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Falcons lose Finneran yet again
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By Charles Odum

FLOWERY BRANCH - The Atlanta Falcons will be without receiver Brian Finneran for a second straight season.

Finneran had his second reconstructive surgery on his left knee in two years last week and will miss the 2007 season, coach Bobby Petrino said Thursday.

Finneran, 31, missed last season with a severe knee injury. He hurt the knee again in May while going through rehabilitation.

"He had a lot of differing (medical) opinions and decided last week to go in and get the reconstruction surgery," Petrino said. "It's a nine- to 12-month recovery period, and unfortunately that means he's out for the season."

The second major injury to the same knee could be career-threatening for Finneran, who led the team's receivers in 2005 with 60 catches and 611 yards receiving.

The Falcons missed Finneran last year when they finished last in the NFL in passing. Two former first-round picks - Michael Jenkins and Roddy White - showed talent but couldn't provide consistent production.

The Falcons signed former New Orleans Saints star Joe Horn, 35, in March and chose receiver Laurent Robinson in the third round of the NFL draft.

The Falcons list Jenkins and Horn as starters and had Finneran on the depth chart as Jenkins' top backup.

Finneran has enjoyed success as the third receiver in three-receiver sets and has been especially effective as short-yardage target for quarterback Michael Vick.

The loss of Finneran creates an opportunity for Robinson, Fred Gibson or Adam Jennings to win a roster spot.

"I think it affects our competition a little bit," Petrino said. "(Finneran) would have been another guy in there who really competed and lifted everybody else with his experience. We lose a lot there without his experience and knowledge of how to prepare for a game."

Finneran signed a four-year, $8 million contract in March of 2006, including $3 million in guaranteed money. Only four months later, he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee and suffered cartilage damage and a slight displacement of the knee cap.

Finneran re-injured the ligaments in the knee while running last month.

Finneran has played in 86 games with 35 starts for Atlanta. He has 187 career catches for 2,647 yards and 15 touchdowns.