Falcons fullback Bradie Ewing and linebacker Robert James, who both were out with undisclosed injuries, returned to practice Tuesday.
Also, wide receiver Martell Moore, who suffered a rib injury Thursday night against Baltimore, returned to practice. Wide receiver Roddy White (ankle) and linebacker Stephen Nicholas (quadriceps) didn’t practice.
Ewing was expected to miss five to 10 days of practice, but was out for 20 days.
“It felt good,” said Ewing after practice. “It’s been a little while. I was a little rusty, but it felt good to be back out there with the guys and getting into some game prep for Tennessee.”
Undrafted rookies Patrick DiMarco and Davonte Campbell have split most of the fullback chores.
Ewing is expected to be Steven Jackson’s main lead blocker and play on several special-teams units.
“I thought that he moved around well,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “We wanted to get him through limited (repetitions) today. He probably took about half of the snaps that he would normally take.”
The Falcons hope that Ewing can fully participate Wednesday in the special-teams practice and the full team practice.
“Bradie is going to be an integral part, not only in our offense, but on special teams as well,” Smith said.
Ewing had been working on the side with the trainers and is set to see his first action since suffering the knee injury in last season’s exhibition opener. This injury was unrelated to the knee injury that caused Ewing to miss last season.
“It’s been tough, but you have to stay locked into your assignments through the progression of training camp,” said Ewing, who was a fifth-round pick out of Wisconsin in 2012. “Everything felt pretty good out there today. We’ll wait and see how it goes. I foresee it going well.”
James, who was the team’s fifth linebacker last season, was not limited in practice, Smith said.
The Falcons hope to have White and Nicholas back for the season opener against New Orleans on Sept. 8.
Virtual camp: Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez talked with his position coach Chris Scelfo regularly while he was out on his family leave, and he watched practice nightly from his team-issued iPad.
“Yeah, we have the iPad with all of the plays on there and all of the installation that you’re going to need,” Gonzalez said. “There is nothing that they saw that I didn’t see. I got to see everything. It beams right to the iPad. I would watch it every night and see what they did in practice every day.”
Gonzalez will start and play extensively against Tennessee on Saturday.
“Tony is in great shape like he always is,” Smith said. “He’ll play just like the rest of the starters. We’re not going to have a specific number and say all starters are playing this number of snaps.
“We’re going to have a rotation, and we’ll rotate through the positions. We won’t rotate through with the offensive line more than likely, but we will rotate through with the skill players.”
Special-teams looks: The Falcons will use their first-team special-teams players in the first half against Tennessee and the second-team players in the second half.
The second-teamers have given up two punt returns for touchdowns in exhibition games against Cincinnati and Baltimore.
“We’ve got to get better,” Smith said. “Some of those guys on the second unit, we’re counting on them to help us win some ballgames, so they need to get out there and get some work.”
Long-range kicking: Undrafted rookie kicker Jeremy Shelley, who booted a 29-yard field goal against Baltimore, showed off some range in practice.
He made a 52-yard attempt from the left hash and a 56-yarder from the right hash.
Shelley made 44 field goals at Alabama, but was not known for having great range. He made only 3 of 9 kicks from 40 to 49 yards and had no attempts of 50 yards or more.
Union reps: With Tyson Clabo now with the Miami Dolphins, the Falcons had to elect a new NFLPA representative.
Left guard Justin Blalock was elected as the lead representative. Kicker Matt Bryant and defensive tackle Corey Peters are the alternates.