman was finishing his rehabilitation from the surgery on his quad, the knee problem emerged.
Since joining the Falcons as an unrestricted free agent in 2004, Coleman has 28 sacks in 44 games, including 11½ in 2004 and 10½ in 2005. He earned a Pro Bowl berth in 2005 and is generally regarded as one of the league's best inside pass rushers.
The former East Carolina star, chosen by Oakland in the fifth round in 1999, played the first five seasons of his career with the Raiders before departing in free agency. For his career, Coleman has 281 tackles, 56½ sacks, nine forced fumbles, three recoveries, one interception and 26 pass deflections.
Coleman has led NFL tackles in sacks in three different seasons. He has played in 104 games and started 65 of them.
Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com.