ATLANTA -- Falcon's Pro-Bowl linebacker Keith Brooking said today that a back injury may sideline him for as long as six weeks.
Brooking fractured three vertebrae in his lower back during Sunday's loss to the New Orleans Saints.
He said he hopes to return in time for Atlanta's game Nov. 2 with the Philadelphia Eagles, but acknowledged that it's not likely.
The injuries could force defensive coordinator to change his alignment.
If the 3-4 stays, he likely would start Matt Stewart and Karon Riley on the outside and move Keith Newman inside to play next to Chris Draft. Artie Ulmer also can play inside, but too many snaps could negate his effect on special teams. Twan Russell, who has a weak knee, and first-year player James Cotton, signed off the practice squad last week, are last-chance alternatives.
If Phillips installs a 4-3, he might improve Atlanta's pass rush by getting Ellis Johnson and Ed Jasper on the field simultaneously instead of switching them out constantly at nose tackle. Using a tandem of Johnson and Jasper, who have combined with Travis Hall to account for half of Atlanta's 15 sacks, could free left end Patrick Kerney and right end Brady Smith from double-teams that are stifling their effect.
Kerney and Smith combined for 37 sacks in 2001 and '02, but they have only two this year. There is no chance Kerney would move to outside linebacker, a position he experimented with in the offseason and the first part of training camp last year.
Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press
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