Falcons WR Julio Jones on calf injury: 'I'll play Monday night'

ByVaughn McClure ESPN logo
Saturday, September 24, 2016

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones, who returned to practice Saturday while recovering from a calf injury, is listed as questionable for Monday night's game against the New Orleans Saints but will play.

"Yes, I'll play Monday night," Jones said."I wouldn't chance it if I didn't [feel right], if I felt like I was going to overcompensate and something else was going to get tore up or it was going to get worse or anything like that. It's just warming that muscle up, warming up everything, making sure everything is firing properly."

Jones, held out of practice Thursday and Friday, was limited Saturday. However, he appeared to have his explosion running across the red zone and catching passes near the start of practice. In between reps, Jones was spotted bouncing up and down as if to test and make sure his calf was fine.

"He looked explosive in and out of his breaks,'' Falcons coach Dan Quinn said of Saturday's practice. "He didn't get a lot of turns, but we kind of tried to feature him on the plays that he needed to see. We didn't do it just in the red zone. We did him on third down. We did it on first and second down to see where he was at. So, I'm encouraged.

"That was kind of the plan in the week: Could he do some of the walk-through? And then he kind of made a good turn yesterday and today to say, 'All right, let's give it a shot.' He's somebody that needs to go to really feel it.''

When asked if he injured his right calf after colliding with two Oakland Raiders defenders last week, Jones responded, "Both of them hurt.''

Jones entered the regular season recovering from a left ankle injury suffered in the third preseason game. He then aggravated the ankle injury in a 31-24 season-opening loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It didn't stop Jones from playing 49 snaps -- with five receptions for 106 yards and a touchdown -- in last week's 35-28 win at Oakland.

Jones said the ankle is no longer an issue.

Entering Monday night's game, Jones leads the team with 172 receiving yards and two touchdown receptions. He has nine catches, second to Jacob Tamme (11).

In other injury news, first-round draft pick Keanu Neal, who is coming off preseason arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, will make his NFL debut Monday night. Quinn did not commit to Neal starting at strong safety, but he said Neal would get his share of plays.

Meanwhile fellow rookie De'Vondre Campbell, a starting inside linebacker, was ruled out for the second consecutive game with a left ankle sprain. Fellow inside linebacker Paul Worrilow also is out after undergoing groin surgery. Sean Weatherspoon will start for Campbell, while Philip Wheeler will help address the depth at inside linebacker with Worrilow out too.

Wide receiver Justin Hardy is set to play despite being limited throughout the week with a shoulder injury. And wide receiver Mohamed Sanu (ankle) also is set to go.