Originally created 12/15/04

Surgery slows down Duckett



ATLANTA - Only two days after he set a team record by rushing for four touchdowns in the win that clinched the Atlanta Falcons' division championship, running back T.J. Duckett had knee surgery Tuesday and will miss at least one game.

Falcons coach Jim Mora said the surgery to repair the meniscus cartilage in Duckett's left knee "went very well."

"We don't expect him to miss more than just this game," Mora said of Saturday night's home game against Carolina.

Duckett, bothered by persistent swelling in his left knee, had hoped to put off the arthroscopic surgery until after the season. Since the Falcons clinched a playoff berth Sunday with three games left in the regular season and could qualify for a first-round bye in the playoffs - giving Duckett another week to heal - the team decided to proceed with the surgery Tuesday.

"I think it was clicking or just bothering him," Mora said. "They did an MRI (exam) and it needed to be scoped. It's nothing serious. A lot of guys play without a meniscus. ... So it's not a big deal."

Duckett's surgery comes one day after Mora announced that starting fullback Justin Griffith would miss the rest of the season due to a broken ankle.

Stanley Pritchett will move up as the starting fullback. On Tuesday the team placed Griffith on the injured reserve list and signed Fred McCrary, cut by the New England Patriots before the season, to be Pritchett's backup.

The Falcons signed running back Jason Wright from the practice squad Tuesday, but starter Warrick Dunn likely will receive the majority of the carries Saturday night.

Wright, a rookie from Northwestern, has been on the practice squad since signing with the Falcons on Sept. 7.

Dunn, who stands 5-foot-9, 180 pounds, said Tuesday he has to fight the perception that he is too small to handle a heavy workload.

"A lot of guys around the league get 20-plus carries, and they rack up yards," Dunn said. "I think maybe because I'm not the biggest or the heaviest guy, that sometimes is weighed a little bit.

"I've always told people that if I get an opportunity to carry the ball enough I'll pick up yards."

In back-to-back games late last season, Dunn had 25 carries for 178 yards against the New York Giants and 23 carries for 162 yards against New Orleans. He averaged 93.5 yards per game in six games with 20 or more carries in 2002, but he has averaged about 15 carries this year.

Dunn had 25 carries for 103 yards in the Falcons' 35-10 win over Oakland Sunday. Duckett added 12 carries for 65 yards, including his four touchdown runs.

Falcons running backs coach Ollie Wilson says Dunn responds well when asked to handle the bulk of the carries.

"Sometimes when Warrick knows he's the guy, then he becomes the guy," Wilson said.

Wilson said Duckett "didn't know anything was wrong until he woke up (Monday) morning and saw that it was swollen."

The Falcons (10-3) clinched the NFC South division title with Sunday's win.

Dunn has 194 carries for 788 yards and seven touchdowns. Quarterback Michael Vick leads the team with 821 yards rushing, and Duckett is third with 457 yards.