Brian Finneran ready to start, if needed

FLOWERY BRANCH -- It has been awhile since Brian Finneran has heard his name announced with the starting lineup.

But with the Falcons down a receiver because of Michael Jenkins' shoulder injury, Finneran is up to the task if needed.

He's listed on the team's depth chart as Jenkins' backup. However, coach Mike Smith said that he expected Finneran and Eric Weems to get most of practice repetitions while the team waits for Harry Douglas to fully recover from knee surgery.

Finneran started two games last season, but has not been a full-time starter since 2003. He started seven games in 2005, but started 16 in 2002.

He has battled back from two gruesome knee surgeries to keep his career going. Finneran, who missed the entire 2006 and 2007 seasons with knee injuries, believes he can fill the starting wide receiver role.

"I've been there before," Finneran said. "It's been a while since I've been asked to do it, but you just go out there and play football. I've been on the football field for a long time now. Whether if you are a two, three or number one [receiver], you go out there and play."

Finneran, who has 219 career receptions for 2,927 yards and 16 touchdowns, caught only 11 passes for 111 yards and no touchdowns last season.

Jenkins is scheduled to miss four to six weeks, as of Aug. 8. He could return a week before the season opener, or he could miss as much as the first two weeks of the season.

The Falcons open at Pittsburgh on Sept. 12 and play their home opener against Arizona on Sept. 19. Finneran is gearing up for at least an increased role, but possibly the starting assignment.

"A lot of times, the number [one receivers] of the world, you know who they are, the Roddy Whites and Larry Fitzgeralds of the world," Finneran said. "But from two through four, those guys get to step up and make plays every week. So you just go out there and do it."

Finneran had a tough start to training camp, missing a few practices with back spasms.

"We are very familiar with Brian and what he's capable of doing," Smith said.

Waiting on Robinson

The projected starting secondary has yet to play together much in training camp, but secondary coach Tim Lewis remains pleased.

"I'm the eternal optimist," Lewis said. "I always seem to see the bright side of things."

Cornerback Dunta Robinson, the team's big free-agent acquisition, went through three days of training camp before suffering a tight hamstring. He hasn't practiced with the defense since Aug. 2.

Lewis has juggled Christopher Owens, Brent Grimes and Chevis Jackson at cornerback. Owens and Grimes are set to start Friday against Kansas City in the exhibition opener.

Brian Williams, who opened last season as a starter, is battling back from knee surgery.

"We've had our ups and downs in our battle with the offense," Lewis said. "It's been a great battle for them to try to learn some of the things I presented to them that may be a little different than what they heard before."

Young defensive backs

Cornerback Daylan Walker and safety Rafael Bush, both undrafted rookie free agents, are expected to play a lot Friday night.

"I'm looking forward to watching them play," Lewis said. "Walker, I think he had an interception and two pass breakups [in Monday's practice]."

Bush also has made some nice plays.

"He's making calls, and he's generally in the right position," Lewis said. "He struggled a little bit in the spring, but he's made tremendous improvement."

QB rotation

After Matt Ryan starts against the Chiefs, the Falcons will hand the offense over to Chris Redman and John Parker Wilson.

"It's very important for Chris and JP simply because the backup quarterback, once the season starts, does not get a lot of repetitions in practice," Smith said. "I think you get a feel for how your backup quarterback can handle certain situations."

No pads

After four practices against Jacksonville, Smith gave the team a break Wednesday and let them practice without their pads.

"We would like to get our guys some rest," Smith said. "They've been going long and hard for the last 12 or 13 days."