SUWANEE, Ga. - The thunder of laughter emitting from the Atlanta Falcons' training room seemed to offer a more-telling, more-promising examination of Chris Chandler's tender hamstring.
Chandler was playing cards with teammates and, at some point, found time between the regimen of heat and ice to say something funny. While the Falcons don't consider Chandler's injury something to laugh about, they were a lot more optimistic about his chances to play next Monday night at Dallas.
"I really don't know other than the doctor said he was questionable and he really would have to see how he reacted over the next few days," coach Dan Reeves said. "He was encouraged in that and Chris was encouraged by it. So I would say he is not out, but I would say he's probably doubtful right now."
Chandler was hurt Sunday night in Atlanta's disappointing 17-14 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. He was sacked on a third-down play with less than four minutes remaining after driving the Falcons 58 yards to the Vikings' 22. One play later, Morten Andersen missed a 39-yard field goal that could have sent the game into overtime.
"It felt like a knife got stuck in it," Chandler said. "They did some things to it (at the Georgia Dome) that made it feel a lot better by the time I went home. It feels about the same right now. Right now, it's hard to tell. But when you lose your first game, you put a lot of pressure on yourself to win the second game."
Atlanta had three first-half turnovers that led to 10 Minnesota points. Also, the Falcons had 94 yards in penalties in the three Vikings' first-half scoring drives.
"It was disappointing," Reeves said. "After looking at the film, I thought (Minnesota) out-worked us. They made an awful lot of plays due to second effort. It was important to them. They hustled. Certainly, when you look at it, there are always four or five plays that make a difference, and it seemed like they made four or five plays that made a difference, and we didn't."
Chandler had to be carted off the field after he suffered a strain to his right hamstring. But at the team's headquarters Monday, he barely had a limp, although he climbed some stairs with deliberative easy steps.
The hamstring problem isn't new to Chandler this year. While he said he's never had a muscle tear during the first 11 years of his NFL career, this is the second hamstring problem in three weeks.
He suffered a slight strain three days before the preseason game at Tennessee on Aug. 27, but was back for the team's final exhibition game at Cincinnati on Sept. 3.
"I only had three days before the preseason game. Now, I've got a little more than a week," Chandler said. "I hope the extra three or four days will help.
"I don't think there is something you can name that I won't do (to rehabilitate the injury). I guarantee you I will be here very early in the morning and back late at night. Practice probably will take a back seat (to rehabilitation). It's been 11 years since I have played on Monday Night Football, so I want to play. From a team standpoint, I know that we have a lot better chance when I'm out there. So from every standpoint, I want to play desperately."
Before leaving Sunday's game, Chandler, who's never had an injury-free season during his 11 years in the NFL, was 17 of 30 for 258 yards, including a 23-yard touchdown to Chris Calloway.
If Chandler can't play at Dallas, the Falcons will send Tony Graziani against the Cowboys, who rallied Sunday from a 21-point second-half deficit at Washington to win 41-35 in overtime. Graziani is a third-year player who's completed 23 of 56 passes in his career for 240 yards, four interceptions and no touchdowns.
"Hopefully, (Chandler) will be ready to go," Reeves said. "You just don't know about those things until you start to move around on it. A lot of treatment could make a difference right now."
INJURY UPDATES: Kick returnerwide receiver Tim Dwight also strained a hamstring, but his injury came during the pre-game warm-ups. The Falcons limited his play to returning kicks, and he clearly struggled. Not only did he fumble to set up a 36-yard Gary Anderson field goal. He also tried to return one kickoff from the endzone down the right side, although the blocking wedge was set up along the left sideline. Like Chandler, he will be kept out of practice until at least Thursday. His status, according to Reeves, is questionable, meaning his chances of playing are 50 percent ... Defensive back Michael Booker, who's been out since early training camp with a strained thigh, is expected to practice this week.
Don Coble at email@example.com.
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