Falcons receiver Michael Jenkins is close to returning

FLOWERY BRANCH -- Falcons wide receiver Michael Jenkins, who is recovering from a shoulder injury, is slowly working back into the offense.

He was injured Aug. 6 and returned to practice last week, but worked mostly with the reserves.

"He is participating in practice again this week," Falcons coach Mike Smith said. "That participation is much more than what he did last week. We will get him evaluated here at the end of the week, and we'll make a decision as we get closer to game time."

Wide receiver Roddy White is second in the NFL with 25 receptions. Harry Douglas, Eric Weems and Brian Finneran, the trio that has split up Jenkins' role in the offense, have combined for 13 catches and one touchdown.

Over his professional and college careers, this is the longest time that Jenkins has been out with an injury.

"You want to be out there making plays and helping your teammates out," Jenkins said. "It's a little frustrating. ... It's just tough watching."

Jenkins would not put a percentage on his chances of playing against the 49ers on Sunday.

"It's kind of up to the training staff and the coaches," Jenkins said. "I have to leave it up to them."

Blanket coverage units

In the past two games, the Falcons' coverage units have allowed big returns.

Arizona's LaRod Stephens-Howling returned a kickoff 98 yards and New Orleans' Lance Moore returned a punt 72 yards.

Stephens-Howling's touchdown was nullified by a holding penalty.

The Falcons have worked to tighten their coverage units.

Rookie Shann Schillinger made the touchdown-saving tackle on Moore.

"When you come free, you have to make those plays," Schillinger said.

Special-teams coach Keith Armstrong has stressed better execution by the coverage units. In 2008, the Falcons set an NFL record by holding opponents to 43 punt-return yards all season. They have allowed 79 yards on punt returns in three games, with six fair catches.

"We are continuing to smash that into our heads [about better coverage]," Schillinger said. "Obviously that’s unacceptable. We need to get that fixed. Part of that is on me. We're working on it and hoping to get that done."

Armstrong has not been happy.

"Coach Armstrong takes a lot of pride in it," Schillinger said. "If you look at the past stats, he's always at the top of the league in everything. We just have to go out and execute better."

Coleman held back

Safety Erik Coleman, who's coming back from a medial collateral ligament (MCL) strain in his left knee, was held back because the team was practicing indoors because of rain.

"We want to make sure that we're not going to hurt that knee," Smith said. "Erik has done a wonderful job with the people in the training room coming back from the MCL injury."

Weatherspoon misses practice

Rookie linebacker Sean Weatherspoon did not practice for the second consecutive day.

"He still has an issue with his ankle," Smith said. "We will try again Friday."