FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Thursday should be a key day in determining Roddy White’s playing status for Sunday.
A couple of Thursdays ago, Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith declared that running back Steven Jackson had "almost a full load" in practice coming off a hamstring injury. Jackson ended up returning to action that week against Arizona after missing four games.
White, sidelined for the last three games with hamstring and ankle injuries, returned to practice last Friday but was limited during the abbreviated session. He tested his health during pregame warm-ups at Carolina but ended up sitting out again.
This week, on Wednesday, White was in full practice gear and limited as the Falcons began field preparation for the Seattle Seahawks. Although Smith declined to proclaim White ready to play Sunday, the coach sounded on the cusp of using the "almost a full load" phrase once again.
"He got some very limited snaps on Friday, had much more snaps in this practice," Smith said Wednesday.
White seemed to have a different bounce in his step as he walked around the locker room and took the field for practice Wednesday. True, he sounded optimistic about returning last week against the Panthers, and even talked about being involved in the game plan. But in his mind, White probably knew he was going to sit another week despite the pregame show.
The Falcons sorely need him this Sunday against arguably the league’s best defensive backfield. Seattle has a pair of tall, physical cornerbacks in 6-foot-4-inch, 221-pound Brandon Browner and 6-3, 195-pound Richard Sherman, along with an elite safety in Earl Thomas.
During last season's divisional playoff win over the Seahawks, White sprinted down the middle of the Seahawks’ zone en route to a 47-yard touchdown. Sherman was well off White and obviously expected safety help on that play. But Sherman also knocked a ball away from White in the end zone during the game.
It seems likely that Sherman would match up against White if White plays, especially considering Julio Jones (foot surgery) is out of the lineup. It is sure to be a war of words if the two square off.
If they don’t, more questions regarding the severity of White’s injuries will surface.
"Do I expect Roddy to be active? Again, we’re going to have to wait and see how the week plays out," Smith said. "Last week, he got very limited opportunities to practice. It’s great to have him participating in practice on Wednesday. That’s not happened since prior to the Baltimore preseason game. So, we’ll get an opportunity to see how he takes the workload today, and hopefully we’ll be able to increase it [Thursday]."