FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Sunday's loss to the Steelers was a difficult one for all of the Falcons on the field. It was perhaps even more difficult for one who wasn't.
Jonathan Babineaux was serving a one-game suspension by the NFL and therefore was relegated to watching Sunday's game on TV. He described it as somewhat of an out-of-body experience partnered with a very empty feeling in the pit of his stomach.
"I let the guys know they had my support and I wish I could have been out there with them," Babineaux said in the locker room Wednesday. "But they know I was thinking about them, hoping they would do their best."
It was one of the toughest games Babineaux had ever been through, but that's over now. He's back with the team this week after completing his suspension. The Falcons waived center Rob Bruggeman on Tuesday to make room for Babineaux, but then later in the day signed Bruggeman to the practice squad and terminated the contract of running back .
Babineaux was able to participate in all training camp and preseason activities and games. He was even able to attend meetings and film sessions during the week of preparation for Pittsburgh. Those things helped keep Babineaux from falling behind.
"Physically, I conditioned myself every day. I did a lot of rehab for my shoulder," he said. "Mentally, I was just thinking about what I would do if I was there and pretty much trying to go through my own routine in my mind and getting myself ready for this week."
The excitement level is higher this week for the defensive tackle than it's ever been. Not since his rookie year, he said, has he felt so ready and excited to get a season started.
He watched with a lot of interest as the Falcons' defense was able to generate quarterback pressure and a couple of sacks, and he's eager to get involved.
"It's good," Babineaux said with a smile. "They're starting off the season real good starting with two sacks in the first game this year is pretty good going into the season, so hopefully we produce more this year and be able to get after more quarterbacks."
With the return of cornerback Dunta Robinson from an injury during the preseason and now Babineaux coming back, the defense finally feels like it is complete. They're hoping that will translate over to gameday.
"It feels like we're all coming back," Robinson said. "Getting Babs back gives the defense a lot of confidence because we know the things that he can do up front. We know the things that he's done up front. Getting guys like that definitely makes our jobs easy on the back end and we're looking forward to seeing him out there on Sunday."