Atlanta Falcons Bring Back LB Mike Peterson: What It Means
Linebacker Mike Peterson will remain a member of Atlanta Falcons, the team just announced Monday afternoon. A 13-year veteran, Peterson appeared in 15 games for the Falcons in 2011, starting four of them.
The move comes days after 2012 free-agent acquisition Lofa Tatupu suffered a pectoral injury in a weight-lifting session.
Tatupu, a former All-Pro who did not play a down in the league last season, was attempting to make a comeback after signing with the Falcons in March. He was in battle with second-year pro Akeem Dent for the starting middle linebacker position following the departure of Curtis Lofton via free agency.
With Tatupu, 29, out, Peterson figures to immediately step into the primary backup slot in the middle behind Dent. Whether he keeps that job throughout the entirety of the season likely depends on Tatupu's recovery.
But while the severity of Tatupu's injury has yet been determined, the Falcons' swift action in signing Peterson signals he may be out for quite some time.
If that's the case, Peterson's signing may signal the end of Tatupu's comeback before it even begins. As difficult as it may be for a player to return to NFL form after a year away from the game, Tatupu looked well on his way. He was splitting first-team reps with Dent through OTAs and minicamp in a position battle that had the potential to take all of training camp before determining a winner.
That now appears highly unlikely. But while Tatupu's injury could possibly take months to heal, and may perhaps bring his career to a close, it equally provides Peterson the opportunity to revitalize his own.
Drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in 1999, Peterson, 36, spent a handful of years with the Jacksonville Jaguars before joining the Falcons as a free agent in 2008. A consistent starter at weak-side linebacker through 2009 and 2010, he eventually lost his job to Sean Weatherspoon last season, playing spot duty before being put on injured reserve in late December with a torn triceps.
By all accounts, the Falcons made a solid pick-up. They bring back a familiar face and an experienced player that provides fiery leadership, the versatility to play in any of the three linebacker positions in a 4-3 defense, as well as some fantastic locker-room entertainment.
As for Dent, while he now earns the starting job by default, chances are it was just a matter of time before he took it over Tatupu. The 2011 third-round draft pick always looked to be the better long-term option for the Falcons with his youth and potential.
Ultimately, it just means the future is now for Dent and the Falcons.
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