FLOWERY BRANCH — Reserve linebacker Spencer Adkins will start for Mike Peterson, who was placed on injured reserve on Tuesday.
Adkins, who has been inactive for five games this season, will make his first NFL start.
He was drafted in the sixth round of the 2009 NFL draft from the University of Miami.
“I’ve been ready,” Adkins said. “I’ve been watching these guys that I’ve been behind. I’ve learned from them. I have just been preparing myself for this time.”
He will continue with his roles on the special team units.
“I just have some extra baggage that I have to take care of,” Adkins said.
He knows that he will have to manage his emotions when the Falcons face Tampa Bay at 4:15 p.m. on Sunday at the Georgia Dome.
“It’s exciting every time I step on the field no matter what I’m doing,” Adkins said. “I’m definitely going to be excited, but I’m going to do my job. I’ve been there before.”
Adkins has played a lot in the last few exhibition seasons. He played in five games as a rookie, nine games last season and 10 games this season. He had two tackles against Tampa Bay.
“There’s no pressure,” Adkins said. “It’s just the same as preseason games when I’ve taken all of the snaps. So there’s no pressure at all.”
Curtis Lofton will remain at middle linebacker and Sean Weatherspoon at the weakside spot. Peterson had taken over for Stephen Nicholas, who has not played in the last two games with a toe injury, at strongside.
“He’s ready to slide in,” Lofton said. “We won’t drop off or miss a step.”
Peterson, who was in his 13th season, was playing well. He had 13 tackles against Houston.
“No one can replace Pete,” Lofton said. “He brings a certain swagger and nasty attitude. He’s irreplaceable. I love having him out there.”
Adkins was a mainstay at the workouts at Buford High during the lockout that the players were running. He won over Lofton, who was calling the defensive signals there.
“He makes plays,” Lofton said. “He’s been getting a little work here and there. He’ll be ready to go.”
Adkins is soft spoken and doesn’t appear to have the outward swagger of the other linebackers on the team.
“He is one of the quieter guys on D-Block, but I’m pretty sure he’ll be fired up this weekend,” Weatherspoon said. “He played at the U and you definitely have to have a little dark side to you if you played at the U. We look forward to Spence being out there. He’s a run and hit guy and we look forward to seeing that.”
The linebackers knew something was wrong with Peterson after the Saints’ game. He’s set to have a surgery in the future on his arm.
“I knew that he was banged up a little bit,” Weatherspoon said. “He went in the training room a few times. I didn’t know it was that serious. I just wish him the best. It was a season-ending injury right before the playoffs. It is kind of tough on him.”
Peterson sort of adopted Weatherspoon and took him under his wings last season.
“He’s been integral in my development,” Weatherspoon said. “Whenever I’m doing something wrong, he’d pull me to the side. He’s helped me a lot.”
–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog