FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn says running back Devonta Freeman and safeties Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen are still on the mend and that he believes each of the injured starters will be ready for the start of training camp.
Freeman has missed 16 games since signing the NFL’s richest contract for a running back before the start of the 2017 season. Neal tore his ACL in the opener last year and was out the rest of the season. Allen tore his Achilles tendon two weeks later.
Freeman has had head, knee and groin injuries over the last two years. The Falcons ranked 27th in rushing last year, one of seven teams not to average 100 yards per game.
Quinn indicated at a rookie mini-camp Saturday that Freeman, who had season-ending groin surgery last October, is closest of the three to returning for a mandatory mini-camp next month.
“We can’t wait to get Free back,” Quinn said. “He’s having such an awesome offseason. His energy and him being around the team, you feel what he brings. It’s been awesome having him part of the offseason program. When you get the team out here this spring, I think you’ll feel some energy at running back with Free leading the way.”
Neal and Allen are the two leaders of a secondary that contributed to the Falcons’ ranking 25th in scoring defense and 27th against the pass. Atlanta missed their ball skills, too, as the defense recovered only four fumbles.
“Keke and Rico both are really pushing it from a rehab and competitive side,” Quinn said. “Big shocker. Two of our most competitive guys. They are really determined and detailed and they’re off to excellent starts with their process.”
The goal for Neal and Allen is to be ready for training camp in late July.
“If they continue to hit the markers that they are, I think that would be more than realistic,” Quinn said.
Notes: Quinn liked the versatility he saw from cornerback Kendall Sheffield, a third-round draft pick from Ohio State, and running back Qadree Ollison, a fifth-round pick from Pittsburgh. Both have to earn several roles on special teams and provide depth at their regular positions. … Approximately 30 undrafted college free agents had tryouts while working alongside the draft class the last two days. … The Falcons begin offseason training activities for the entire roster on May 23.