FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith said that starting right cornerback Dunta Robinson is in the NFL's concussion protocol but "is moving through it at a very good pace" and said he "fully" expects both Robinson and defensive end John Abraham to play in the team's playoff game on Jan. 13.
The Falcons appear to have caught a couple of breaks after Smith elected to play his starters for the entirety of a 22-17 loss to Tampa Bay on Sunday, during which the two key defenders were hurt.
Robinson suffered what the team called a head injury in the first quarter. Abraham, the team's leader in sacks and forced fumbles, injured his ankle in the fourth quarter. Neither player returned.
By securing the top seed in the NFC, the Falcons (13-3) earned themselves a week of rest, which seems as if it will provide the cushion that made Smith feel safe in saying that he thinks both players will return to the field in time. Smith did not answer directly when asked about reports that Abraham underwent an MRI on Monday for a sprained ankle.
In addition, Smith spoke optimistically that starting safety William Moore, who missed the final three games of the regular season because a hamstring injury, could rejoin practice this week. The Falcons will practice for the first time this week on Wednesday. Smith said he expected Moore to work with the team's athletic performance staff then. Depending on how Moore does on that day, he could rejoin practice later in the week, Smith said. Smith said Moore "has progressed quite a bit over the last two weeks."
Smith could have taken some heat for choosing not to rest his starters in an otherwise meaningless game on Sunday, as the Falcons already had locked up home-field advantage in the NFC, if Robinson and Abraham, arguably the defense's most important player, could not play in the team's first playoff game. He was asked if he were relieved when he got positive reports on those players but tended to downplay the situation.
"Anytime I get information that our players, whether it's on the practice field, preseason game, first game of the year, you're relieved," Smith said. "You never want to see any of your guys get injured. Very glad to get good news on those guys."