Rookie left tackle Sam Baker returned to the practice field Wednesday for the first time since Week 6. Baker underwent back surgery as the Falcons prepared for a trip to Oakland in Week 9 and was expected to miss more than a month.
"Sam was out last week and continued progressing," Head Coach Mike Smith said Monday. "He was out on the practice field again and we anticipate he's going to continue to increase his activity on the practice field so hopefully we can get him back here as soon as possible."
The team was cautious with Baker's return. The No. 21 pick in the 2008 Draft started from day one and was a key part of the team's rushing attack early in the season.
With Baker playing a complete game the Falcons are a perfect 4-0 and rush for an average of 189 yards per game. He quietly went about his work earlier this season, allowing just one-half sack and not drawing attention for mistakes.
"This is a long-term process for the Atlanta Falcons in Sam Baker and we want to get Sam as much experience as we can," Smith said. "We're not just looking at 2008; we're looking at 2009 and beyond."
The coach said three players were completely held out of practice: Todd Weiner (who replaced Baker in the starting lineup the past six weeks, Brent Grimes and Erik Coleman.