Falcons’ Pees resumes lead role with defense following scare

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — The Atlanta Falcons are planning to have veteran defensive coordinator Dean Pees call the plays in Saturday’s game at Baltimore following his scary pregame collision on the field that forced him to miss last week’s game in New Orleans.

The 73-year-old Pees was on the field for Tuesday’s practice, but is still being monitored by coach Arthur Smith. Pees was knocked to the turf in Sunday’s pregame collision with Saints returner Rashid Shaheed, who was trying to field a punt during warmups.

Pees missed the game after he was placed on a stretcher, carted off the field and taken to University Medical Center in New Orleans. Pees was released from the hospital in time to fly back to Atlanta with the team following the Saints’ 21-18 win on Sunday.

Falcons linebackers coach Frank Bush filled in for Pees as the play-caller against the Saints. Bush said Tuesday he had to overcome the shock of seeing Pees leave the field on a stretcher.

As Pees was carted off the field, Bush said he was approached by Smith, who said “‘I think they’re taking him in and you’re going to have to call it,’” Bush said. “I think I went numb a little bit.”

Pees was not available for interviews on Tuesday. Smith said he’ll continue to monitor Pees through the short practice week.

“You have to,” Smith said. “It puts things back in perspective with health, life. He’s doing better. He’s here, working. So we’ll make sure he’s doing all right and will continue to follow up.”

Bush said Pees “seems like Dean, back to his normal self.”

“He was able to come back in the office and do the things that we normally do,” Bush said. “... I’m totally confident he’ll be ready to operate when it’s time to operate.”

Bush is in his second season with the Falcons and his 31st season coaching in the NFL. He said he was not prepared for the scare of seeing Pees knocked to the turf.

“Obviously that scared us all,” Bush said. “I have such an affinity for the guy. He’s taught me so much football in just this short amount of time we’ve been together and how to see the game and then to have that happen, you get a little bit worried.”

Bush has experience calling plays as the defensive coordinator for the New York Jets at the end of the 2020 season, as well as with the Houston Texans.

Bush said Atlanta’s players were “side-swiped a little bit” by seeing Pees carted off the field.

The Saints led 14-0 after their first two possessions, but Bush wouldn’t blame the slow start on the pregame scare with Pees.

“You’ve got to give New Orleans credit but ultimately it was different,” Bush said. “... When you’re not dealing with what is normal ... it’s going to be a little bit of consternation involved in that. They did kind of rally and come back and do the things we were asking them to do.”

Pees was hired by Smith as defensive coordinator before the 2021 season. The two also worked together at Tennessee, where Smith was the offensive coordinator and Pees coordinated the defense from 2018-19. Pees also served as defensive coordinator for Baltimore (2012-17) and New England (2006-09).

Pees was Kent State’s head coach from 1998-2003 and also has worked on staffs at Findlay, Miami (Ohio), Navy, Toledo, Notre Dame and Michigan State.

NOTES: The Falcons placed RB Caleb Huntley (Achilles) on injured reserve and signed edge rusher David Anenih off Pittsburgh’s practice squad.


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Charles Odum
Charles Odum
I cover Atlanta pro sports and college sports in Georgia.