Edwards gets fresh start with Falcons
FLOWERY BRANCH â€” Out of football, hurt again, Antuan Edwards started to think his career was over.
He was released by New England in August, after just two months, with a broken thumb. It was his third team in two seasons, his fourth overall. It didn't look good for the former Green Bay Packers first-round draft pick.
Edwards lamented turning down the three-year contract St. Louis had on the table last spring before they withdrew the offer.
Mentally, he was teetering.
Then, he got a call. Beset by injuries in the secondary, the Falcons were as desperate for a safety/nickel back as Edwards was desperate to play.
This probably would be his last shot.
"You don't get three or four opportunities," Edwards, 28, said. "I had to jump on this opportunity."
When the Falcons signed him Nov. 2, Edwards' thumb had not fully healed. Still, he thought he'd be playing within a few weeks, at least on special teams and at nickel back, where Allen Rossum had stepped in for Chris Cash, who suffered a season-ending arm fracture while replacing Kevin Mathis, who had a season-ending knee injury.
Edwards didn't get his chance in the secondary until Monday night's 36-17 victory over New Orleans.
"That was unusual because I'd never been in a situation like that," Edwards said about spending nearly a month working mainly on the practice squad. "I just stayed ready. I knew an opportunity was coming."
When it did, Edwards played like he knew he might not ever get another chance to make an impression. Filling in for Rossum, who sprained a knee ligament in a loss to Carolina Dec. 4, Edwards had three tackles and provided a physical element the coaching staff had long wanted from the safety/nickel back spot.
It was the first time he'd played defense since the preseason, when he was with Patriots.
There was some rust and he made mistakes, coach Jim Mora said. He also made an impression. Edwards is set to start again at nickel back Sunday at Chicago and he has been working more in practice at strong safety as Keion Carpenter's backup.
"I like having him in there," Mora said. "He'll help us. He's physical, he's big, and he knows the game. There's a sense of urgency with the way he's playing because he's been out of the league. He's been hurt. He thought it was over. You get that second chance, you take full advantage of it and I think that's what he's doing. I like the kid."
Edwards said by the end of the season, he hopes to have played well enough to remain with Atlanta, where he has lived in the offseason. Playing for defensive coordinator Ed Donatell and secondary coach Emmitt Thomas, who coached him with Green Bay, would be ideal, he said, because both know how to maximize his strengths in the system.
Edwards said he would like to work into the starting lineup at some point, and if he remains with Atlanta next season, that could be a possibility since that position has already been targeted for an upgrade.
"Right now he's at a stage where he wants to put his best foot forward, he's local, and it's kind of a nice match," Donatell said. "I always had a vision painted of this guy being a highly productive safety. I still see that and we're looking for him to reach that."