By Cedric Williams
After enjoying a week of time off full of much-needed rest and relaxation, the Atlanta Falcons were back at practice at Flowery Branch for the first time on Wednesday, and to the surprise of many, the club looked much like themselves for the first time in a while.READ MORE: Black Restaurant Week underway in Atlanta through August 14
Atlanta went into its last game—a disappointing 17-16 Nov. 8 loss to the San Francisco 49ers—with 11 players on its official injury list, six of whom were unable to practice at all during the week before that game.
On Wednesday though, the Falcons had almost everyone back—everyone, except safety Robenson Therezie, who continues to recover from a hamstring injury he suffered during the first quarter of that game against the 49ers. Having everyone else back meant that Atlanta had defensive starters back on the practice field: CB Robert Alford (groin), LB Justin Durant (calf), and S William Moore (groin), all of whom had been out for at least a couple of weeks.
“I’m fired up to be back at it with the guys,” Falcons head coach Dan Quinn said following Wednesday’s practice. “The opportunity in front of us is an awesome one, and we can’t wait for this challenge. You’ve got to put the work in out on the grass, and that’s one of the things I love most about our team. The effort, the mindset to go after it, the walkthrough was crisp and sharp, exactly like I’d hoped it would be getting ready to get into the game plan. We’ve got a great challenge ahead with Indy, all of the unique stuff they have offensively, veteran quarterback, the wide outs, the running backs, and tight ends. It’s a real challenge there offensively and defensively.”
DE Tyson Jackson (ribs) and DT Grady Jarrett (elbow) were also back at practice, but were both limited in what they were allowed to do. On offense, the Falcons also had WR Leonard Hankerson (hamstring) back on the field. The veteran receiver had been unable to play or practice for the past three weeks.
Quarterback Matt Ryan was one player who was happy to have Hankerson, who is fourth on the team with 22 receptions for 291 yards and two touchdowns, back out on the practice field.READ MORE: Trump says he took the Fifth in questioning in New York Attorney General fraud investigation
“Hank’ has had a great year for us when he’s been able to go,” Ryan said, “and I think having him back opens up a lot of things for everybody. It makes us a better offense. And so, certainly good to have him out there practicing today.”
When Quinn spoke about having his club back together, he clearly sounded like a man no longer focused on his club’s recent slump, but instead on focusing on how bright the future is if the Falcons can get things back on track.
“I think there’s absolutely a renewal like you can take a break physically at some point and you can take a break mentally,” Quinn said. “You don’t ever all the way go away from it, but I think there is a feeling of coming back with a little bit of renewal, the juice that you have and the energy that you have. I certainly felt that from the players and coaches today.
“One of the things that I love about this team is we’ve got a lot of guys who love to compete and you can sense that right away from them today in terms of the detail and the effort going in. I can’t wait for our team to be back in front of our fans here this weekend and play with the energy and juice that we love going with.”
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Cedric Williams, a lifelong St. Louisan and proud UMSL alum, has been a full-time reporter/photographer covering St. Louis area sports for nearly two decades. Most recently, he has been working as a credentialed beat writer covering the NFL, as well as college and high school sports for the St. Louis American, Patch.com, and other outlets from around the area. Please share any comments, questions, or feedback with Cedric at firstname.lastname@example.org. His work can be found on Examiner.com.