Julio Jones misses another practice with hip injury

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FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — Another Falcons practice without Julio Jones was followed by another vote of confidence from coach Mike Smith that the star wide receiver will make it back from his hip injury this week.

Smith said Friday he expects Jones to play on Sunday against the Steelers, even after Jones missed his third straight practice.

Smith said Jones has been running under the supervision of trainers.

Safety William Moore (foot) worked on the side during the practice and also is listed as questionable.

"I'm still confident those guys will be ready to go," Smith said.

Jones had 11 catches for a team-record 259 yards with one touchdown before the fourth-quarter injury in the 43-37 loss to the Packers on Monday night. It was the second straight week he has set a personal high for yards receiving.

Despite his optimism, Smith acknowledged Jones' status will be a game-time decision.

Atlanta's other receivers look healthy.

Roddy White, who missed practice last week with a sprained left ankle before playing through the injury against the Packers, has not been limited this week.

"I'm good to go," White said Friday during the portion of practice open to reporters.

Harry Douglas, who would move up as the No. 2 receiver if Jones is held out, does not appear to be hampered by a foot injury that limited his availability for practice on Wednesday and Thursday.

White, Douglas and Devin Hester have been productive options for quarterback Matt Ryan, but White said the team needs its top receiver. Jones leads the NFL with 1,428 yards receiving, a career high.

"He has played lights-out, especially the last five or six weeks, he's been really turning it on," White said. "We're going to need that from him the rest of the season. He's a dynamic player. He's very explosive, as you can see. We're going to need him down the stretch to get to where we need to be and that's the playoffs. We're going to need him to continue to play that way."

The Falcons (5-8) lead the NFC South with a tiebreaker edge over the New Orleans Saints. Atlanta plays at New Orleans next week before closing its season against Carolina, which is only one-half game behind the co-leaders.

The Falcons could win the division by beating the Saints and Panthers, even if they lose to the Steelers. Smith has said the importance of the two division games will not impact the decision on Jones' status against Pittsburgh.

It seems likely a final decision on Jones will not be made before he tests the hip in pregame warmups.

When asked what he needs to see from Jones, Smith said he'll rely on his medical staff to make the decision.

"I want the doctors to say that he's ready to go," Smith said. "It's not going to be a decision I'm going to make. It's not going to be a decision Julio is going to make. They're going to evaluate it and make that decision."

Cornerback Robert Alford (wrist) was ruled out on Friday. Fullback Patrick DiMarco was listed as questionable after missing practice with an illness.


Online: AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL


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