The Falcons increased defensive end John Abraham’s practice load as he ran with the first-team defense on Friday.
"I feel good," Abraham said through a team spokesman. "My workload was ramped up every day as the week progressed. Everyone is hurt at this time of the year, but this is the NFC championship game so we all have to go."
Abraham, who has a left ankle sprain, was listed as questionable for the NFC championship game against the San Francisco 49ers at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Georgia Dome.
Coach Mike Smith is expecting him to play.
“I think he can be very effective,” Smith said.
Abraham was injured in the fourth quarter of the regular-season finale against Tampa Bay when Smith elected to play his starters after wrapping up the No. 1 seed for the playoffs the previous week.
He played 15 snaps against Seattle in the divisional round. The Falcons had a 20-0 lead when he left the game and the defense collapsed without him on the field. The Falcons needed a Matt Bryant field goal with eight seconds left to pull out a 30-28 victory.
“John re-tweaked his ankle (against Seattle),” Smith said. “With the way the score was at that point in time, we felt it was in our best interests to not put him back out there. He’s done a nice job this week. He participated in practice all this week. So we expect that he’ll be ready to go.”
Abraham took part in some drills on Wednesday and Thursday. On Friday, he was back at his position during the team sessions of practice.
“That was by design,” Smith said. “His workload through the week increased as we got closer to the game.”
The Falcons are hoping that he can go more than the 15 snaps he played against Seattle.
“At this time of the year, we have snap counts that we like to keep our guys at,” Smith said. “As the season gets closer to the end, we definitely move those snap counts up. We’ve got a plan for John and he’ll be back in the rotation.”
Defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux (shoulder) was also listed as questionable on the injury report.
Safety William Moore (hand), linebacker Stephen Nicholas (foot) and cornerback Christopher Owens (hamstring) were listed as probable.
In one corner of the Falcons’ locker room, tight end Tony Gonzalez was holding court with reporters, telling them how he’s cherishing the last few weeks of his NFL career before heading into retirement.
Falcons defensive end Osi Umenyiora has quietly gone about his business this season. As things have imploded around him during a disastrous 3-10 season, Umenyiora has remained professional, a steady force on the field and in the locker room for his younger teammates to lean on.