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Falcons’ Peterson: Weatherspoon has raw talent

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Dan Parr

dparr@pfwmedia.com
Associate editor

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Posted Jan. 15, 2011 @ 3:55 p.m. ET
By Dan Parr

Falcons WLB Mike Peterson, a 12th-year veteran, watched closely as rookie OLB Sean Weatherspoon went through ups and down this season. While injuries hampered Weatherspoon in his first year, Peterson told PFW he's been impressed by the flashes he's seen from the rookie.

"To me he's a young guy with a lot of raw talent," Peterson said. "I think getting a year under his belt is going to help his game a lot. You see spurts of it. The thing about this game is it's all about consistency."

While Weatherspoon had first-round measurables and plenty of talent, some evaluators wondered if his brash, talkative style would lead some teams to avoid him, but Atlanta was apparently the right landing spot for him. Veterans like Peterson have been able to keep that from being an issue.

"I love having him around," Peterson said. "I was telling somebody last week I don't think I've ever found anybody who can talk more than me on the field, but we're running a close 1-2 race as far as who can do more talking on the field. You have to love that, when you get a guy who plays with so much energy and passion at a young age.

"He knows his place. When he hears me talking, he'll hush. As soon as I finish, he's back at it, yapping again. I think a lot of time we just compete to see who can get the most words in."

Weatherspoon played in each of the final seven games of the regular season, but he has started only once since Week Five, before he was sidelined for four straight games.

Stephen Nicholas took Weatherspoon's spot as the starting strong-side linebacker while he was dealing with injuries, and the team decided to stick with Nicholas, who began the year as a backup and special-teams contributor, in the base defense when Weatherspoon returned in Week 11. Weatherspoon, the 19th overall pick in the 2010 draft, subbed in with the nickel package.

Peterson has started 29-of-32 games since the Falcons signed him before the '09 season, but Weatherspoon, who took reps on both the strong and weak sides during training camp and the preseason, could slide in to replace Peterson on the weak side next season. Peterson is due to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason.

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