By Cedric Williams
Prior to Friday’s late afternoon practice at Flowery Branch, the Atlanta Falcons announced that starting running back Devonta Freeman would not play in Sunday’s game at the Georgia Dome against the Minnesota Vikings due to the concussion he suffered in last week’s loss to the Indianapolis Colts.
Freeman, who did not practice at all during the week, spent his time instead going through the league-mandated concussion protocol, which he must pass before he would be allowed to play in any actual game.
As of Friday, Freeman — Atlanta’s leading rusher and the NFL leader in touchdowns along with Cincinnati tight end Tyler Eifert, was still suffering symptoms of the concussion. That’s when the Falcons made the decision to not play him Sunday against the Vikings.
Rookie Tevin Coleman, who began the season as the Falcons’ starting running back while Freeman recovered from a hamstring injury suffered during training camp, will get the start instead. This season, Coleman has rushed for 231 yards on 59 carries (3.9 yards per carry) and scored one touchdown.
However, Coleman has had fumbling issues this season, which he spoke about to the media on Friday.
“My confidence has always been there, but there’s just a few things I have to work on that are more into the detail part,” Coleman said. “It’s just being detailed with my work and what I do.
“Yes, (fumbles) can get to you, but it happens to all of us. You want to lock it up, but if it happens, it happens. You just have to get through it and get your mind off it and keep on playing.”
The Falcons also announced on Friday that kicker Matt Bryant (strained quadriceps) and receiver Leonard Hankerson (hamstring) would also sit out on Sunday. The Bryant announcement wasn’t exactly unexpected, especially since Atlanta announced it had signed former New Orleans Saints kicker Shayne Graham on Thursday morning.
On a positive note, cornerback Robert Alford (groin), guard Andy Levitre (knee), and safety Robenson Therezie (hamstring) were all listed as probable for Sunday by the Falcons.
For Minnesota, two key defensive starters, defensive end Everson Griffen (hip/shoulder) and safety Harrison Smith (knee) were both listed as questionable for the game, though it seems likely both will play on Sunday.
Both players were limited in practice throughout the week, but both were also working out with the Vikings’ first-team defense on Friday, according to reports from the Minnesota-area media.
Rookie cornerback Trae Waynes (ankle), Minnesota’s first-round draft pick and the No. 11 overall selection this past spring, was also listed as questionable. But it seems he probably won’t play on Sunday, since he went from being limited in practice throughout the week to not practicing with the team at all on Friday.
Atlanta Falcons Injury Report
CB Robert Alford (groin)
OG Andy Levitre (knee)
S Robenson Therezie (hamstring)
K Matt Bryant (quadricep)
RB Devonta Freeman (concussion)
WR Leonard Hankerson (hamstring)
Minnesota Vikings Injury Report
LB Anthony Barr (hand)
S Robert Blanton (ankle)
QB Teddy Bridgewater (shoulder)
DT Sharrif Floyd (ankle)
OT Matt Kalil (toe)
LB Eric Kendricks (ribs)
DE Everson Griffen (hip/shoulder)
S Harrison Smith (knee)
CB Trae Waynes (ankle)
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.