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Norwood back but for how long?
Falcons Camp Football Heal
Atlanta Falcons running back Jerious Norwood (32) carries the ball during the morning session at NFL football training camp in Flowery Branch Saturday. - photo by Associated Press

    FLOWERY BRANCH — Jerious Norwood was back on the field Monday.
    The Atlanta Falcons hope to keep him there.
    Production has rarely been an issue for the speedy running back, who can be one of the NFL's most dynamic off-the-bench weapons — when he's healthy, that is.
    Norwood has it made it through an entire year without getting injured only once in his first four seasons with the Falcons.
    "It's all a part of football. You have guys who get hurt all the time," he said. "It's been pretty frustrating. But being the type of person I am, I always try to have a positive attitude."
    Last season was especially frustrating for Norwood, who missed six games with a concussion and an injured hip flexor.
    The hip has continued to be a problem in training camp, sidelining him for most of the first 2½ weeks and the first preseason game.
    But Norwood returned Monday morning for a 2½-hour workout, proclaiming himself fully recovered and ready to show he can be a significant contributor in 2010.
    He won't play in Thursday night's exhibition against New England, but the Falcons are targeting the following week at Miami for his first action of the preseason.
    Norwood can't wait.
    "I feel great," he said. "I was moving around good, getting into the swing of things, being a part of the team."
    The 27-year-old Norwood has been a tantalizing figure in the Falcons backfield throughout his career, though he's made just six career starts. He backed up Warrick Dunn his first two seasons, totaling 1,246 yards on the ground and averaging more than 6 yards per carry. He returned kickoffs and was an effective weapon in the passing game.

When Norwood got his hands on the ball, big things usually happened — his first three career touchdowns all went for more than 60 yards.

Atlanta signed Michael Turner in 2008 to be its lead back, but Norwood continued to play a vital role. He ran for 489 yards and four touchdowns, plus had a career-best 36 receptions for 338 yards and two more scores to help the Falcons claim an unexpected playoff berth. And for the first time, he played all 16 regular-season games.

But 2009 was largely a lost season for Norwood. He sustained a concussion in the preseason, then another early in the regular season. That was followed by those troubles with the hip flexor, which cropped up again in the early days of camp. His numbers took a tumble, too — he averaged just 3.3 yards on a career-low 76 carries.

Throw in a knee injury which caused him to miss a game in 2006, ankle problems which sidelined for a couple of games in '07, and it's clear that Norwood's reliability is becoming a major issue.

If he can stay healthy, though, he'll play a big role in an offense that's already loaded with stars such as Turner, quarterback Matt Ryan, tight end Tony Gonzalez and receiver Roddy White.

"We look forward to seeing his speed out there on the field," coach Mike Smith said. "It gives us a completely different dynamic. With Jerious, we've got a guy who can do a lot of different things for the offense. We can line him up in different spots and create mismatches. He's a guy we want to get back and be part of our offense."

Outwardly, at least, Norwood hasn't let the injuries get him down. He usually has a smile on his face, and he's always got time to riff on another of his favorite passions — fishing. He won't reveal his favorite spot to cast a line, other than to say it was back in his native Mississippi.

"If I tell you that, everyone will be out there," he said, flashing a big grin.

Turner had his own injury problems in 2009, missing five games with a sprained ankle. He's healthy again — and looks forward to teaming with Norwood to give the Falcons a devastating 1-2 punch in the running game.

"It's good to see him back out here with the pads on finally," Turner said. "He's one of our X-factors. We need him on this team."

NOTES: Shaking up the roster for the second day in a row, the Falcons signed S Eric Brock and CB Dominique Daniels and waived injured cornerback Daylan Walker. On Sunday, the Falcons signed CB Gabe Derricks and released K Steve Hauschka and TE Colin Peek. All three of the newcomers are familiar faces — Brock spent the majority of the last two seasons on the practice squad, while Daniels and Derricks initially signed with the Falcons as rookie free agents in April. "All the moves we made are guys that are familiar with our program," Smith said. "We felt like we needed to get some legs in here in the secondary."