Falcons notes: John Abraham to be unleashed

FLOWERY BRANCH — Falcons defensive end John Abraham will be like a NASCAR race car and have his restrictor plate removed for the wild-card playoff game against the New York Giants at 1 p.m. Sunday at MetLife Stadium.

“We’ve had him on a play count all season long, and now it’s an opportunity for us to go and extend his snaps as we get into the postseason,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said Thursday.

During the season, the Falcons freely rotated in Kroy Biermann with Abraham and Ray Edwards. Abraham suffered a minor groin injury in second game of the season, but continued to play. He has a history of groin injuries, and with the low snap count he started 15 of 16 games.

Without a play-count limitation, the Falcons plan to unleash Abraham, who leads the team with 9.5 sacks, for the entire game.

“They have a good line, but everything is pretty much controlled by [quarterback] Eli [Manning],” Abraham said. “He does a good job of getting the ball out. He recognizes rushes. He recognizes pressure. He does a good job of helping them out a lot.”

Abraham, 33, was fine with the play count. By being held back, he recovered more quickly from the groin injury and showed that he could still turn the corner against Jacksonville on Dec. 15, when he had 3.5 sacks and two forced fumbles.

Rolle factor

When he was with Arizona, Giants safety Antrel Rolle played a major role in the Cardinals’ 30-24 victory over the Falcons in the wild-card round Jan. 3, 2009.

With the Falcons up 17-14, Rolle returned a fumble 27 yards for a touchdown with 14:08 left in the third quarter.

Defensive tackle Darnell Dockett anticipated the snap count, ran through Harvey Dahl and hit Michael Turner before he could get the handoff secured. Rolle came in and scooped up the loose ball, scoring to give the Cardinals a 21-17 lead.

Injury report

Starting weakside linebacker Sean Weatherspoon returned to practice Thursday, after missing Wednesday’s practice with a head injury. He fully participated in practice.

Linebacker Stephen Nicholas did not participate in practice. Smith already said he was doubtful for Sunday. Cornerback Brent Grimes, who worked out with the trainers, did not practice, but he expects to play Sunday.

“They are a great offense, and they have a lot of weapons,” Grimes said. “We have our hands full, but we are going to prepare for them and we’ll be ready.”


Wide receiver Julio Jones has been named NFL offensive rookie of the month for December/January. After coming back from a hamstring injury, Jones caught 24 passes for 461 yards and six touchdowns in the final five games of the regular season. ... Les Snead, the Falcons’ director of player personnel, will interview with the St. Louis Rams and the Indianapolis Colts next week for their vacant general manager’s positions. Snead broke into the NFL as a scout with Jacksonville. He has been with the Falcons for 13 years and is considered one of general manager Thomas Dimitroff’s top lieutenants.