Originally created 12/04/01

Vick will start if Chandler's ankle doesn't heal in time



FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Chris Chandler wore a walking cast on his left leg Monday. The Falcons' quarterback hopes his left ankle will mend in time for Atlanta's game with New Orleans this week.

"It's a little stiff," Chandler said. "Hopefully it won't keep me from playing."

Chandler suffered a severe sprain at the end of the second quarter Sunday in the Falcons' blowout loss to St. Louis. Though X-rays taken at the Georgia Dome were negative, Chandler did not return. His departure helped turn an eight-point halftime deficit into a 35-6 rout.

Atlanta has lost nine straight, dating back to Sept. 12, 1999, when an injury forces Chandler to leave a game. Since Chandler was acquired in a trade with Houston on Feb. 24, 1997, the Falcons are 30-17, including 5-2 this year, when Chandler starts and doesn't leave with an injury.

Coach Dan Reeves was pleased with the medical report, but he added it was too early to tell if Chandler will start when the Falcons (6-5) host the Saints (6-5).

"There wasn't a lot of swelling," Reeves said. "It's going to be sore. Wednesday is going to be a key for him."

The 14-year veteran was hurt when rookie right guard Kynan Forney failed to block Grant Wistrom and pushed the Rams' defensive end against Chandler's right side. Chandler, who had just completed a 19-yard pass to Shawn Jefferson, had his left leg buckle as he fell. The injury looked to be serious at the time.

"The only thing I knew was my ankle hurt," Chandler said. "Today my knee has a little bit of an ache in it, but that's about it. I do feel lucky it's not anything more serious."

Michael Vick, who replaced Chandler, could feel his teammate's pain. An ankle injury derailed Vick's Heisman Trophy campaign at Virginia Tech last year, causing him to miss two starts and play ineffectively in a season-turning loss to Miami.

"I know how them ankle injuries are," said Vick, the NFL's No. 1 draft choice. "You can't do nothing on an injured ankle."

With Vick in charge of the offense, the Falcons went into shutdown mode in the second half, faltering in every phase.

"He made less of the mistakes he's made in the past, but we still had two or three cadence problems, illegal procedures and those kinds of things," Reeves said. "He made some really good throws. He made some good scrambles. He's got to learn when to get down and protect the football and those kinds of things."

Vick, who completed 7 of 18 passes for 94 yards, was sacked twice, pushing his season total to 13. Poor protection and his inexperience have caused Vick to get sacked once in every 5.85 passing plays. When forced to run, Vick used his uncanny speed to gain 52 yards of six carries.

"Yesterday was yesterday," Vick said. "Nothing you can do about it now. Just got to keep trying to get better. Work harder."

Notes: Chandler was forced to leave a Week 4 loss to Chicago with a mild concussion. Bruised ribs ended his day early in a Week 8 loss to New England. ... Strong safety Gerald McBurrows, who's been out since suffering a knee injury on the first play of the win at Green Bay three weeks ago, will return to practice this week.