FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- It's no surprise that Chris Redman feels anxious this week.
The Atlanta Falcons' No. 2 quarterback is about to make a rare start, his first since 2007, when his team hosts the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.
Filling in the second consecutive week while Matt Ryan nurses a toe injury, Redman wished game day didn't seem so long away.
"Yeah, pretty much," he said. "You kind of just go through your routine that you've stuck with over the years. Just try not to get to nervous and go out there and have fun."
Redman hardly looked rattled in last weekend's 20-17 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Playing all but the first drive as Ryan's replacement, Redman overcame five sacks, an inconsistent running game and two dropped touchdown passes by Roddy White, who redeemed himself late in the fourth quarter with a 5-yard winning touchdown catch on fourth-and-goal.
"You've got to give Chris and (offensive coordinator) Mike Mularkey credit for staying with me," White said. "I knew we would win the game, but hopefully this week we won't make it so hard on ourselves."
Redman's hope of beating the Eagles could rest with White and Tony Gonzalez, the NFL's career-leading tight end, as Mularkey tries to compensate for injuries to Pro Bowl running back Michael Turner, No. 2 wide receiver Michael Jenkins, left tackle Sam Baker and right guard Harvey Dahl.
Falcons coach Mike Smith listed all four as questionable after practice Friday. White also is on the injury report, but he has played with the same injury the last three weeks.
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Against the Buccaneers, Redman completed 23 of 41 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. He had little support from the running game, which averaged just 2.9 yards on 26 carries, against a Tampa Bay run defense that ranks last in the NFC and 30th overall.
The Eagles (7-4) have the NFL's eighth-best unit against the run, allowing opponents to average 102.3 yards. Turner's ankle injury means Atlanta (6-5) likely will start Jason Snelling at running back. Snelling has a 4.0 average and three touchdowns on 66 carries, and Jerious Norwood has the same average with no scores on 25 attempts.
Until last week, Redman hadn't attempted a game pass since the 2007 finale. The Falcons finished 4-12 that season after quarterback Michael Vick went to federal prison on a dogfighting conviction and coach Bobby Petrino quit after 13 games and left for the University of Arkansas.
Petrino's aloof attitude and abrupt departure hardly endeared him to the Falcons, but Redman, in his customarily calm voice, has always defended the former coach who gave him one last NFL chance. During their time together at Louisville, Redman used Petrino's schemes to become the No. 2 career leader in the NCAA's highest classification with 12,541 passing yards.
A third-round draft pick by the Baltimore Ravens in 2000, Redman didn't start a game until his third season. He went 3-3 in '02 before back injuries nearly ended his career. Unable to make a 53-man NFL roster from 2004 to 2006, Redman spent most of working hours selling property and casualty insurance to corporations in his hometown of Louisville. Petrino called in March '07.
Redman was a third-stringer, but he eventually passed Joey Harrington and Byron Leftwich on the depth chart and went 1-3.
Ryan, the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, took every snap in '09, but the Falcons are struggling with protections. With 21 sacks allowed, they already have allowed four more than all of last season, and the six they gave up to Tampa Bay were the most in 26 games under Mularkey.
The Eagles' defense might bring harder pressure than the Bucs, but Redman was pleased to wake up Monday morning with only moderate soreness.
Considering he hadn't played in so long, it could've been worse.
"That's part of being a quarterback," Redman said. "You're going to take some bumps and bruises, but they feel a lot better when you win."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press