FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Falcons coach Dan Quinn says there’s no need to rush Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman back to play in an exhibition game.
When Atlanta opens the regular season Sept. 10 at Chicago, Quinn is confident both players will be ready.
Jones, a two-time All-Pro receiver, is finally practicing at 100 percent following right foot surgery in March.
After having his reps limited in training camp, Jones is taking all the snaps with the first-team offense.
Freeman, a two-time Pro Bowl running back, is in the NFL concussion protocol and might not be in uniform until the opener. He took a hard hit in the first preseason game two weeks ago at Miami, though the team didn’t know the extent of Freeman’s injury until he left practice early a few days later.
“He’s back to full speed running,” Quinn said Wednesday. “Soon he’ll be participating full speed in practice but you won’t see him suited up this weekend.”
When Atlanta (0-2 preseason) plays host to Arizona (1-2) on Saturday in the first game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, there’s a chance that Jones will play, but Quinn and his star receiver will wait a couple more days to decide.
“I’m a professional,” Jones said. “I’ll be ready to go. Being out here practicing against these guys every day is like preseason to me. I don’t take any plays off. No lollygagging around. It’s full speed.”
Quinn will use the next two preseason games to determine who will fill out the depth chart. He’s concerned with finding dependable reserves at running back, on the offensive line and in the secondary.
Freeman’s injury leaves no set backup behind Tevin Campbell at running back. The Falcons are still deciding on a third offensive tackle and a third guard who can also play center behind Pro Bowl selection Alex Mack.
The secondary needs a third safety to back up Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen after Kemal Ishmael moved to linebacker.
A trio of rookies drafted in the fourth and fifth rounds – running back Brian Hill, guard Sean Harlow and safety Damontae Hazee – have looked good, but aren’t guaranteed a roster spot yet.
“It’s kind of a contingency of where young players are at,” Quinn said. “Are they ready for it, because sometimes you may have a player who’s developing and how fast will it be to get him ready. He may make some mistakes early but he’s ready to go physically.”