Falcons rookie safety Neal to have minor knee surgery
ATLANTA (AP) — Atlanta Falcons rookie strong safety Keanu Neal, the team’s first-round pick and a projected starter, will miss the beginning of the season with a knee injury.
Neal will have arthroscopic surgery on his right knee on Monday and is expected to miss three to four weeks, according to the Falcons. Coach Dan Quinn said he is encouraged Neal avoided a more serious injury that could have kept him out longer.
“Hopefully it’s a shorter-term injury where we’re looking at two and hopefully the worst would be three games,” Quinn said, adding that he knows Neal will work for a quick return because “he’s kind of just built that way.”
Wide receiver Julio Jones is expected to be limited in practice after leaving Thursday night’s game in the second quarter with an ankle injury. Quinn said he the injury is not expected to threaten Jones’ status for the regular season.
Neal hurt his knee in the first quarter of the Falcons’ 17-6 preseason loss to the Miami Dolphins. He had to be helped off the field but walked to the locker room without assistance.
The team said a MRI on Friday revealed Neal’s injury.
Kemal Ishmael missed his second straight preseason game with a shoulder injury but could return this week and start at strong safety against Jacksonville in the final preseason game.
If Ishmael is ready for the season, Quinn said, the team won’t have to sign another safety but still will look at available players. He said the team “right now” won’t consider re-signing former starter William Moore, who was released after last season.
Other safeties on the roster include Sharrod Neasman and Damian Parms.
“Is it pressing for us?” Quinn asked. “No, knowing that Ishmael is somebody we feel capable with as long as we feel like he makes the progress this week.”
Quinn said Neal, the No. 17 overall pick in the draft, was playing well in the game before the injury.
“He’s done a good job of picking up the system in terms of learning,” Quinn said, noting Neal already had five tackles, one for a loss, on Thursday night.
“That part of his game looked to be on point,” Quinn said. “Now how fast can he get back to help us? That’s the biggest challenge for us.”
NOTES: There were no surprises Friday in the first round of five cuts: WR David Glidden, DE Efe Obada, FB Will Ratelle, CB Jordan Sefon, and G Jordan Walsh. ... PK Matt Bryant (muscle tightness in leg) is expected to return to practice this week. Shayne Graham kicked two field goals, including a 53-yarder, against Miami. ... WR Justin Hardy and DE Adrian Clayborn also will be limited this week with undisclosed injuries. Quinn said he was awaiting more information on rookie WR Devin Fuller’s shoulder injury.
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