Flowery Branch, Ga. — On his first day as the Atlanta Falcons' starting quarterback, Byron Leftwich felt like a kid.
"Football has been really taken away from me the last month and a half," he said. "It just seems like it's a new feeling. It's all fun again. Any time you're not out there, it's a tough situation to deal with."
Whether Leftwich can energize Atlanta's struggling offense remains to be seen. First-year coach Bobby Petrino said Wednesday that Leftwich would take over the Falcons (1-5) from Joey Harrington for the rest of the season.
"That's the big part of it," Petrino said. "We need to make a change and get something going."
The decision wasn't difficult for Petrino after the offense failed to score off three New York turnovers in a 31-10 loss to the Giants on Monday night.
Petrino indicated that Leftwich might have played against New York if he hadn't missed so much practice with a mild ankle sprain. Leftwich has shown Petrino and quarterbacks coach Bill Musgrave, who worked as Jacksonville's offensive coordinator when the Jaguars drafted Leftwich seventh overall in 2003, that he understands the offense well enough.
"He's come along with it," Petrino said. "He's been here a month now. I wish he would've gotten all those reps he missed last week with the ankle injury, but the ankle feels good, and that's a good thing."
Leftwich, who went 24-20 in four years with Jacksonville, signed a two-year, $7 million contract last month after being released. In his only appearance with Atlanta, Leftwich was 2-of-8 for 28 yards and one interception after replacing Harrington in the fourth quarter of a 20-13 loss at Tennessee two weeks ago.
The Falcons are 0-1 in the NFC South heading into Sunday's game at New Orleans (1-4). Petrino, whose offense has scored only seven touchdowns with Michael Vick suspended, believes his team can still gain ground in the division.