Freeman, Neal exit Falcons’ loss with knee injuries

The Sports Xchange

September 07, 2018 at 11:29 am.

The Atlanta Falcons may have avoided a pair of potentially devastating injuries in their season-opening loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Starting running back Devonta Freeman was limited to six carries for 36 yards but was on the sideline without a helmet in the fourth quarter of Atlanta’s 18-12 victory.

Although Freeman was listed as questionable to return because of a knee injury, he told the NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo after the game that he was “OK.”

Falcons safety Keanu Neal also exited the game with a knee injury and did not return, but head coach Dan Quinn said after the game the it did not appear to be serious.

Freeman injured his knee in the 2017 regular-season finale. He struggled mightily in Atlanta’s postseason loss to Philadelphia, rushing for only seven yards on 10 carries.

After the season, Freeman revealed he had played with a sprained posterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his right knee. He sought a second opinion and was told he did not require surgery.

Freeman was stopped twice at the 1-yard line on Atlanta’s opening possession of Thursday’s game, including a fourth-and-goal situation.

After rushing for more than 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns in both 2015 and 2016, Freeman finished with 865 yards and seven scores on the ground last season. He missed two games and most of a third due to a concussion.

Neal went to the sideline with a knee injury in the second quarter but returned shortly thereafter. He re-injured the knee in the third quarter and was done for the night, needing assistance from the team’s medical staff to leave the field.

A first-round draft pick (No. 17 overall) of Atlanta in 2016, Neal underwent arthroscopic knee surgery prior to his rookie season after he was hurt in a preseason game. He still played in 14 games that season and was named to the NFL All-Rookie Team.

Neal earned Pro Bowl honors in 2017, starting all 16 games while registering 113 tackles and one interception.

The 6-foot, 211-pound Neal played three seasons at the University of Florida. He had three interceptions in 2014 and ranked 10th in the SEC with 51 solo tackles in 2015.