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Bye week gives Falcons a chance to heal

Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith had his team meet late last night, then the players were given the rest of the week off with a "Falcons-on-Falcons" practice scheduled for Monday.

Yes, the bye couldn't have come at a better time for the 2-6 Falcons, who need to rest and regroup after a grueling loss to Detroit and long week in London.

The week off will give a number of players a chance to heal.

Like rookie left tackle Jake Matthews, who has been battling through an ankle injury since the season opener and then aggravated it again in a Week 5 loss to the New York Giants.

Like explosive running back Antone Smith, who suffered some sort of neck injury in Sunday's 22-21 loss to the Lions. An obviously stiff Smith was spotted in the locker room Monday night but could not comment on his status.

Like defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux, who missed the London game due to a foot injury.

Or like rookie linebacker Prince Shembo, who continues to be plagued by knee issues and gave the starting job back to Joplo Bartu. Shembo expects to be back to full strength after the bye.

Not to mention all four of the team's top receivers --- Julio Jones (ankle), Roddy White (knee, hamstring), Harry Douglas (foot), and Devin Hester (ankle, hamstring) -- have battled injuries at some point during the season.

And the Falcons, with five offensive linemen already on season-ending injured reserve, saw tackle Gabe Carimi go down with an ankle injury against the Lions.

"It comes at the right time for us to get some players healthy," Smith said of the bye. "We've got a lot of guys who are nicked up and banged up that may not necessarily be on the injury report. But they are nicked and banged up."

The Falcons' next game is Nov. 9 at Tampa Bay.