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Falcons lose Meier for season but still deep at receiver

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The Atlanta Falcons have lost a key backup receiver to a season-ending knee injury for the second consecutive season.

But coach Mike Smith says the team doesn't need to look for help.

Rookie Kerry Meier, a fifth-round draft pick from Kansas, injured his right knee during Thursday night's 28-10 preseason loss to the New England Patriots. No details of the injury were immediately available. He was placed on injured reserve.

The injury came one year after Harry Douglas, who had been projected as the Falcons' No. 3 receiver, missed the 2009 season following a knee injury in training camp. The team reacted to the loss of Douglas by signing veterans Marty Booker and Robert Ferguson.

Douglas returned to play against the Patriots. Starter Michael Jenkins is out with a shoulder injury, but he could be ready for the start of the regular season.

"Michael is going to be back around the opening of the season, so we feel good where we're at with our guys," Smith said. "Harry is back, so I don't anticipate that we need to do anything in terms of our roster."

Meier (6-3, 220) was drafted to give the team another big target for quarterback Matt Ryan.

"It's very tough for Kerry and for our football team," Smith said. "Kerry had a very solid training camp and was on track to be a contributor this year in a number of areas, not only as a wide receiver but as a special teams player. It's very unfortunate that we lost him for the season."

Jenkins will miss the full preseason. If he isn't ready for the start of the season, veteran Brian Finneran could join Roddy White as the starting receivers.

Douglas, Eric Weems and Troy Bergeron are the other veterans at the position.

Bergeron had a 19-yard touchdown catch from John Parker Wilson against the Patriots.

"That was a bright spot," Smith said. "Troy made a couple of guys miss there."

Douglas, a third-round pick from Louisville in 2008, had 23 catches for 320 yards as a rookie. He also scored touchdowns on a run and a punt return.

Finneran said having Douglas at full strength gives the passing a "big-time" boost.

"Watching Harry run around, he gets those little legs going and his feisty, pit-bull attitude, it's fun to watch," Finneran said of the 5-foot-10 Douglas. "It's exciting to watch him make plays for us. He's an exciting football player and an impact player for us, too."

Finneran, 34, had 11 catches for 111 yards in 10 games last season. He has 37 career starts and two seasons with more than 50 catches. He has been more of a specialist in recent years, coming in on third downs.

"If they put me in the lineup on first or second down and ask me to make some plays, I'll be happy to do that, too," Finneran said.

Notes: The team had its last day with two practices Saturday. Even with two preseason games remaining, Smith said the team will move to a regular-season practice schedule. ... Smith said the Patriots "were the more physical team" against the Falcons. The coach said he wasn't happy with his defense's inability to make a stop on third down and his offense's difficulty on New England's side of the field. "That's a big concern," he said. "You don't want to be scoring field goals. You want to be scoring touchdowns. Those are the things that we're going to address." ... Rookie DT Corey Peters (knee) and DL Jamaal Anderson (thigh) missed practice.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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