Baker out for season; Matthews likely headed for left tackle spot

Atlanta Falcons' Sam Baker (72) leaves on a cart after he was injured during the second quarter of an NFL preseason football game against the Houston Texans, Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
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Atlanta Falcons' Sam Baker (72) leaves on a cart after he was injured during the second quarter of an NFL preseason football game against the Houston Texans, Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Credit: David J. Phillip

Credit: David J. Phillip

Jake Matthews’ matriculation to left tackle is going to start a little sooner than the Falcons had anticipated.

The original plan — keep Sam Baker at left tackle and let Matthews, the sixth overall pick in the NFL draft, get his feet wet in the NFL at right tackle — is obsolete.

Baker suffered a ruptured patellar tendon in his right knee on his 14th snap of the exhibition game against Houston on Saturday night.

Falcons coach Mike Smith announced that Baker, who was coming back from a patellar injury in his left knee, will be out for the season. Baker, a first-round pick in 2008, has played in all 16 games in just two of his six seasons in the NFL.

“Following his injury in the game, Sam underwent a number of tests and it was determined that he had suffered a torn patellar tendon and will miss the rest of the season,” Smith said. “Sam had worked extremely hard to get back on the field after missing most of last season and he was having a good camp.”

Earlier in camp, Baker had expressed how difficult it was rehabbing last season.

“It is tough just because you fight back and then you have a little setback and have to fight back,” Baker said. “It seems like it’s kind of a pattern. You just keep working and luckily, we have a lot of positive people in the organization that keep you going and keep you working toward coming back. Then once you’re back, they keep you there.

“Yeah, it was very, very tough last year. That’s just going to make me hungrier for this year and (work harder) to be out there fighting with the guys.”

Now, Baker knows he won’t be out there.

“I know he is disappointed, but I also know he is a very resilient football player and will do whatever he can to bounce back,” Smith said.

Baker’s chances of recovery from the injury are good.

“These things take somewhere between six and nine months to come back from,” said Dr. Bert Mandelbaum, an orthopedic surgeon and co-chair of medical affairs at the Institute for Sports Sciences in Los Angeles.

The patellar tendon curves between the tibia and the knee cap. Doctors may use a material called fiber wire to repair the tendon.

“Then with the elite athletes, we tend to use some of the biological (matter) to optimize the re-generation,” Mandelbaum said. “Many times we used platelet rich plasma, PRP, in those situations to enhance the re-generation potential of the torn ligament.”

Matthews has had a strong training camp and is clearly the top tackle on the roster. If he’s moved to left tackle, Lamar Holmes, Ryan Schraeder and Gabe Carimi could battle it out for the starting right tackle spot.

After the game, Smith seemed open to moving Matthews to left tackle.

“We’d have a number of options,” Smith said. “Again, our number one goal would be to put the five best offensive linemen out there. We obviously know that he’s one of the five best because he’s a starter. Is he our best left tackle? Is he our best option? That’s something we’ll have to determine.”

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