FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. - Long before trading for Peerless Price, the Atlanta Falcons considered him to be a star-in-waiting.
Now he'll stand out like a Rolex in a pawn shop, since Brian Finneran broke his left hand last week.
The Falcons will depend on Price at the home opener Sunday against Washington - his value to the team has skyrocketed beyond the costs of a first-round pick to Buffalo and a $10 million signing bonus.
Quentin McCord, who's replacing the injured flanker, will make his first career start. The other two receivers, Jimmy Farris and Terrence Edwards, have combined for zero career catches on one game of experience.
"Our packages won't change a great deal," said Falcons coach Dan Reeves. "Quentin can run the football whereas Brian's not a guy that we're going to hand the ball off to and run. So we can utilize some of those things, and Q's not going to be one of those targets that you can throw the ball up to. With Jimmy Farris being the third receiver, we'll just put some plays in that we know he runs well."
Farris, an undrafted free agent from Montana two years ago, toiled on San Francisco's practice squad in his first season before the New England Patriots signed him as insurance for their Super Bowl run in January 2002. He joined the Falcons' practice squad last November.
Edwards starred at Georgia and left as the Bulldogs' all-time leading receiver last season, but he also was an undrafted free agent.
McCord, who's been with the Falcons since they drafted him in the seventh round of 2001, will get most of the snaps opposite Price. Atlanta deploys Finneran as a run-blocker on a lot of plays, and McCord must fill that void.
"You've got a lot of strong-side running plays because you've got the tight end making it one extra on that side," McCord said. "Being a flanker, you've got to be there for run support, safeties and corners in Cover-2. I take pride in blocking. It's part of being a complete receiver, and that's what I want to be known as."
A pulled hamstring in training camp last year limited McCord's availability, and he was cut before the season started. The LaGrange native spent seven weeks on the practice squad before the Falcons signed him to the 53-man roster for the remainder of the season.
Working as the No. 3 receiver last week at Dallas, McCord thought he had scored a touchdown on the game's opening drive, but officials penalized him for offensive interference, claiming he pushed off rookie cornerback Terence Newman before catching a pass at the 10-yard line.
"I disagree that that should have been a penalty at all," Reeves said. "He just ran a great route, and I think that the guy got beat} and he should have had a touchdown."
Edwards was not active for last week's 27-13 win at Dallas, but he'll have a small crowd of family and friends coming from Athens and his hometown of Sandersville.
"It's something you dream about all your life, and now it's reality," Edwards said. "You've just got to seize the moment and not get too caught up in it. You have to remind yourself that it's just a football game."
Sunday will mark a first for Farris, too. Considered a longshot to make the team after Atlanta used a fifth-round pick on Jon Olinger and a sixth-rounder on LaTarence Dunbar, Farris persevered by running good routes, catching most of the balls thrown his way and hustling on special teams.
He made two exceptional plays on punt and kickoff coverage last week, but Farris is still looking for his first NFL catch.
"I always knew this coaching staff would give me a fair chance," Farris said. "It was just a matter of me going out and giving everything I had."
Notes: Outside linebackers Sam Rogers (left knee) and Will Overstreet (left shoulder) made it through their third straight practice Friday and reported no problems. Rogers will start on the weak side, with Overstreet backing him up. ... Starting free safety Keion Carpenter (hamstring) hasn't practiced this week and remains doubtful.
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