FLOWERY BRANCH — Rookie linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, the 19th player taken in the 2010 NFL draft, will start at weakside linebacker in the Falcons exhibition season opener against the Kansas City Chiefs at 8 p.m. Friday at the Georgia Dome.
Weatherspoon will start for Mike Peterson, who started 16 games at weakside linebacker last season. He is out with a calf injury.
“Sean will start at the (weakside) linebacker for us on Friday night,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “Curtis (Lofton) will be our (middle) linebacker and Stephen Nicholas will be our (strongside) linebacker.”
Over the offseason, the Falcons trained Weatherspoon at both outside linebacker positions. He will be expected to compete for a starting position.
Peterson turned 34 in June, but played for Smith in Jacksonville. Nicholas was a first-time starter last season, but was drafted as a weakside linebacker by the previous regime.
Weatherspoon, who played at Missouri, signed a five-year contract worth $17.5 million on July 29.
Also, not expected to play are cornerback Dunta Robinson (hamstring), safety William Moore (groin), safety Matt Giordano (groin), running back Jerious Norwood (hip flexor), defensive tackle Peria Jerry (knee), wide receiver Harry Douglas (knee) and cornerback Brian Williams (knee).
“Nine to 11 players will not participate in the game,” Smith said.