Smith confirmed Thursday that Harry Douglas will miss the season with a knee injury, and the team later placed him on injured reserve. Pro Bowl wide receiver Roddy White is in a contract holdout, but Douglas’ injury will not affect those talks, a team source told NFL.com's Steve Wyche.
That means the Falcons' three-receiver formation includes Eric Weems, who has one career catch, and Brian Finneran, who hasn't started a game since 2005, so the team signed veterans Robert Ferguson and Marty Booker on Thursday for help. Ferguson played eight seasons with the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings, and Booker, who's entering his 11th NFL season, spent time with the Chicago Bears and Miami Dolphins.
Weems, who rooms with Douglas at the Falcons' training camp, and Finneran, who missed two seasons with knee injuries, said they felt pain for Douglas when he hurt his left knee during practice Wednesday.
"The way he went down was a bad feeling, a bad feeling," Finneran said.
The teammates' fears were realized when Smith said Douglas tore his anterior cruciate ligament and is out for the year.
"It's not a career-ender, we know that for sure," Douglas' agent, David Rich, told NFL Network's Jason La Canfora of the injury. "And if you look at the history of these types of injuries, it usually is about a year to get back."
It likely will be six months before Douglas can begin his recovery, and Rich said his client could look to have surgery performed by orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala., once the swelling goes down.
"Of course there's a lot of water to go under the bridge between now and the first game," Smith said.
Weems spent most of the last two seasons on the Falcons' practice squad and had only one catch for 4 yards last season. Finneran caught 21 passes, including his first touchdown reception since 2005, but he didn't start a game last season.
Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said the team might have to wait until NFL roster cuts to find additional help at wide receiver.
"A lot of players become available on Sept. 1," Dimitroff said. "This is not a time of year where there are a lot of players available."
Weems originally signed with the Falcons in 2007 as an undrafted rookie from Bethune-Cookman and played in six games last season. Even if White ends his holdout, Weems seems destined for a more prominent role this year because he also will have a chance to replace Douglas on punt returns.
"I returned a little bit in college," Weems said. "I'm definitely comfortable doing that."
Weems, wide receiver Chandler Williams and running back Jerious Norwood fielded punts Thursday. But the Falcons' bigger concern is obviously the sudden lack of experience and depth at wide receiver.
"I'm very disappointed for Harry personally, but in terms of us building our team for 2009, injuries are something that are going to happen," Smith said. "As I told our players this morning, one man's misfortune is another guy's opportunity, and that's what we have to keep in mind. Somebody else can step up and have an opportunity to perform."
Rich spoke with Douglas on Wednesday night and said the wide receiver is maintaining a positive attitude despite the setback.
"We talked about the injury," Rich said, "and Harry told me, 'I'm going to be back and prove that where I was going before I got hurt is still the same place I'm headed.'"
The reality is that for many players who suffer ACL tears -- particularly receivers and cornerbacks, who do so much cutting and darting -- the first season back is a feeling-out process, with lots of ups and downs. It often takes a full offseason of training and workouts after that to return to top form, both mentally and physically.
Douglas was filling in for White with the first-team offense in training camp before his injury. He had 23 catches for 320 yards and one touchdown as a rookie last season. He also had a 61-yard punt return for a touchdown against the Carolina Panthers -- the Falcons' first since 2004.
Weems said Douglas "has a big spirit."
"He's going to take his rehab seriously and he's going to be back next year," Weems said.
Other wide receivers in Falcons camp include Troy Bergeron, better known in Atlanta for his time with the Arena Football League's Georgia Force, and two undrafted rookie free agents: Aaron Kelly of Clemson and Darren Mougey of San Diego State.
Finneran said he has appealed to White to end his holdout and return to the team.
"We've been doing that the last few days, from Day 1," Finneran said. "We need Roddy."
White has missed the first six days of training camp and accrued fines of more than $95,000 -- or $15,888 per day. He is working out with former Alabama-Birmingham teammates in Birmingham, Ala.
White's agent, Jonathan Feinsod, had no comment in an e-mail response Thursday when asked if the injury to Douglas had an effect on the negotiations with the Falcons.
Dimitroff indicated Wednesday that he might end negotiations with White.
"I'm a little bit disappointed with how things have slowed down," Dimitroff said. "As we all know, Roddy is under contract and he would have to play at his current contract."
White would earn $2.5 million this season under his current contract, which he signed before his 2005 rookie season. White made the Pro Bowl for the first time last season after catching 88 passes for a team-record 1,382 yards and seven touchdowns.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.