Unbeaten Falcons work on fundamentals after week off

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Atlanta Falcons defensive tackle Corey Peters returned to practice Monday after weeks on the disabled list. He has a knack for big plays, including running a fumbled ball into the end zone during the second half against Jacksonville last season.  David Goldman/Associated Press
David Goldman/Associated Press
Atlanta Falcons defensive tackle Corey Peters returned to practice Monday after weeks on the disabled list. He has a knack for big plays, including running a fumbled ball into the end zone during the second half against Jacksonville last season.

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — The Atlanta Falcons, the NFL’s last unbeaten team, were rested and closer to full strength Monday in their return from their bye week.

Defensive tackle Corey Peters, a starter the last two seasons, returned for limited activity in his first practice. Peters, on the reserve injured list with a stress fracture in his left foot, will be eligible to make his season debut Sunday at Philadelphia.

Coach Mike Smith wouldn’t comment on the chances Peters could play this week after missing offseason team activities and training camp, plus the first six weeks of the season.

“We will up his participation as the week goes on,” Smith said, noting the team has three weeks to either activate Peters or place the third-year player on injured reserve for the rest of the season.

Peria Jerry has joined Jonathan Babineaux as the starting defensive tackles in the first six games. Babineaux had three tackles for losses as he was on the field for 69 of the defense’s 73 plays in a 23-20 win over Oakland on Oct. 14.

Vance Walker and rookie Travian Robertson were the only defensive tackles to play behind Babineaux and Jerry, and Robertson logged only two plays.

Peters could be an important addition for the second half of the season as the Falcons (6-0) try to build on their strong start. He showed his knack for big plays last season when he had three sacks, an interception and a fumble recovery he returned for a touchdown.

“It was nice to see Corey Peters with the football helmet and shoulder pads on the football field today,” Smith said.

Smith said outside linebacker Stephen Nicholas, who played only on special teams against Oakland because of an ankle injury, was back at full speed. Also, backup tight end Michael Palmer returned from a shoulder injury.

Smith made a departure from his normal bye-week schedule last week. He usually schedules two practices, but instead gave the players the full week off.

Center Todd McClure, in his 13th season, said it was the first time he had enjoyed a full week off during a season.

“The thing about Smith is he knows this team and he knows that we need it,” McClure said. “We’ve been working really hard and we need to recharge. He did what was best for us.”

Smith and his coaching staff used the break to analyze the team. He is hoping for improvement in the running game and run defense.

The Falcons worked in pads and helmets Monday.

“We spent the week taking a good, hard look at things we’ve got to get better at,” Smith said. “Today was a Falcons day. We came out here and really worked on fundamentals.”

Smith said the Falcons will shift their focus to the Eagles on Wednesday as they begin their normal game-week schedule.


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