|Coleman is latest Falcons starter sidelined|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 30 April 2007 17:20|
Falcons spokesman Reggie Roberts confirmed that Coleman was injured in a boating accident recently.
Losing Coleman, a Pro Bowl selection in 2005, is a big blow to a defense that will open its first training camp under new coach Bobby Petrino with as many as six unproven starters.
Atlanta general manager Rich McKay said Sunday that weakside linebacker Demorrio Williams had surgery last week after tearing a pectoral muscle in the team's weight room.
Williams might not return until the first month of the regular season. Petrino and McKay indicated that rookie Stephen Nicholas, a fourth-round draft pick from South Florida, will open mini-camp May 11 as the weakside starter.
Coleman's injury means that Jonathan Babineaux likely will take over at ``under'' tackle next to right end John Abraham.
Not only does he lack the size and strength of Coleman, who leads all NFL interior linemen with 50 1/2 sacks since the start of 2001, but Babineaux still faces felony charges of animal cruelty stemming from the death of a pit bull two months ago in nearby Gwinnett County.
Nose tackle Grady Jackson, the only defensive lineman to start all 16 games last season, might not return to the Falcons after his attorney filed a lawsuit in March accusing the team of disclosing results of a physical.
Without Jackson, Atlanta would work Darrell Shropshire or Tommy Jackson with the first-team defense.
First-round draft choice Jamaal Anderson is expected to start at left end following the departure in free agency of Patrick Kerney.
Chris Houston, a second-round pick, will likely take over at right cornerback in place of Jason Webster. Jimmy Williams, drafted in the second round last year, is moving from cornerback to free safety, a job that Chris Crocker seems to have lost.
The Falcons signed Coleman, 30, to a six-year contract that included $10 million in guarantees three years ago. He missed three games in 2004 after he flipped his SUV in an early-morning single-car accident.
Roberts indicated Coleman was riding alone on a personal watercraft when he hurt his leg.
Atlanta finished 22nd in total defense and 29th against the pass in 2006, its final season under coach Jim Mora and defensive coordinator Ed Donatell. Petrino hired Mike Zimmer to replace Donatell.