Falcons' Abraham Optimistic

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) - John Abraham is one of the NFL's most dominant defensive ends when healthy. But injuries have hampered him.

Abraham had a stunning debut for Atlanta last season, racking up six tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles and one pass breakup in a Week 1 victory at Carolina. Unfortunately, Abraham hobbled off the field with 1:52 remaining. His groin was strained, again.

The injury essentially ended Abraham's season. He played in just seven more games and reinjured the groin against the New York Giants, a setback that required surgery.

After returning for a Week 12 blowout loss to New Orleans, Abraham tore ligaments in his thumb and played the final two games with a cast.

A new set of exercises and a new stretching regimen have given Abraham more strength. He's also working for a new head coach, Bobby Petrino, and a new position coach in Kevin Wolthausen. He says it has been a tough camp, but his body's holding up.

Without a healthy Abraham, the Falcons could face major problems. They're already without two starters from last year after Patrick Kerney wasn't offered a contract and landed a big deal in Seattle. Rod Coleman, Atlanta's big ``under'' tackle, might miss some of the regular season after having surgery nearly three months ago for a torn quadriceps.

But if Abraham can avoid injuries, Petrino believes that Falcons owner Arthur Blank will have no regrets for signing the former South Carolina standout to a six-year, $45 million contract in March 2006.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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