Harrington replaces Leftwich as Falcons' No. 1 QB

Updated: November 20, 2007, 9:34 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

ATLANTA -- For the fourth time in five games, the Atlanta Falcons have switched starting quarterbacks, with coach Bobby Petrino turning the job back over to Joey Harrington for the Thanksgiving night matchup against the Indianapolis Colts.

Harrington

Leftwich

Harrington, 29, has started eight games for the Falcons this season and has posted a record of 3-5, including two straight victories before being replaced by Byron Leftwich last week.

Petrino had committed to Lefwich for the rest of the season when he elevated him to the top of the depth chart for the Oct. 21 game against New Orleans. But Leftwich suffered an ankle injury in that game, underwent surgery, and missed two games before returning last Sunday against the Tampa Bay Bucs.

Leftwich struggled against the Bucs, turned the ball over three times, and was replaced by Harrington, who led Atlanta to its only score in a 31-7 defeat. The former Jacksonville starter also suffered a tailbone injury against Tampa Bay. It is not known yet if he will be available for the Thanksgiving game.

"We took X-rays, and it's not a fracture," Petrino said. "He couldn't participate at all today."

If Leftwich cannot play, Chris Redman will be the primary backup.

The revolving door situation at quarterback continues to be a problem for Atlanta, and a painful manifestation of the loss of banished quarterback Michael Vick, who on Monday began serving a federal prison term for dogfighting charges. Vick, the onetime face of the franchise, is also serving an indefinite suspension imposed by commissioner Roger Goodell.

It is all but certain that Atlanta will address its quarterback problems in the offseason.

In the meantime, Petrino is sidestepping questions about his plans for the rest of the season

"Well, what we're doing, since this is such a short week, is we're worrying about the Indy game right now," Petrino said. "We have a little break after that, and we'll see how everything goes."

The third overall choice in the 2002 draft by the Detroit Lions, and playing for his third different franchise in three seasons, Harrington in 2007 has completed 184 of 284 passes for 1,876 yards, with six touchdown passes, five interceptions, and an 83.3 passer rating.

For his career, Harrington has a passer rating of 69.9 in 79 appearances. Harrington played his first four seasons with the Lions, spent one year with Miami in 2006, then signed a two-year, $7 million contract with the Falcons this spring, ostensibly to serve as Vick's backup.

He was stunned last week when reporters apprised him that Petrino had announced earlier in the day that Leftwich would return to the starting lineup when he was fully recovered from the ankle surgery. Harrington said after Sunday's loss to the Bucs that he would no longer dwell on who was starting, but would continue to prepare weekly as best he could, and contribute to the floundering Falcons in any way possible.

The Falcons' offense could be without starting right tackle Todd Weiner, who on Tuesday was undergoing tests on his left knee. Weiner underwent arthroscopic surgery earlier in the season on the knee and aggravated it last week.

Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press contributed to this story.