posted on Oct, 11 2006 @ 06:33 PM
ohn Abraham pulled up his No. 55 jersey to about armpit level, as if he was trying to slip back into practice for the Atlanta Falcons without being
If that was his intention, it didn't work
On Wednesday, everyone kept their eyes on the big defensive end, who put on a dominating show in the Falcons' season opener, but missed the last three
games with a groin injury.
"Oh, man, I can't wait to see this guy back out there," said cornerback Kevin Mathis, who occupies a locker alongside Abraham's. "We'd love for him to
be healthy and be able to play this week."
Unless Abraham has a setback over the next two days, it appears he'll be ready to go in Sunday's game against the New York Giants. He practiced in
pads for the first time and didn't show any signs of favoring his injured groin.
The Falcons continued to list Abraham as questionable -- the same status he had before each of the games he missed -- but his return to the practice
field provided the first real sign he'll likely play.
"It's definitely a positive sign," said Abraham, who put the odds of playing at better than 50 percent. "I can't see any reason for me not playing.
I'll just cross my fingers and hope everything will be all right for me to play."
The Falcons (3-1) can afford to be patient with Abraham's recovery, having won two of the games he missed with a defense that has allowed only one
touchdown all season. Coming back from an off week, they are a half-game behind the New Orleans Saints in the NFC South.
Abraham doesn't want a recurrence of the 2003 season, when the three-time Pro Bowler went down with a similar injury with the New York Jets. He missed
three games, aggravated the problem when he returned too soon and wound up on injured reserve.
"I did a much better job of getting better this time than I did before," Abraham said. "I knew how to handle it this time. I knew what I needed to
He focused on the exercises and treatments that worked best the last time, which sped up his recovery and allowed more time to work on his
"Instead of trying to work through it to see if this works or that works, I knew exactly what worked," he said. "I was able to attack those things
Abraham, acquired from the Jets during the offseason for a first-round draft pick, got off to a rousing start with his new team. He was selected NFC
defensive player of the week after six tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles and one pass batted away in the Falcons' 20-6 win at Carolina.
"He came in and just terrorized the Carolina offense," Mathis recalled.
But late in the game, Abraham hobbled off the field with the groin injury. He didn't practice at all the next three weeks and probably would have
missed a fourth game if not for the early bye.
"If we were 1-3, there probably would have been more pressure to get back on the field," Abraham said. "When the team is playing well, there's not as
much pressure. My big thing was: I've been in this situation before. I know how to handle it. I wanted to come back at the right time for me. I wanted
to come back when I was healthy and could help the team get better."
While the Falcons did just fine without Abraham, it's clear the defense would get a big boost from his return. The other end, Patrick Kerney, wouldn't
face so many double-teams. And the depth would be much better with second-year player Chauncey Davis, Abraham's replacement, returning to a backup
During Wednesday's practice, Abraham rolled up his white jersey, obscuring most of the number and revealing the black shirt he wore underneath. He
showed plenty of enthusiasm, too.
"His spirits were up," coach Jim Mora said. "He was kind of jumping around, having fun, congratulating the guys when they made a play. When a guy is
hurting, you don't see that. He usually goes into his own little world. But John was his old self today."
Abraham isn't coming back to be just another player. He wants to make an impact right away -- just like he did in his first game with the Falcons.
"I could have played those other weeks if all I was going to do was just stand around on the field," he said. "I don't want to do that. I don't want
to be a body on the field. I want to be the same person I was when I left."