This offseason, while a number of young linebackers saw plenty of time on the field, two of the Falcons starting linebackers watched from the sidelines as they rehabbed offseason injuries. Sean Weatherspoon and Stephen Nicholas were with the team every day during the OTAs and altthough they didn't see any action on the field, they saw plenty off it and were always cheering their learning linebackers on and providing advice whenever possible.
But during this week's minicamp, they were back on the field and back to leading on and off it. Falcons head coach Mike Smith said both players got more reps during the practices than he anticipated, but the plan was to keep Weatherspoon and Nicholas on a limited snap count to ease two of their top defenders back into on-field activities.
"It was nice to have both those guys (in practice)," Smith said. "We were very precautionary in terms of when we wanted to bring them back. Sean is an integral part of our team. He's a three-down linebacker and of course Stephen was our three-down linebacker last year."
Weatherspoon said he felt good after a successful rehab and anticipated the next time he could be on the field.
"I feel like I'm 100 percent," Weatherspoon said. "We did a great job in the training room with (director of sports medicine and performance) Marty (Lauzon), (assistant athletic trainer) Danny Long and all of (the athletic performance staff). I just tried to work on getting back, getting back healthy, and just coming back to try to help my team. I feel great and I'm looking forward to the next (practice)."
Smith said both players are no longer in rehab and won't be at the facility all the time during the break, but he gave the linebackers the same message he gives all of his players about their health during their time off before training camp: get some rest and relaxation, take care of yourself and recharge for the 2013 season. Weatherspoon, when asked how he will spend his break, said he plans to stay around Atlanta and relax some after visiting Texas to see his family.