Key injuries are already piling up for the Atlanta Falcons.
They announced Tuesday that linebacker and defensive leader Sean Weatherspoon has been placed on injured reserve with the designation to return after spraining his foot.
Furthermore, running back Steven Jackson's thigh injury could keep him sidelined 2-4 weeks.
Atlanta has already lost defensive end Kroy Biermann (Achilles' tear) and fullback Brady Ewing (separated shoulder) to season-ending injuries.
Weatherspoon, who was drafted 19th overall in 2010, emerged as the key to coordinator Mike Nolan's defense as a sideline-to-sideline force, trying for the team lead with 95 tackles last season despite missing three games. An every-down player, Weatherspoon has defended 13 passes and collected eight sacks in his career.
With Weatherspoon now sidelined for at least eight weeks, coach Mike Smith and general manager Thomas Dimitroff will turn to two undrafted rookies who impressed this summer, Delaware product Paul Worrilow and Texas State's Joplo Bartu. Both impressed with their versatility and athleticism.
The Falcons apparently have no plans to re-sign linebacker Brian Banks, who spent training camp and preseason with the team and participated in his first football games since a wrongful rape conviction derailed his once-promising career in high school. Banks confirmed to USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday that Atlanta has not reached out to him despite losing Weatherspoon.
Jackson, 30, the team's primary offseason acquisition was hurt Sunday while scoring a touchdown vs. the St. Louis Rams. Expect Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling to pick up the load in Jackson's absence.