So missing three games this season and entering December with just 20 receptions has left the four-time Pro Bowler, “yelling and screaming at myself, trying to get my body to act right.”
Last season, White became just the fifth NFL receiver to have three consecutive seasons of more than 90 receptions and 1,200 yards, and the sixth to register at least 80 receptions and 1,000 yards six straight times. Heading into December with just 209 yards and one TD hurts White almost as much as the high ankle sprain that’s plagued him since the preseason.
Compounding White’s misery has been the Falcons’ disappointing 2-9 season, which he says is “probably the toughest” of his career.
“Coming into this season, we had really high expectations and I had very high expectations for myself,” said the nine-year veteran, who had 92 catches for 1,351 yards last year. “It’s been frustrating because I’m not able to do what I set out to do, to be the kind of player that I want to be because I’ve been hobbled by the
ankle, and then I hurt my hamstring.
“It’s been injury after injury, and I can’t get my body to react. It’s been a tough season overall for us because we’ve all been hurt. Injuries happen, but you don’t expect them to have this much of an effect to where we’re 2-9.”
White played in the first 113 consecutive games of his career before going inactive this fall for three straight games. That came after catching just 14 passes for 129 yards and no scores in the first five.
At times, White was little more than a decoy early in the season as he could not shake the effects of his balky ankle. Then, he tweaked a hamstring to make matters worse and force his deactivation.
With six receptions for 80 yards and a score in the past three games, the former first-round pick is still not himself and said that he likely won’t be quite right when the Falcons play the Buffalo Bills on Sunday in Toronto.
“I don’t think so. I go out there and give it my all, but (team officials) know I won’t be completely healthy until the offseason when I can get off of it,” he said. “The ankle has just been nagging me and nagging me. It won’t turn around. The doctors say it will probably bother (me) until the offseason.”
White hasn’t been the only injured Falcon, not by a long shot. Atlanta has suffered a rather remarkable rash of injuries, several of them season-ending.
Defensive end/linebacker Kroy Biermann went down for good in the first game, running back Steven Jackson missed four games, tackle Sam Baker is long gone for the season, linebacker Sean Weatherspoon missed seven games.
Plus, the other half of the Falcons’ top-shelf wide receiver crew, Julio Jones, went down with a season-ending foot injury in the season’s fifth game.
That made White worse psychologically. Jones went on injured reserve and he went inactive at the same time. The two combined for 171 receptions, 2,549 yards and 17 touchdowns last season, and suddenly neither was available to quarterback Matt Ryan.
As the Falcons continued to struggle, so did White as he longed to help his teammates.
“Absolutely. That’s been the worst part about it,” he said. “It’s been tough, man, one of the toughest seasons that I’ve been through, probably the toughest, because we’ve got so many good players on this team and we’ve lost a couple of them for the season. We lost a lot of the core guys —important guys — that help us roll and it takes a toll on the guys.”
About then, White started hollering at his body.
“Having been in this league and having success for eight straight years not missing games … it’s been tough just going out there and watching those guys,” he said. “I do a lot of yelling and screaming at myself, trying to get my body to act right and do a certain thing.
“I’ve been through a long season one time when we won four games (in 2007), but this is a little bit different because I wasn’t hurt then; I was performing. This has been difficult because I haven’t been able to go out there and help our team win.”
NOTES: The Falcons’ injury report lists as questionable Tony Gonzalez (toe), linebackers Akeem Dent (ankle) and Sean Weatherspoon (knee, shoulder), defensive end Malliciah Goodman (calf) and safety Zeke Motta (finger).