The Falcons’ revamped defense suffered a setback on Monday.
Veteran linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, who had been filling in for injured rookie De’Vondre Campbell at weakside linebacker, suffered a season-ending ruptured Achilles tendon in Sunday’s 48-33 win over Carolina.
Weatherspoon, who has an extensive injury history and has been able to play all 16 games in a season just once, returned to the Falcons this offseason after playing one year in Arizona.
“That’s tough news for us and for him,” coach Dan Quinn said. “He’s a guy that we have a lot of respect for and he’s done a really good job through the first part of the season.”
Weatherspoon was selected by the Falcons with the 19th overall pick in the 2010 draft and played all 16 games only during his second season in the league. He has repeatedly been slowed by knee, hamstring and Achilles injuries over his career.
The Falcons replaced Weatherspoon with LaRoy Reynolds, who is normally a speedy special teams player. The team is already thin at linebacker with both Campbell, who suffered an ankle injury during practice on Sept. 15, and Paul Worrilow (groin surgery) out.
Campbell was initially told he’d be out four to six weeks, but just two weeks after the injury, he was running with trainers last week. Campbell, the fourth-round pick from Minnesota, started the season opener against Tampa Bay.
“I think so,” Campbell said when asked if he was close to returning. “It’s getting better.”
Campbell said he’s going to try to play on Sunday against Denver.
“I may have to,” he said. “They said I’m healing fast. I may have to come back. We’ll see.”
Campbell and Worrilow were both running on Monday, but are not ready to return, according to Quinn.
“LaRoy Reynolds came in at inside linebacker and did a really good job,” Quinn said. “As far as Paul and De’Vondre, both of them were running today. We won’t know more until we get into the week to see if they are able to contribute yet or if they are still a week or two away.”
The Falcons are expected to look for linebacker depth from the in-season free agent market. The team didn’t have any players in for tryouts last week, but the previous week, the Falcons tried out five players. None were linebackers.
In addition, starting linebacker Deion Jones suffered a calf injury against Carolina.
“As we went through today, (Jones) was certainly better than he was last night,” Quinn said. “We’ll take it all the way through Wednesday. He was walking around and moving today. We are not sure until we get out and get working on Wednesday.”
In addition to shuffling the linebacker corps, the Falcons can now activate cornerback Jalen Collins, who has served a four-game suspension after testing positive for performance enhancing drugs.
“He’s back with the team,” Quinn said. “He’s done an excellent job. He looked fit when he came back in today. We knew that he’d put the work in during his time away from the team. It was difficult for him to be away from his guys.”
However, Quinn was not sure when Collins will be able to contribute.
“We’ll take it all the way through the week and see where he’s at as we are getting ready,” Quinn said.