FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Matt Ryan needed one of the best games of his career to lead the Falcons and their depleted offense out of their three-game losing streak last week.
It’s looking like Ryan will have more help in Sunday’s game at Arizona.
Running back Steven Jackson, who has missed four consecutive games with a hamstring injury, practiced Wednesday and said he feels ready to “give it a go.”
Left tackle Sam Baker, who has missed the past two games with a knee injury, also was in full pads.
The Falcons are still awaiting receiver Roddy White’s return from hamstring and ankle injuries.
Ryan completed 20 of 26 passes with three touchdown passes in last week’s 31-23 win over Tampa Bay. His 148.4 passer rating was the highest of his career and the top rating of any NFL quarterback this season.
The bad news was the offense lacked balance with only 18 yards rushing.
A healthy Jackson would be a much-needed boost for an offense that lost receiver Julio Jones for the season.
“It’s going to be a big thing for us,” Ryan said. “He’s a great player.”
Jackson has been held out since pulling the hamstring in the second game of the season against the Rams, his former team. It has been a slow recovery for Jackson.
Jackson said it hasn’t been easy to sit out the four games and wait five weeks, including the team’s bye week, to be cleared for practice.
“I’ve seen the doctor more times than I’d like to and finally he and I are on the same page,” Jackson said. “I feel encouraged enough in the progress I’ve made to give it a go.”
Jackson’s plan was to start slowly on Wednesday, the first practice of the week, and build up to Sunday’s game.
“I don’t think any time after Week 1 you’re 100 percent, but I think I’m feeling to this point good enough to give it a go and be out there and be effective like day one,” he said.
Coach Mike Smith said he checked in with Jackson twice during the practice.
“I had an opportunity to ask him a couple of times in practice and it seemed like it was going well,” Smith said, adding the next test will be how Jackson’s hamstring responds today.
“Hopefully he’ll get more reps tomorrow and increase it as the week goes on,” Smith said.
Jackson said the recovery has been frustrating.
“What makes a hamstring so difficult is you’re actually able to run but once you hit top gear, that’s when you feel it,” he said. “Walking around, I feel no issue. Jogging, I feel no issue. But when it’s time for me to make runs and cuts that I need to do, that’s what makes a hamstring difficult.”
The Falcons continued to miss Jackson even when winning last week. With Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling sharing the carries, Atlanta couldn’t move the ball on the ground. Rodgers caught two touchdown passes.
The Falcons rank 30th in the league with their average of 68.3 yards rushing per game.
Jackson said he didn’t feel rushed by the team to return and boost the running game.
“Overall the team hasn’t been where we want it to be in the running game, but I feel no added pressure,” he said. “The organization and the training staff have been more than willing to work with me to make sure that I’m 100 percent.”
Jackson, 30, signed a three-year, $12 million deal with Atlanta after posting eight straight seasons with more than 1,000 yards rushing at St. Louis.
Jackson has been durable through his career. He missed only two starts the last four seasons.
“Coming into this season, I definitely didn’t want to miss any games,” Jackson said. “I take great pride in being a workhorse.”
Jackson’s last game was Sept. 15, so he’ll be well-rested.
“Oh man, I feel fresh,” he said.
“I’m still hungry as ever. ... Maybe I can be a difference-maker.”
NOTES: White, Snelling (ankle) and LB Stephen Nicholas (thigh) did not practice. Jackson, Baker, CB Robert Alford (ankle), TE Chase Coffman (knee), LB Akeem Dent (ankle) and DT Corey Peters (shoulder) were listed as limited by the team. ... Practice began on the outdoor fields but moved to the team’s indoor facility due to heavy winds. “Got to have completions,” Smith said.