Pat Yasinskas of ESPN spoke with Falcons head coach Mike Smith at the NFL owners' meetings in Florida, where Smith confirmed that the team will be sticking with embattled former first round picks Sam Baker and Peria Jerry.
Baker has been the more notable bust of the two, becoming a whipping boy for angry fans who believe he's regressed since being drafted late in the first round with Matt Ryan in 2008. His 2011 season was so bad he lost his starting job to Will Svitek, but part of his performance was due to a back injury.
"I think that Sam has shown a lot of resiliency,’’ Smith said. "Sam really has worked through a lot of injuries throughout his career. He’s played through a lot of things. Sam, in my mind, was playing very well through the first five or six games last season until he was injured and had to have the procedure done on his back, which put him out for a very significant amount of time.’’
Jerry suffered a knee injury two games into his professional career and never developed into the run stopping interior lineman Atlanta assumed he'd be. Despite Baker's much higher-profile criticism from fans and media, the picture seems bleaker for Jerry, who likely won't be more than a rotational player behind Corey Peters. Smith and Yasinskas both cited the knee injury as potentially career-defining:
"I can’t say that it is an issue,’’ Smith said. "It was a significant injury. I don’t know that Peria was the same guy he was before the injury. You see his ability to get up the field at times and we still feel he can be a very productive player for us.’’