FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) _ Atlanta Falcons defensive tackle Shane Dronett will miss the rest of the season because of a knee injury.
Dronett, who has started every game at tackle since the beginning of the 1998 season, partially tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee at Denver on Sept. 10. He was wearing a brace Sunday at Carolina when he completely tore the ligament.
He was helped off the field soon after sacking Panthers quarterback Steve Beuerlein on the third play of the third quarter.
Dronett though, returned one series later and batted down a pass. He remained in the game until the end, unofficially finishing with four tackles. He will undergo surgery in the next two weeks.
``I felt like I tore something when it happened because I felt it pop and _ just the pain,″ he said. ``On the sideline, they did the little test and said it seemed pretty stable. I said, ‘Put the knee brace back on, and I’ll go back in the game.’ ″
Dronett agreed to a five-year, $20 million contract Jan. 26. He originally joined the Falcons in 1996 as an unrestricted free agent, but was released midway through the season and picked up by Detroit.
He rejoined the Falcons in 1997 after the Lions cut him during training camp.
Dronett, 29, has 38.5 career sacks.
Atlanta also lost backup linebacker Chris Bordano for the remainder of the season. Bordano, signed Sept. 5 after Dallas released him, cracked a vertebra playing special teams Sunday. He will not require surgery.