With Dent injury, Falcons take another hit at middle linebacker

Vivlamore reporting from the Georgia Dome.

The Falcons’ woes at middle linebacker continue – and the regular season is still weeks away.

Akeem Dent, the most recent heir apparent to the departed Curtis Lofton, suffered a head injury in Thursday’s exhibition opener against the Ravens. To make matters worse, the injury occurred while Dent was playing special teams.

There was no word following the game, a 31-17 Ravens victory, as to the extent of the injury or how long Dent would be out.

Falcons coach Mike Smith said he had “no regrets whatsoever” for having Dent play on special teams despite his role as a starter.

“He is a core special teams player,” Mike Smith said. “He’s our base linebacker. He’s going to have to play some special teams throughout the season. When you are a base player you play about 45 percent of the snaps.”

With the head injury, Dent will likely enter the NFL’s concussion protocol program.

“It’s tough, but it’s part of it,” linebacker Sean Weatherspoon said. “Linebackers have to play some [special] teams somewhere.”

Dent was to compete with Lofa Tatupu for the middle linebacker job vacated when Lofton, last season’s leading tackler, left via free agency to the division rival Saints. Tatupu, the veteran signed in the offseason, suffered a torn pectoral muscle lifting weights prior to the start of training camp. He underwent surgery and was waived following an injury settlement. The Falcons brought back Mike Peterson to serve in a reserve role and a tutor for Dent and play ahead of undrafted rookie Pat Schiller.

Dent, entering his second year out of Georgia, was injured on punt coverage with 9:52 remaining in the second quarter. After staying on the field for several minutes, he was taken into the locker room. The Falcons later announced that Dent had suffered a head injury and would not return.

“I went in and checked on him at halftime,” Peterson said. “It was brief. I’m going to go back in and make sure he’s OK. I’m pretty sure he is.

“The linebackers are pretty much built to play special teams and defense. That’s why I tease the guys and say we are the best athletes on the team. You ain’t going to see too many wide receivers go down there and cover, play the run, play special teams, play kickoffs.”

Dent led the Falcons with 19 tackles on special teams last season. He was named to the all-rookie team by Pro Football Weekly for his play on the unit.

“He’s going to be a playmaker for the Falcons,” Weatherspoon said of Dent. “We look to get him back on the field as soon as possible. … He is a great listener. He takes what coach says and goes out on the field and tries to work on it to get better at it. I can see it out there on the field.”

Tatupu signed to a two-year, $3.6 million contract in March. The former three-time Pro Bowler was trying to make a comeback after missing all of the 2011 season. His loss put Dent with the first-team defense, where he has been all training camp before starting Thursday’s exhibition alongside Stephen Nicholas and Weatherspoon.

Peterson was a starter in 2009 and 2010 before shifting to a reserve role last season. He started five games and played in 15 before going on injured reserve with a torn triceps that required surgery before the final game of the regular season. He was not tendered an offer when his contract expired in March.

“He was doing good,” Peterson said of Dent’s play prior to the injury. “I had my eyes on him, watching him. He was reading his keys. I just told him in the first preseason game just work on reading the keys. Read the keys and try to learn the system. The plays will come if you are doing the right thing.”

Lofton had 159 tackles last season and his departure left a hole in the middle of the Falcons defense. Dent’s injury is another roadblock in the attempt to fill the position.

- Chris Vivlamore

Game story: Ravens post 31-17 victory in preseason opener.

91 comments Add your comment

eric

August 10th, 2012
12:30 am

Should have never let Lofton go. This could wind up being a big mistake by Dimitroff, a guy I usually have a lot of faith in…

Tokyo Tom

August 10th, 2012
12:43 am

I questioned letting both Curtis Lofton & Ovie Mughelli go in the off season- obviously there might have been more going on behind the scenes then we know. Now both replacements gone for a while- maybe the season. My 9-7 prediction might be hopeful wishing now. TD- start making thos ephone calls!

Ray Snill1

August 10th, 2012
12:44 am

Lofton is fine where he is. dude had the worst 3rd down percentage for LBs the past 2 years in a row, we trying to actually get off the field on 3rd down now

lowdownjj

August 10th, 2012
12:46 am

Crap. B Ewin left with a knee injury also. Don’t know if Unc is up to a full season of starts @ MLB

Blake

August 10th, 2012
1:03 am

Ain’t gonna have to worry about middle linebacker…Thomas will get It done!

tlaw

August 10th, 2012
1:18 am

yeah..u damn homers NEED to hold THOMAS accountable for this..NO DEPTH will kill this team..losing a MLB and FB will hoped to contribute..who backs them? I’ll wait……

Brian N Smyrna

August 10th, 2012
1:32 am

How can your middle linebacker have a weak chin? Not a good look. Major concern for us. Peterson as the back up is not very comforting. I think this is a bad sign and having Dent starting was never a great idea to begin with. I think Mike Cox can be serviceable on offense.

Saints_Fan_From_Toronto

August 10th, 2012
1:54 am

I know most of y’all won’t admit it, but ATL’s front office didn’t get the job done in the off season by letting Curtis Lofton walk. He’s doing great for the Saints so far, fans are already comparing him to Jonathan Vilma in his prime with New Orleans (circa 2009).

SINCE66

August 10th, 2012
7:32 am

Curtis Lofton could’nt cover his granny in pass defense. He wanted too much money and that is
the reason he left. So there. A two down lb.

Jimmy Crack

August 10th, 2012
7:43 am

Maybe the Falcons will give FA MLB Gary Brackett a look. As far as depth, our LB group is awfully young.

yeahsure

August 10th, 2012
7:43 am

Call Crowder. Tell him to get in football shape and start learning the playbook. We need depth at LB.

[...] With Dent injury, Falcons take another hit at middle linebacker [...]

Gamer

August 10th, 2012
8:15 am

TD, NEED TO SEARCH OUT AN EXTRA MIDDLE LINEBACKER……HOPEFULLY, MLB WITH NFL EXPERIENCE, INJURE FREE.

GET WELL SOON DENT…

Jimmy Crack

August 10th, 2012
8:32 am

“He’s doing great for the Saints so far”

So far? haha. Against two teams with ZERO rushing attack.

Toronto, wait until passing situations in a real game. Your tune will change.

PMC

August 10th, 2012
8:34 am

It was kind of a freak thing that happened anyway. Players get hurt, there’s no reason for them not to play special teams as young players.

The team should be deep enough to handle that at linebacker anyway. Mo Pete is probably going to be in the right place more often than Dent anyway.

Byrdz Eye

August 10th, 2012
8:34 am

LMAO – Lofton’s leaving left a hole in the Falcon’s defense… Lofton WAS a hole on the Falcon’s defense. He couldn’t cover and was slow – sorry there isn’t really anyone better to replace him with but that’s what the front office gets for keeping Lard Butt on the team instead of trading him and freeing up space.

ATLSWAG

August 10th, 2012
8:34 am

Man there are a lot of fake falcons fan that don’t have faith in the team, just shut up and watch the season play out! Injuries happen all the time & Dent will be back. We have a good chance of making the playoffs again and winning 2 games at least!

Travis

August 10th, 2012
8:38 am

Everyone on needs to just chill. Y’all really make me sick with all the negative posting. If y’all had any knowledge about football you would know that those two position are the easy to fill. The only thing lofton could do was tackle that’s it. Get of TD and go cheer for your team. He is the best gm we have ever had.

RB

August 10th, 2012
8:54 am

Better hold on to Dominique Davis!

ATLSWAG

August 10th, 2012
9:10 am

@RB, Davis surprised me, he looked good slinging the ball around, def a keeper

FalconFaninVR

August 10th, 2012
9:34 am

Davis showed potential so can we get rid of the kid qb from alabama. John Parker whatever his name is. He stinks.

jaz

August 10th, 2012
9:59 am

From the replay, and I’ll admit that we never know, I think Dent just got a big ding and will be back a lot sooner than many think. We gotta keep Dominique Davis and Let JPW go. John Parker has reached his potential and it doesn’t look that good, just the opposite for DD.

Frankie

August 10th, 2012
10:17 am

john parker wilson and chris redman…hope matt does not get hurt…

Flacons never learn

August 10th, 2012
10:21 am

Just grate. The Flacons loose anoter LB this year and are now down 2 62 year old Mike Pertoson.

evil empire

August 10th, 2012
10:22 am

FALCONS REMAIN WHAT THEY HAVE ALWAYS BEEN..THE JOKE OF THE SOUTH….HAHAHAHAHAHAHA…..

Ry

August 10th, 2012
10:22 am

Falcons are definitely in trouble at MLB. Also, if Ryan gets hurt, they do not have a good backup and the offense will be terrible. They have depth issues at a number of positions.

QB Falcon

August 10th, 2012
10:24 am

JP Wilson has never been a good QB, and Redman looks pretty bad as well. D Davis looks better than JPW ever has. Davis looks like a keeper even though its still early in pre-season. Hope Dent’s ok. Even though Smith does not regret playing Dent on special teams its really a bone head move. Our depth at m-linebacker is already shakey and thin. 1st teamers looked really sharp but man did the back ups look bad. GOOOOOOOOOOOO FALCONS.

JAYCOOL

August 10th, 2012
10:26 am

Yeah I like Davis too. I also like Kevin Lone. I like the new look offends and defense. JULIO is ABEAST!!!! But don’t sleep on Roddy.

JSS

August 10th, 2012
11:10 am

Where are those big talkers who said I was blowing smoke about that drop-off in depth talent? Have fun, good luck with that!!!

hiramsaint

August 10th, 2012
11:41 am

Overrated

August 10th, 2012
11:41 am

Curtis Lofton was the most overrated falcon in recent history. Lots of tackles but most were 10-20 yards downfield. Not enough speed.

Overrated

August 10th, 2012
11:44 am

Overweight and slow.

Dimitroff we trust?

August 10th, 2012
12:18 pm

Hey “Flacons Never Learn”. If you want I’ll proofread your posts before you post them…

I’ve been seeing for years the incredible amount of faith people have in Dimitroff… but he’s always failed us at backup QBs. I don’t know if the staff is afraid of the mental effect it would have on Matt Ryan if you bring somebody in that could potentially replace him, if injured. Or if Dimitroff just doesn’t care because he feels he has all the QB he needs in Ryan. They always claim that each position is open during training camp. Yet they keep pushing these same two garbage backups behind Matt every year… offering nothing in the way of a challenge to Ryan to get better through competition between teammates. I don’t know if you guys remember that first time Ryan got hurt in 09 and we lost the season… Who was the backup? Joey Harrington maybe?! Come on Dimitroff. It’s been clear the past 4 years. If Ryan gets hurt, we have absolutely NO CHANCE of winning games. The offensive line has been shaky the past year. Ryan nearly got injured last year. You need to fix this problem now!!!

Bullet bob

August 10th, 2012
12:28 pm

Hear keith brooking is available.

Hollywould

August 10th, 2012
12:47 pm

I hated to see Lofton go but he wanted too much money for a 2 down player. I was sick of watching him running with his back to the ball trying to catch up. Good move for the money and passing defense.

Frankie

August 10th, 2012
12:51 pm

keith signed with denver….

Frankie

August 10th, 2012
12:54 pm

d.j. shockley is available…for back up qb…favre, mcnabb,

they cold have possibly gotten cousins in the draft, but oh welll…

yourpoliticalanimal

August 10th, 2012
12:58 pm

Somebody go find DJ Shockley and get rid of JPWilson (sounds like a country-western star) and Chris Redman (one of Bobby Petrino’s boneheaded fall off the motorcycle and hit his *head moves)…49ers and Eagles will meet in the conference championship, so what’s it all about anyway???????

realitycheck

August 10th, 2012
1:07 pm

Lofton looking like an absolute beast so far for the Saints. He’s 10-15 lbs trimmer, and running around the field like a heat seeking missile. Lofton appears headed for stardom withe Saints, witnessed by a couple of highlight reel hits and a fumble recovery in only a couple of series. He will be a big upgrade over the oft injured and aging Jonathan Vilma. What in the he!! was Dimwit thinking? Homers and dreamers can say all they want, but not re-signing Lofton may play out to be a catastrophic loss for the Falcon defense. My gut tells me it will wind up being just that!

Falcon30291

August 10th, 2012
1:31 pm

Lofton was the BLACK K.Brookings. Both were over rated. 170 tackles a year but after the season I can’t remember any of them. No impact what so ever. We will be fine and also we plan on using more 3 wr sets so a FB is not a big problem. Also Cox was decent last year.

hiramsaint

August 10th, 2012
2:50 pm

so your best tackler for 3 years in a row was overrated? whats that make matty melt ? LOL

sam

August 10th, 2012
3:13 pm

Speaking of injuries, has any heard any updates on the Ewing kid? Hated to see him go down like that last night at the Dome.

[...] Dent’s injury came while he was on the punt coverage unit. Coach Mike Smith said he had no regrets about utilizing  a starter on special teams. [...]

Mike Franklin

August 10th, 2012
4:26 pm

Fox saying that the Falcons may have just saved the Saints’ season by letting them have Lofton and playing Dent on special teams in the preseason…

… gak.

Rodney

August 10th, 2012
4:44 pm

I said all along Dent is a good back-up. He is no means a starter. The answer is go and get Edwards former teammate from Minn that is a FA (ILB Henderson). This is the missing piece and is an up grade over Lofton

hiramsaint

August 10th, 2012
4:46 pm

here we go again with the missing piece theory. the only missing piece you have is in denver

Mo

August 10th, 2012
5:28 pm

Who Peyton? Who looked shaky as hell in his first game? Defense is not one person. It’s a team. The Falcons will be fine. Dent has a concussion not a knee injury. He should be fine in 2 to 6 days. If not they will find a replacement and backup.

Mo

August 10th, 2012
5:32 pm

Lofton isn’t good enough to cover the entire field. The first hit he takes from Jacquizz will check him out of the game. As we saw from the game against the Ravens, Jacquizz needs only a small space to get his yards. Cox will be perfect as he was last year. Ewing was a rookie any how and he wouldn’t have seen that much playing time over the veteran.

hiramsaint

August 10th, 2012
5:46 pm

i’m talkin’ ’bout your trophy . check out the lofton hi lites and put another tear in your beer

realitycheck

August 10th, 2012
6:06 pm

Mo……….keep drinking the homer flavored kool aid………….you think a scatback is going to knock out a mlb………LMAO moron!