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Falcons DE Smith sidelined by neck surgery

ATLANTA (July 19, 2005) -- Atlanta Falcons defensive end Brady Smith will miss training camp, and his status for the start of the season could be in jeopardy following neck surgery.

Smith, entering his 10th NFL season, had a cervical-region, nerve-root decompression procedure in Rochester, N.Y., the team said.

The procedure was designed to relieve pain that has plagued Smith in the offseason.

While doctors project Smith will be out six to 12 weeks, the hope is he will miss no more than six weeks. If he needs as long as 12 weeks to recover, Smith could miss the first five games of the season.

Even under the most optimistic return date, Smith will miss training camp, which begins July 25 in Flowery Branch, Ga., and at least most of the preseason schedule.

The Falcons open their regular season schedule on Sept. 12 -- a Monday night game against Philadelphia in the Georgia Dome.

"It's not serious," president and general manager Rich McKay said. "When we play the Eagles, you'll see Brady Smith."

Smith, 32, had six sacks and 46 tackles in 2004. Smith and left end Patrick Kerney have given the team a productive outside pass rush the last five years. Smith has 28½ sacks in that span. He had 10 tackles and two sacks in the team's two playoff games last season.

McKay said the Falcons won't seek help at the position. Second-year player Khaleed Vaughn will open camp as the starter at Smith's right end position.

Another young defensive end, Chauncey Davis, a fourth-round draft pick from Florida State, also should have more opportunity to make an impression in training camp.

Free safety Bryan Scott, recovering from shoulder surgery, is the only other starter who won't be ready for the July 25 practice.

McKay said quarterback Michael Vick recently had an MRI on his throwing shoulder, which he injured on Dec. 18 against Carolina. McKay said Vick's shoulder is "fine."

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