The Falcons’ three-time Pro Bowl receiver has three personal fouls, more than any other offensive skills position player in the league, according to STATS LLC.
“I’ve just got to stay away from penalties and stop getting myself so emotional into the game,” White said Wednesday. “I’ve got to stay away from the little things that I’m doing wrong and get back to doing everything right.”
That would include catching everything thrown his way.
But White currently leads the NFL with nine drops, according to STATS LLC.
White was called for a personal foul and an offensive pass interference penalty in last week’s loss to New Orleans. He also had two drops, including one that was intercepted, and is well below his 2010 pace for catches, yards and touchdowns.
The Falcons’ fading playoff hopes are on the line as they prepare for Sunday’s important home game against Tennessee. White says he is determined to eliminate the penalties and improve his production.
Most receivers would gladly take White’s 47 catches for 563 yards and three touchdowns. He raised expectations with his career-high totals of 115 catches for 1,389 yards last season, including 10 catches for touchdowns. He was named to his third straight Pro Bowl team.
He is on pace to reach 80 catches and 1,000 yards, but the drops and penalties have helped make this a disappointing season.
Before last week, White’s low point of the season was his two drops in the fourth quarter of a 16-13 loss at Tampa Bay on Sept. 25.
On back-to-back plays in last week’s 26-23 overtime loss to the Saints, White was called for offensive pass interference and then had a pass off his hands intercepted by Saints linebacker Scott Shanle.
His personal foul came earlier in the game.
Miami safety Yeremiah Bell leads the league with five personal fouls. Oakland defensive tackle Richard Seymour has four. Of the list of eight with three personal fouls, St. Louis offensive tackle Jason Smith is the only other offensive player.
Falcons coach Mike Smith has called for White and the Falcons to stop hurting the team with penalties.
“We cannot have silly penalties,” Smith said. “It doesn’t matter who’s committing it and we had a couple of silly penalties in the ballgame. Really, three of them that were penalties that you just can’t have. You can’t flip the field position on 15-yard penalties.”
There is a perception that White’s status as the Falcons’ top receiver has been diminished by the addition of rookie Julio Jones, who has shown potential to develop into an elite receiver. Jones has three games with more than 100 yards receiving. White has only one.
White remains the team’s leading receiver. He also leads the team, and ranks fifth in the league, with 85 targets, according to STATS LLC. Tight end Tony Gonzalez is second on the team with 68 targets.
Fifth in targets doesn’t impress White.
“Last year was a whole lot different,” he said. “I probably led the league in targets.”
He did. White’s 179 targets led the league in 2010. Only Reggie Wayne and Larry Fitzgerald were close.
White emphasized he can’t complain about how many chances he has to make catches if he is not taking advantage of his opportunities.
“You’ve just got to go out there and play ball and catch the balls that are thrown to you and you can’t drop any of them,” he said.
Asked if frustration about his drops has played a role in his penalties, White said “Uh, a little bit.”
White said he has pressed by “trying to be overly aggressive instead of just playing my game, going out there and being calm and getting into the flow of the game and getting into a rhythm and just playing football.
“A little frustration here and there. I’ve just got to be myself. I’ve got to go out there and compete and do things to help our team win instead of putting us in bad situations.”
White signed a six-year, $48 million contract in 2009 that included $18.6 million in guarantees.
He is part of an offense that also had quarterback Matt Ryan, running back Michael Turner, fullback Ovie Mughelli and Gonzalez earn Pro Bowl honors in 2010.
The Falcons (5-4) are a disappointing 16th in the league in scoring this season.
“Everybody around here is frustrated about where we are in the standings,” White said. “We felt like we let some games get away we could have won around here. That’s probably the most disappointing thing, us not being able to finish down the stretch and get things done in the fourth quarter.
“If you’re sitting 8-2 you’re probably not frustrated about anything but when you’re 5-4 it’s kind of difficult.”
NOTES: Jones (hamstring) and S William Moore (quadriceps) did not practice. OT Sam Baker (back) returned to have limited availability. Baker has missed three straight games.