Roddy White may be playing on one leg, but he's hanging on tight with both hands.
The 31-year-old wide reciever has been hampered by a high-ankle sprain since the preseason. Despite missing practices and enduring limited productivity in games, White continues to cling to his spot in the Atlanta Falcons' starting lineup.
White, along with defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux, is the elder statesman for an NFC power that has overproduced in the last few regular seasons only to underperform in January. For being the star of a team known for its early exits, White could be expected to hold the proverbial stage until the curtain falls on his head.
The ankle injury is bad. With an ankle sprain that requires rest to heal, Roddy would have to sit out about a month to reach top form again.
White spoke in great detail about his team's expectations in seasons past, how simply reaching the postseason was good enough. For a Falcons organization that had made the playoffs in four of the last five seasons—and hosted three of those January games, including last year's NFC Championship—the Dirty Birds embodied the vibe of a team simply happy to be there.
White's comments were almost surely designed to raise those expectations, a burden for which he now lacks two healthy legs to carry.
White's stature as leader-by-example with the Falcons is only part of that must-play equation. By suiting up in Monday night's game against the New York Jets, the former first-round pick out of UAB will have played in his 133rd consecutive game, a streak covering the entirety of his NFL career. Such a milestone is not only a testament to his durability and his skill playing the game, but it also serves as a handy anecdote for a four-time Pro Bowler still building his resumé for Canton.
Add to those, the fact that White has spent the last 16 of those games glancing into the rearview mirror and seeing that bright red-and-white No. 11 jersey staring back at him.
The Falcons broke their draft bank to land Julio Jones, trading five picks to the Cleveland Browns in the 2011 draft for the right to select Jones, an explosive wide receiver who forced the storied Alabama program to reconsider the benefits of the forward pass. With quarterback Matt Ryan and Atlanta's pass-happy offense, Jones broke the 100-yard receiving mark in three of his first five games.
But White was still Ryan's security blanket on the offense.
In 2012, White and Jones both reached the 1,000-yard plateau, the first time in a decade that a pair of Falcons receivers had done so. Last year, both players seemed to alternate having great games. All but two of Jones' 10 touchdowns were scored on the road. White was the better player at home; he finished the season ahead of Jones in yardage but posted fewer touchdowns.
And the pro football world took notice. For the first time, Jones was listed in the NFL's Top 100 players, landing at No. 26—thirteen spots ahead of White.
And as the 2013 season unfolds, Jones is proving not only to be more prolific than White but also more marketable. It was Jones—not White—who appeared in that goofy fantasy-football commercial alongside Matt Ryan. And it's Julio who's now the poster boy for Visa's new twist on a “fantasy football” promotion.
That leaves White to his own devices, his infamous Twitter account and his gimpy ankle to remind the world that he's still here. And although his production has taken a dent, he is still here.
Even on one leg, White will be making sure that Jones still has to catch his legacy in Atlanta. He won't sit. Not while the rest of the league prepares to move along without him.