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Alex Mack questionable for Panthers game, Ben Garland practicing at center

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This is not a promising sign.

Dallas Cowboys v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Out of all the reassuring things I could have heard today, the fact that Alex Mack is not practicing is not among them. The Falcons badly need their star center for this upcoming final game against Carolina, but it now seems possible they won’t have him.

Dan Quinn has said Mack is questionable for Sunday’s tilt with the Panthers, and he wasn’t out there practicing during the portion of the day open to the media. The team also spent time with Ben Garland at center, another indication that they think there’s a legitimate chance Mack could be out.

It’s awful timing for Mack, who suffered a calf injury in practice Wednesday. He’s inarguably the line’s most vital cog, and while it looks like both Andy Levitre and Wes Schweitzer will play, Garland is a significant downgrade from Mack in the middle and Schweitzer is nobody’s idea of an elite player. That matters a great deal against a very strong set of Panthers interior linemen, and while Garland is capable, this is now a major concern.

Quinn indicated that Mack will be a gametime decision, so we’ll all be waiting anxiously to see if he’s set to go Sunday afternoon. With Levine Toilolo also confirmed out, the Falcons can’t afford to lose many more pieces on an offense that already has struggled off and on all year.