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Norwood: Concussions 'serious'

FLOWERY BRANCH - Jerious Norwood is running out of locker space.

The helmets are taking over.

Hanging on one hook is Norwood's red helmet with black trim that the Atlanta Falcons wore with their throwback uniforms last month.

Three black helmets claim every other available opening. There is the helmet Norwood wore when he suffered his second concussion in a three-week span last month. Two new shiny models, each equipped with different technology, including additional padding to guard against another head injury, hang next to the old model.

Norwood said he hasn't picked the helmet he will wear when the Falcons play at San Francisco this week. The only thing he knows for sure is it won't be the old model.

"I'll retire this one," he said.

Norwood, Atlanta's backup running back and kickoff return specialist, has suffered three concussions in his four years in the NFL. He also suffered a more serious concussion during his college career at Mississippi State, the only injury that knocked him out and forced him to be taken to a hospital.

That's four concussions. Even for Norwood, who insists he doesn't worry about another injury, four is a big number.

"It's a serious deal," Norwood said Monday. "You have to be careful, especially me, I've had two this year."

Norwood suffered his first concussion of 2009 in an Aug. 30 preseason game against San Diego. He left the Falcons' Sept. 20 win over Carolina with another concussion.

Only 10 days after his second concussion, a study by University of Michigan researchers for the NFL was released which showed retired players may have a higher rate than normal of Alzheimer's disease or other memory problems.

Norwood said the study did not cause him more concern.

"Not really. With me playing running back, I'm going to have to be able to take licks," he said. "If I can, I try to dodge a lot of the licks to my head. Other than that I just go out and play ball. I don't even think about it."

Norwood said he "feels great. No headaches at all."

But he said he "had a headache like four days straight" after his second concussion this season. He also said he had short-term memory loss after the play.

"I knew where I was at, I knew what day it was, but like five or 10 minutes after the play, I couldn't remember what happened," he said.

Norwood is an important speed threat as a complement to starter Michael Turner.

He rushed for 489 yards with five touchdowns last season as the Falcons finished as the NFL's second-best rushing offense. He also was the team's top kickoff return specialist the last two seasons, averaging more than 25 yards per return each year.

"We're a faster offense, we're much faster when we have Jerious in the game," said Falcons coach Mike Smith after Monday's practice. "He brings that speed element."

Norwood, who had a 67-yard touchdown run last season, has a career average of 5.8 yards per carry.

The Falcons were without Norwood when they were held to 58 yards rushing in their 26-10 loss at New England on Sept. 27.

Smith said Norwood is "a full go" for this week. He has only three carries for 13 yards this season.

Norwood insists he'll return with no apprehensions.

"Over the last two weeks when we've been practicing, I haven't even been thinking about it," he said.

He said possible future concerns are "something to think about, but I'm playing ball right now."

"I'll think about that day when the time comes. I just leave it in the hands of the good Lord and say my prayers before every game and just go out and play hard and whatever happens, happens. Sometimes you do get injured."