FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – The Atlanta Falcons, the NFL's last unbeaten team, were rested and closer to full strength on Monday in their return from their bye week.
Defensive tackle Corey Peters, a starter the last two seasons, returned for limited activity in his first practice this season. Peters, on the reserve injured list with a stress fracture in his left foot, will be eligible to make his season debut on Sunday at Philadelphia.
Coach Mike Smith wouldn't comment on the chances Peters could play this week after missing the offseason team activities and training camp, plus the first six weeks of the season.
"We will up his participation as the week goes on," Smith said, noting the team has three weeks to either activate Peters or place the third-year player on injured reserve for the remainder of the season.
Peria Jerry has joined Jonathan Babineaux as the starting defensive tackles in the first six games. Babineaux had three tackles for losses as he was on the field for 69 of the defense's 73 plays in a 23-20 win over Oakland on Oct. 14.
Vance Walker and rookie Travian Robertson were the only defensive tackles to play behind Babineaux and Jerry, and Robertson logged only two plays.
Peters could be an important addition for the second half of the season as the Falcons (6-0) try to build on their strong start. He showed his knack for big plays last season when he had three sacks, an interception and a fumble recovery he returned for a touchdown.
Clearly, the Falcons would find room for Peters in the rotation at the position.
"It was nice to see Corey Peters with the football helmet and shoulder pads on the football field today," Smith said.
Smith said outside linebacker Stephen Nicholas, who played only on special teams against Oakland due to an ankle injury, was back at full speed. Also, backup tight end Michael Palmer returned from a shoulder injury.
Smith made a departure from his normal bye-week schedule last week. He usually schedules two practices in the team's open week, but instead gave the players the full week off.
Center Todd McClure, in his 13th season, said it was the first time he had enjoyed a full week off during a season.
"The thing about Smith is he knows this team and he knows that we need it," McClure said. "He knows we need some rest. We've been working really hard and we need to recharge. He did what was best for us."
Running back Michael Turner said he "just chilled out" last week.
"It was good to clear our heads a little bit," Turner said. "Now we can refocus and finish the job we came here for."
Smith and his coaching staff used the break to analyze the team's strengths and weaknesses. He is hoping for improvement in the Falcons' running game and run defense.
The Falcons worked in pads and helmets on Monday.
"We spent the week taking a good, hard look at things we've got to get better at," Smith said. "We identified them and today was a Falcons day. We came out here and really worked on fundamentals.
"We worked on things we need to do to help ourselves play better through the last 10 games of the season."
Smith said the Falcons will shift their focus to the Eagles on Wednesday as they begin their normal game-week schedule.
NOTES: CB Asante Samuel was in top vocal form as he fielded punts in practice and then called out to general manager Thomas Dimitroff, who was watching from the sideline, that he would need more money for the new role. Dimitroff laughed and then asked a reporter "Have you ever seen a player heckle the GM?" Smith said after the Oakland game he might begin using Samuel on punt returns. Dominique Franks has been the team's only return specialist on punts. ... WR Harry Douglas (ankle), OG Garrett Reynolds (back) and RB Antone Smith (hamstring) did not practice.
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