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Falcons DB Mathis out for season with neck injury

11/7/2006 - NFL Kevin Mathis Atlanta Falcons + more

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons defensive back
Kevin Mathis suffered a season-ending neck injury Sunday that is not
expected to require surgery.

Mathis will be placed on injured reserve after being hurt on the
opening kickoff of the Falcons' 30-14 loss at Detroit.

Mathis has "all feeling, all movement" in all of his
extremities, coach Jim Mora said Monday.

The team did not release any details on the neck injury.

The 32-year-old Mathis is expected to make a full recovery, but
his future in the NFL is uncertain.

It's the third serious injury in his NFL career. As a starter
for the New Orleans Saints late in the 2001 season, Mathis damaged
his cervical spine, but returned to play in 11 games for the
Falcons in 2002.

Mathis missed the 2005 season with a knee injury.

Mathis was strapped to a backboard and carted off the field
after leading with his helmet and hitting kick returner Eddie
Drummond's knee and thigh on the opening kickoff. He remained on
the turf for several minutes and was kept in Henry Ford Hospital in
Detroit on Sunday night.

"We're just being safe," Mora said. "You don't want to mess
around with those things. It's too serious. You don't need to be
brave, you don't need to be tough, you don't need to be a hero. You
need to be smart. That's how the NFL treats it and that's certainly
how our staff treats it."

Mora said defensive back and return specialist Allen Rossum and
team assistant trainer Tom Reed remained in Detroit with Mathis
through most of Monday. Rossum was expected to return to Atlanta
late Monday night.

"Obviously, losing Kevin is a tough blow for our football team
because of the kind of person he is on and off the field," Mora
said. "We will miss his tenacious play and his leadership, but I
am certain that we have the right guys on our team who will step up
and keep on rolling as we head into the second part of the
season."

Mathis played in every game this season, making 22 tackles and
one sack.

Rossum replaced Mathis at nickel back Sunday, but the team could
turn to rookie Jimmy Williams next Sunday against Cleveland.
Another option is Omare Lowe.

"It's too early to say which way we're going to go," Mora
said.

Mathis, a native of Gainesville, Texas, originally signed with
Dallas as an undrafted rookie from Texas A&M-Commerce in 1997. The
Cowboys traded Mathis to New Orleans before the 2000 season, and he
signed with Atlanta before the 2002 season.

Mathis has played in 115 games with 55 starts.

In 2004, he joined Deion Sanders as the only Falcons to return
two interceptions for touchdowns in the same season.

Mathis has 11 career interceptions, including three in 2002. He
set a career high with 87 tackles for the Saints in 2000.