FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The Atlanta Falcons placed starting defensive tackles Rod Coleman and Trey Lewis on injured reserve on Tuesday, ending the season for both players.
Coach Bobby Petrino said the team was concerned that Coleman and Lewis might risk serious injury if they continued to play.
Coleman, a Pro Bowl selection two years ago who led NFL interior linemen with 52 1/2 sacks from 2001-07, injured his hand and triceps in Atlanta's 31-7 loss to Tampa Bay last week.
Lewis, a rookie drafted in the sixth round out of Washburn University, suffered a knee injury against Tampa Bay on Sunday that will require surgery.
The Falcons might regret the move last month to release nose tackle Grady Jackson, an 11-year veteran who led the league with 13 stops for lost yardage in 2006 and had 5 1/2 for negative yardage in Altanta's first seven games.
Lewis replaced Jackson, who now plays for Jacksonville, on the first-team defense.
Atlanta is so short of experience on the interior line that third-year reserve end Chauncey Davis will be used as a tackle if necessary for certain defensive alignments.
The loss of Coleman, a nine-year veteran, was not unexpected after he rehabbed furiously to return from surgery on a torn quadriceps sustained in April.
Petrino first realized Coleman's injury when he walked through the locker room during the NFL draft and saw the 297-pounder lying on a training table. Coleman had sustained the tear while driving a personal watercraft.
Though Coleman insisted that his quadriceps held up well, he later hurt his right knee, which swelled up dramatically after his return to practice in September.
Babineaux, a second-round draft pick in 2005 from Iowa, has played in eight games this year, missing two with a knee injury. He and Stanley have combined for 25 tackles, two sacks and one fumble recovery.
To replace Coleman and Lewis on the 53-man roster, the Falcons signed two defensive linemen: free agent tackle Jesse Mahelona, and former practice squad end Kevin Huntley.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press