On Monday Falcons Head Coach Mike Smith said it was possible that Jason Snelling could get more touches after Snelling rushed for 68 yards on seven carries in Sunday's loss to Dallas. But on Thursday, Snelling did not practice because of what Smith said was a hamstring injury.
Snelling was one of three Falcons who did not practice on Thursday, including starting defensive lineman Thomas Johnson (calf) and running back Jerious Norwood (hip), who missed Sunday's game. Smith said all three were "day to day."
Johnson is starting in place of 2009 first-round draft pick Peria Jerry, who is out for the season with a knee injury, but the Falcons had two other starting defensive linemen show up on the injury report. End John Abraham (foot) was limited in his participation, as was tackle Jonathan Babineaux (ankle).
The good news on the injury front was that fullback Ovie Mughelli practiced for the first time since injuring his calf against San Francisco on Oct. 11. Smith said the Falcons have missed Mughelli the last two games. Asked specifically how Mughelli's absence has hurt the running game as Michael Turner struggles to regain last year's form, Smith said:
"We're not going to make excuses for it, but we'd like to have our first-line players out there and I think Ovie is an outstanding blocking back and in our two-back running game he's a big, big part of it."
After Wednesday's practice, Mughelli said, "I've been trying to get back as soon as possible and I think this is the week when I'm going to get a chance to make an impact on the team... Of course I haven't hit in a couple weeks, so [Thursday] is going to be a big test. I feel good. I've been hitting the sled with no pads on. With pads on, I think it should be fine."
On Tuesday, the Falcons signed running back Aaron Stecker, who had spent the previous five seasons with New Orleans. Stecker found it ironic that his first game with a new team would come against his former team. And he will also be playing on the opposite side of the biggest rivalry for both teams.
Stecker, 33, said that in the past his mind would often drift during meetings, as they could be tedious and boring. However, after waiting until Week 8 of the NFL season to sign with a team, he found himself longing for those meetings again. And for a chance to prove himself.
"I feel I can still play," he said. "I want to show people I still got it. I just feel blessed that I have the opportunity to go against the Saints and really show them what the deal is on Monday night."
Without Stecker, the Saints have developed a powerful running game. Mike Bell has rushed for 343 yards, Pierre Thomas has rushed for 314 and Reggie Bush has gained 175, as New Orleans boasts the NFL's third-ranked rushing offense.