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Torn ACL ends season for Falcons backup RB Norwood

The Atlanta Falcons placed backup running back Jerious Norwood on season-ending injured reserve Tuesday after he sustained a knee injury Sunday, forcing the team to make two moves to add depth.

Norwood was Michael Turner's top backup before hurting his right knee on a kickoff return at the start of the 41-7 victory over the Arizona Cardinals. The Falcons wouldn't reveal the extent of the injury, but a league source Tuesday told NFL Network insider Jason La Canfora that Norwood tore his anterior cruciate ligament.

The Falcons signed two running backs Tuesday. Gartrell Johnson III was added to the active roster, and rookie Shawnbrey McNeal joined the practice squad.

Johnson had 13 carries for 43 yards in 10 games with the New York Giants in 2009.

Turner left Sunday's game with a groin injury, but Falcons coach Mike Smith said he could have returned to the game if needed. Turner is expected to start this weekend at New Orleans.

Jason Snelling rushed for 129 yards, caught five passes and scored three touchdowns while playing behind Turner and Norwood. Snelling is expected to move up as Turner's top backup against the Saints.

A long series of injuries, including a concussion and hip injury last year, have limited Norwood. He missed six games in 2009, when he had a career-low 252 rushing yards in 10 games, including four starts.

"Unfortunately, Jerious has had some bumps and bruises and some missed time since we've been here, but he is a very talented football player, and he's been a guy that's contributed to the success that we've had," Smith said Monday.

"You like the speed of him as a running back and as a specialist, and he's been able to contribute for us the past two years. There's always a sense of frustration anytime you don't have your best players out there on the field."

Through it all, Norwood has retained his positive outlook and constant grin.

"It's all a part of football," he said earlier this year of his inability to remain healthy. "You have guys who get hurt all the time. It's been pretty frustrating. But being the type of person I am, I always try to have a positive attitude."

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Norwood was a 2006 third-round draft pick out of Mississippi State, and he added speed and big-play potential to the Falcons as a running back and return specialist.

Norwood looked like a future starter in 2006, when he ran for 633 yards, averaging 6.4 yards per carry, as a rookie. He added 613 rushing yards in 2007 and 489 yards in 2008 -- the only season in which he played in all 16 regular-season games.

Johnson was a fourth-round pick by the San Diego Chargers in 2009. He was signed by the Giants on Sept. 15, 2009, after the Chargers waived him.

The Falcons lost rookie running back Dimitri Nance off their practice squad last week when he signed with the Green Bay Packers.

Linebacker Bear Woods was released from the practice squad to clear a spot for McNeal. McNeal was waived by San Diego following training camp after signing as an undrafted rookie free agent from SMU.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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