Falcons left tackle Baker finally feels healthy

Associated Press  |  Last updated August 12, 2012
After the worst season of his four-year career with the Atlanta Falcons, Sam Baker wants to prove he's still a legitimate starting left tackle. Baker, drafted 21st overall in 2008, knows he might not get another chance in Atlanta. He has had back surgery three times since his rookie year and twice since last October. His five-year contract expires in February. ''It's just as hard mentally as it is physically,'' Baker said Sunday. ''The organization has really helped me out with that. The rehab program, the strength program and everything else are phenomenal here.'' Last year marked the second time that Baker underwent back surgery during the season. He missed four games and never regained his job after returning in Week 12. When the season ended, Baker required another discectomy, a procedure to remove herniated disc material that presses on a nerve root or the spinal cord. Doesn't sound like fun for any player, but for a left tackle who's constantly getting bent backward by defensive linemen, it might be even worse. ''I've said many times that I think Sam Baker is one of the most resilient guys that we have on our team,'' Smith said. ''He's played through a lot of adversity, and when healthy he's played well for us. It says what kind of resolve he has and how tough he is.'' Baker believes he's as healthy as he was in 2010, when the Falcons went 13-3 and he started every game. Atlanta needs him to be durable and effective following a season in which the offensive line allowed 84 hits on quarterback Matt Ryan, seventh-most in the league. The line had difficulty, too, in short-yardage situations as running back Michael Turner averaged just 1.1 yards on 40 runs inside the opponents' 10-yard line. Baker has yet to receive any significant competition for his job. Will Svitek, who replaced him as the starter last year, is working as the No. 2 left tackle. Left guard Justin Blalock, center Todd McClure and right tackle Tyson Clabo are likewise secure with their jobs, leaving right guard as the only spot that change personnel. Garrett Reynolds, who beat out Mike Johnson for the job in camp last year, is working at No. 1 right guard again, but he struggled enough last season that Joe Hawley replaced him after Ryan was hit repeatedly in a Week 7 victory at Detroit. Rookie Peter Konz, a second-round pick from Wisconsin, is working behind Reynolds and is taking snaps behind McClure at center. ''There are three more (preseason games) for us to evaluate all of the guys that are competing,'' Smith said. ''I believe there are 12 guys that legitimately have an opportunity for the nine spots on our offensive line. We've got to look at different combinations, game-day combinations, 46-man roster discussions as well as the 53-man roster.'' Reynolds credits new line coach Pat Hill, who returned to the NFL after spending the last 15 years as head coach at Fresno State, with re-energizing the players with an old-school approach. Hill replaced Paul Boudreau, who was fired, in late January. ''He's full of energy, a very positive guy,'' Reynolds said. ''We're just getting back to the fundamentals and basics. Working on the same stuff we've been working on for years but really getting down to the core principles and executing them.'' Baker isn't so much concerned with who starts at right guard, not after he had to fill occasionally for Hawley in the last six weeks of the season. ''It was pretty tough, no question, but those kinds of experiences can build resiliency if you use them the right way,'' Baker said. ''That's one of the things coach Smith always preaches. Going through that has helped me grow.'' Notes: CB Asante Samuel returned to practice after missing Saturday's workout because of a family matter. ... DT Vance Walker, after recovering from a foot injury, practiced for the first time in 10 days. ... WR Kerry Meier missed his second straight practice with an undisclosed leg injury.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Greg Jennings: Ryan Tannehill has had his hands tied by coaches

Josh McDaniels 'happy' with Pats but wants to be a head coach again

WATCH: Jim Harbaugh in cleats throws out first pitch at Cubs game

Why Rickie Fowler will win the PGA Championship

Warren Sapp bitten on arm by shark

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Fitzpatrick, Jets agree to one-year deal

Baker considering removing Papelbon from closer role?

Greg Hardy struggling to find work, reportedly even in CFL

Jets players told not to discuss Ryan Fitzpatrick situation

Brock Lesnar won't be punished by WWE for UFC drug test

Report: Cowboys to be fined up to $250K for suspended players

Report: Ravens WR Mike Wallace failed conditioning test

WATCH: Kobe Bryant drives Ferrari around Italian racetrack

Terrelle Pryor shouts out Ohio State after ban ends

Justin Timberlake advocates for Memphis to join Big 12

Poll: Las Vegas residents don’t support public funds for NFL stadium

Conor McGregor talks trash to Nate Diaz on ‘Conan’

We asked Team USA: What other Olympic sport would you play?

Real Madrid can’t train at Norwegian school because of the kids

Newspaper uses Michael Jordan ‘crying face’ as image

Equipment manager Blake Griffin punched no longer works for Clippers

Report: Nicks signing one-year deal with Saints

Reds 'picking up the pace' on Jay Bruce trade talks

NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

We asked Team USA: What other Olympic sport would you play?

Why Gary Bettman's CTE denial is cause for concern for NHL

WATCH: Inside the Nike SNKRS BOX in SF for Golden Air Celebration

WATCH: Five other uniforms Chris Sale should cut up

QUIZ: Name every Olympic event in which the USA has never won a gold medal

Five U.S. Olympians favored to win multiple gold medals

WATCH: What teams should join the Big 12?

One Gotta Go: Do NBA players really love NBA2K?

One Gotta Go: NBA players hate Facebook too

One Gotta Go: NBA players settle the fast food beef

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker