There was a low buzz in the comments during yesterday's game. If you listened hard enough, you heard a mix of the sounds of linebacker fingers hitting a Blackberry, nervous laughter and Mike Smith frantically shushing.
That's because, as Jason Kirk brilliantly writes over at SBN Atlanta, there's something odd going on with our favorite rookie linebacker. Sean Weatherspoon has been issued a Twitter gag order by Smith, barring him from discussing the ankle injury that kept him from playing in this Sunday's game.
As Jason notes, Mike Smith is taking this cloak and dagger thing to a new level with injuries. First it was 'Spoon being listed as questionable when he hadn't practiced at all during the week, and now it's his willingness to strangle his own player with piano wire if it keeps him from spilling Flowery Branch secrets. That dude is hardcore.
Without any concrete information, the natural assumption we make as fans is that this injury is more serious than the Falcons are willing to indicate. After all, they held him out of practice entirely, and 'Spoon's a dude who needs to be able to make sharp cuts on his ankles to play. If we're dealing with a sprain or a hairline fracture, chances are pretty good we'll be facing the Cleveland Browns without him, and at this point I'm going to move ahead with that assumption until Mike Smith tracks me down and spears me in the liver.
The potential loss of 'Spoon for at least one more week leads me into my next point: The nervous comments I saw in yesterday's game thread. My thoughts are after the jump.
I'm going to pick on our good friend Grayson, who was one in a pond of voices who expressed this sentiment. I pick on him because we love him, because his thought echoed others, and also because he's Australian:
We really missed Spoon in this one
Their RB’s were running wild.
Others said that without 'Spoon, our pass defense was suffering. Still others said that without 'Spoon, we would never love again.
To be blunt, that's patently ridiculous. 'Spoon has exceeded my modest expectations for him as a rookie starter, and he's clearly a defensive building block for the next decade. To act like it was his absence that allowed Frank Gore to roll off a couple of big runs or haul in screen passes or cause our cornerbacks to sit in the toaster for a few seconds is to ignore reality. 'Spoon just isn't a game changing linebacker just yet.
That's not say there wasn't a grain of truth in that talk, though. Stephen Nicholas came in and played well, amassing a lot of tackles, and Mike Peterson was still effective against the run. Where not having 'Spoon really hurt us was in those nickle situations where Peterson would normally rotate out of the game and both 'Spoon and Nicholas would be in, doing their pass coverage thing. Peterson's another guy who has exceeded my expectations, but he's still a giant honking liability when the ball's in the air.
The Browns don't have a superb pass game and Nicholas and Peterson were effective against Gore, so I expect they'll be fine if they have to both start again versus the Browns. Against the Eagles with Michael Vick and all their weapons?
Let's just say we can all agree to hope that 'Spoon is back for that one, whether you believe he's our savior or just a damn good linebacker.