FLOWERY BRANCH -- Falcons running back Jerious Norwood has a new helmet.
Not because it's Throwback week, but because he's coming off his fourth career concussion and will play with a more-heavily padded helmet.
Norwood, who suffered his second concussion of the season against Carolina on Sept. 20 while returning a kickoff, was medically cleared and returned to practice Wednesday.
"Throughout last week I was having minor headaches," Norwood said. "As time went on, those things went away, and I started feeling better."
Norwood did not play Sunday against New England.
Norwood suffered a concussion in the preseason when he took a crushing hit from San Diego's Antonio Cromartie. He missed the final exhibition game.
Norwood said he was more tired than usual, felt pressure in his head and had headaches after his second concussion. He also suffered one at Mississippi State, but was unsure about the fourth one, which was presumably in high school.
After returning the kickoff against the Panthers, Norwood said he played for two more plays.
"It kind of confuses you," Norwood said. "This last one I had, I came to the sidelines. I was asking everyone what happened, and they were looking at me with a confused look. That kind of shook me up.
"I kept asking where my helmet was. They'd taken my helmet from me. I was thinking that I was still good to go. It's kind of frustrating, but at the same time the doctors know what's best."
A recent study by the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research, which was distributed to league officials last month, concluded that memory-related diseases appear to have been diagnosed in the league’s former players more often than in the national population -- including a rate of 19 times the normal rate for men ages 30 through 49.
Norwood is aware of the study.
"I really don't worry about it," Norwood said. "I try not to think about it, but of course with me being a running back, I will have to take hits. But a lot of times I try to dodge a lot of the hits. Hopefully, I won't be getting any more concussions."
Norwood is hoping his new helmet will help him going forward.
"Anytime you are dealing with your head, you are dealing with a major part of your body," Norwood said. "I would much rather sprain a knee than have a concussion because it could lead to something bad happening down the road. You never know, so you have to be careful with your brain."
Running game under microscope
The Falcons averaged 152.7 yards rushing per game last season. Through three games this season they have averaged 92.3, a drop of 60.4 yards per game.
Running back Michael Turner has not added any pounds to his frame, and coach Mike Smith said the line was blocking well. They just haven't been able to pop those 15- and 20- yard gains against eight-man fronts.
"Michael is running the ball very hard," Smith said. "That was a great season that he had last year. Our intentions are to try to duplicate it again this year."
* Kickoff returner Eric Weems drew some praise from Smith. "I can't say enough about what Eric has done. When Jerious went down, he stepped in and averaged almost 28 yards. He catches the ball and he gets going north and south."
* Quarterback Matt Ryan will spend some time with his family over the bye week. "My sister is expecting her second child so I'm going to get a chance to go up and see her," Ryan said.
* Members of the Falcons' "Over 30 Club" are being rested during the bye week.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.