By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Running wounded
FALCONS 4 col col
Atlanta Falcons running back Warrick Dunn gets by Tampa Bay’s Ryan Nece on Sunday, Dec. 10 in Tampa, Fla. Dunn and back-up Jerious Norwood are both listed as questionable for Saturday’s crucial game against Dallas. - photo by Associated Press
    FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Running back Warrick Dunn missed his second straight practice Thursday, but the Atlanta Falcons received some good news when rookie Jerious Norwood returned to the field.
    Coach Jim Mora kept both players listed as questionable for Atlanta’s game Saturday night against the Dallas Cowboys.
    ‘‘Nothing’s changed with me,’’ Dunn said as a team official tried to hurry him into the trainers’ room. ‘‘But I’m planning to be out there. You know I want to be out there.’’
    The Falcons (7-6) have the No. 1 rushing attack in the NFL, with 997 yards from Dunn, 934 from quarterback Michael Vick and 550 from Norwood. Dunn, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, suffered a calf injury that forced him to leave in the second half of a crucial win at Tampa Bay last week.
    Norwood, a third-round draft pick from Mississippi State, hurt his right knee a few plays later.
    ‘‘A good sign is Jerious practicing today and looking good, so we’ll see how he feels tomorrow,’’ Mora said. ‘‘I hate handing over that inactive list before the game. I wish they’d let me do it at halftime or something.’’
    Against the Cowboys (8-5), Atlanta must ensure that special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis has enough backup running backs to fit his schemes.
    The Falcons’ coverage and return units rely heavily on Norwood, starting fullback Justin Griffith and reserve fullback Fred McCrary, but if Dunn misses his first game since Week 17 of 2003, Atlanta might decide to activate one of two journeymen, running back Jamal Robertson or fullback Corey McIntyre.
    ‘‘You can’t put a guy out there and lose him after one play,’’ Mora said when asked about Dunn and Norwood. ‘‘That’s the worst thing that could happen, so we just have to be smart about it.’’
    Griffith, who scored his first career rushing touchdown after Dunn and Norwood departed last week, could start at running back and McCrary at fullback.
    Running backs coach Ollie Wilson helped the Falcons navigate more difficult circumstances in the final eight weeks of 2004-05. He lost Griffith and the starting fullback’s two replacements, Stanley Pritchett and George Layne, to season-ending injuries in a four-week stretch.
    McCrary hadn’t played since the first six weeks of 2003 when Atlanta signed him to start the last five games, including two in the playoffs. A knee injury to Dunn’s backup, T.J. Duckett, also forced Wilson to shuttle in Jason Wright and fullback Carey Davis from the practice squad.
    ‘‘It starts with our veterans, guys like Warrick, Justin, Freddie and T.J. when he was here,’’ Wilson said. ‘‘Our younger guys learn they have to prepare and do whatever we ask them to do for us to be successful as a team.’’
    Wilson insists that Norwood long ago erased concerns that he struggled too much as a pass-blocker.
    ‘‘Sylvester Croom, at Mississippi State, did a good job of teaching him technique, but all the recognition stuff — where opponents are lined up and all of sudden things change — that can take a while to learn,’’ Wilson said of Norwood. ‘‘But I can remember at least four times when Jerious saw that a safety had suddenly moved to the backside, or something else that wasn’t normal, and he put himself in position to make the play.’’
    Facing a Dallas defense that ranks No. 6 against the run, the Falcons will take as long as they can to make roster decisions.
    ‘‘We’ve got some time,’’ Mora said. ‘‘You can take guys over and work them out and then make your decision. We’ll be all right.’’
Notes: Pro Bowl cornerback DeAngelo Hall (knee) missed practice for the second straight day, but he insisted ‘‘that nothing’’ would keep off the field against Dallas. ... Cornerback Jason Webster, who starts on the right side opposite Hall, returned to practice after missing the last five games with a torn groin. ... Nose tackle Grady Jackson (knee) skipped his second straight practice. He and Hall are listed as probable. Webster is questionable.