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Falcons Roddy White confident as starter, no matter which other receivers emerge

AP Photo/David Goldman

Maybe Roddy White can't accelerate like he did when he scored a 90-yard touchdown at San Francisco six seasons ago. And maybe White can't leap in the air and flip as easily as he did after crossing the goal line that day.

But one thing White hasn't lost from then until now is his confidence. Although he's set to turn 34 in November, the Atlanta Falcons veteran receiver firmly believes he can be a difference-maker going into his 11th NFL season.

"I know I can still do something in this league, and I know I can still go out there and win one-on-one battles," White said. "I've been doing that for the last six, seven, eight, nine years for this team, and I plan on that being my role."

White, who expects to follow a regular practice routine with training camp starting Friday, understands his body has to hold up for him to be effective. He continues to take precautions with the ailing left knee he had drained in June.

If White's health becomes a concern during the regular season, the coaches might turn to newcomer Leonard Hankerson more often as a secondary wide receiver option behind top target Julio Jones. Hankerson has an advantage over his teammates because he previously played in offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's system when both were in Washington. Falcons coach Dan Quinn raved about Hankerson's offseason performance numerous times.

White was asked how he would react if Hankerson were to surpass him in regard to snaps.

"That's not going to happen," White said. "I'm not a guy that's going to go out there and tell people what they should do and what they shouldn't do. I'm just going to play, do what I've got to do, and be Roddy White. You know what I'm saying? They can love whoever they want to love, but I'm just going to be me. I'm going to go out there and make the plays that I can make.

"It always happens like that when new coaches come in: There's always going to be someone else that they like and that they want to put in to see what he can do. There are going to be times when he's in the game, and I'm not in the game. I'm not going to see myself as not being a starter. I am definitely the starter."

White said it's difficult to size up one receiver against another in this offense, considering the way Shanahan moves his receivers to multiple positions. But the "Z" spot to the strong side of the formation is something Hankerson became accustomed to under Shanahan.

In discussing the addition of Hankerson in general, White was complimentary.

"I like Hankerson. He's a good player," White said. "I really think he's going to help us.

"But I've been in this league 11 years. If someone wants to say I'm in a competition, they need to come to me and let me know. I'm not going to fight and fuss about it. I just speak on what I've done in the NFL. I can't speak on what anyone else has done."

No one will know what Hankerson, rookie Justin Hardy or even pass-catching tight end Jacob Tamme truly bring to the offense until the Falcons play an actual game. Plus Hankerson has something to prove after missing so much time the last few years due to injury, including a serious left knee tear.

White battled ankle, hamstring and knee injuries himself last season.

"I missed two games and I still caught 80 passes for right over 900 yards," White said. "I feel like if I can play 16 games this season, I can really be successful."