Backup center and offensive guard Joe Hawley has been suspended without pay for the team’s next four games for violating the NFL policy on performance enhancing substances. Hawley’s suspension is to begin immediately, and he will be eligible to return to the Falcons’ active roster on Monday, December 17, the day after Atlanta plays the defending Super Bowl champions (and last year’s playoff spoiler) the New York Giants.
In the game against the Cardinals, Hawley was forced into duty at the center position while starter Todd McClure left the game briefly with an injury. The next man on the depth chart at center is rookie Peter Konz, who has taken most of the snaps this season at the right guard position.
If Konz were pressed into duty at center, that means another rookie, Phillipkeith Manley would have to step in at Konz’s right guard spot.
This is not the offensive line rotation the Falcons were wanting to have set coming into the toughest part of the schedule, with divisional games against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers coming up, as well as the tough match-up against the Giants.
Having a depleted offensive line against those teams is not ideal, particularly given the tough time the Falcons’ line had holding back the Panthers and Saints defensive lines in the team’s first meetings this season.
Hawley was a fourth-round (117th overall) draft pick out of UNLV by the Falcons in the 2010 NFL draft. He has appeared in 37 games with 12 starts in his two and a half seasons with Atlanta.