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Akeem Dent's concussion leaves Falcons thin at linebacker

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith is having a tough time keeping his starting middle linebacker healthy.

After losing Curtis Lofton to free agency in the spring, the Falcons signed Lofa Tatupu to replace him, but a torn pectoral muscle ended his season before the start of training camp.

Now Atlanta must temporarily replace second-year linebacker Akeem Dent, who sustained a concussion in the 31-17 loss to the Baltimore Ravens and will miss next week's preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

With 14th-year veteran Mike Peterson taking Dent's spot Saturday in practice, Smith didn't seem concerned about the situation at middle linebacker, but the specter of injuries is one that haunts every NFL team.

Smith has made it a stated goal in camp and preseason games that the Falcons will do everything in their control to avoid injuries.

"You have to get your guys prepared, and it's a fine line," Smith said. "You're always walking that fine line, in terms of the right amount of work, the right amount of contact, and overworking your players. I think we do a really nice job."

Atlanta took a hit at fullback, too, when rookie fullback Bradie Ewing was lost for the season after injuring his right knee against Baltimore.

Ewing, a fifth-round pick from Wisconsin, was listed as the top reserve behind starter Mike Cox.

"That's a tough break in his first NFL preseason game," Cox said. "I told him he was in my prayers and everything. He wants to get through and be back better than ever."

Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press

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