Falcons fear WR Jones out for season

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

ATLANTA -- Wide receiver Julio Jones, the Atlanta Falcons' most consistent deep threat who has been emerging into one of the best receivers in the NFL, has a right foot injury that may end his season, coach Mike Smith said Tuesday.
Jones will be evaluated Wednesday by noted foot specialist Robert Anderson in Charlotte. The team is holding out hope for a more optimistic diagnosis.
"Julio injured his foot last night," Smith said. "He saw our doctors this morning. He is going to have a second opinion tomorrow over in Charlotte. The first reports were not encouraging. But we will wait to see what the second opinion comes back as."
Although the original diagnosis was bleak, Smith stopped just short of ruling Jones out for the season.
"When we have something more definitive, you guys will be the first to know," Smith said.
Losing Jones would be a devastating blow to the Falcons, who are off to a 1-4 start after reaching the NFC Championship Game last season. The team was predicted by many to be a Super Bowl contender this season.
But injuries, a developing offensive line and penalties have kept them from fulfilling that promise early in the 2013 season.
If Jones is out, he could become the eighth player added to the team's injured reserve list. The Falcons have already used their "designated to return" tag on linebacker Sean Weatherspoon.
In addition to Jones (foot) and Weatherspoon (sprained foot), defensive end/linebacker Kroy Biermann (Achilles), fullback Bradie Ewing (shoulder), tackle Mike Johnson (ankle), cornerback Saeed Lee (knee), tight end Adam Nissley (knee), quarterback Sean Renfree (upper body) and tight end Andrew Szczerba (undisclosed) are on the team's injured reserve list.
Also out with injuries are running back Steven Jackson (hamstring), linebacker Akeem Dent (sprained right foot) and left tackle Sam Baker (knee).
Jones, even while being double- and sometimes triple-teamed, has accounted for 35.3 percent of the teams receiving yards and 26.9 percent of their catches. He leads the NFL with 41 catches and is second in the league with 580 receiving yards and 59 targets.
The injury is reportedly on the same foot that Jones ran a 4.39-second 40-yard dash on with a stress fracture on at the NFL Combine in 2011. He later had a surgery that was performed by Anderson.
"Again, he injured his football in the ball game last night and was able to complete the game," Smith said. "He had a test this morning and is going for a second opinion. But the first diagnosis was not very encouraging."
Smith said the injury occurred before Jones' acrobatic 46-yard diving reception while covered by the Jets' Antonio Cromartie.
If Jones is out an extended period of time, Harry Douglas would likely start opposite Roddy White, who is trying to recover from ankle and hamstring injuries over the bye week.
--The Falcons will play a regular-season game in London in 2014, the NFL confirmed.
The date and opponent will be determined later.
As a precursor to the NFL announcement, the Georgia World Congress Center Authority's board voted unanimously Tuesday morning to waive for 2014 a provision in the Falcons' Georgia Dome lease that requires the team to play eight regular-season games in the Dome each season. The Falcons will be permitted to drop to seven regular-season games in the Dome next season to accommodate the game in London's Wembley Stadium.
As a condition of the deal, the NFL will make the Georgia Dome "financially whole" by paying it an amount equal to what the game would have generated for the facility in net revenue if played there, GWCCA executive director Frank Poe said. The league also will make the Falcons financially whole, he said.
Given that the Dome won't lose money on the relinquished game, "we believe that it's a unique branding opportunity for the Authority as well as for the Falcons, state and city," Poe said.
The game involving the Falcons will be one of three NFL games played in London next season. The Jacksonville Jaguars and Oakland Raiders also will play home games there next season. Opponents were not announced for any of the three teams.
"Our fans in the UK have continued to demonstrate that they love football and want more," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. "Both of this year's games in London sold out quickly. The fan enthusiasm for our sport continues to grow. By playing two games in the UK this year, we are creating more fans. We hope that with three games in London next year we will attract even more people to our game."
Next season's game will be the first in Falcons franchise history to be played in London. The Falcons played preseason games in Tokyo in 2000 and 2005.
--LT Sam Baker (knee) did not play against the Jets, but could return against Tampa Bay after the bye week.

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