FLOWERY BRANCH — Sam Baker, who will open the season as the Falcons’ starting left tackle after an injury-marred campaign in 2011, is on the hot seat for the season opener.
After having in-season and offseason back surgery, Baker has reduced his body fat in an attempt to help him battle more athletic defensive ends and linebackers.
“He’s in as good of shape as he’s ever been,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “He’s redistributed his weight. His body fat is at a much different level than it was in the last two years.”
Baker will catch somewhat of a break against the Chiefs. Tamba Hali, who led the Chiefs in sacks last season with 12, is suspended for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.
Baker will match up against Andy Studebaker, who has 2.5 career sacks in 54 NFL games.
“I think Sam had a very good offseason,” Smith said.
Baker is ready to put last season behind him.
“Like coach Smith said, last year is not going win you any games, and it’s not going to lose you any games,” Baker said. “It’s a fresh start.”
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