Devonta Freeman is in the NFL concussion protocol, however the Falcons running back wasn’t ruled out for the Seattle game on Monday by head coach Dan Quinn.
Freeman left Sunday’s game against the Cowboys after being tackled by linebacker Anthony Hitchens on the Falcons’ second play from scrimmage.
Freeman went to the locker room and was evaluated for a concussion, which was described as a “possible head injury” by the team. Early in the second quarter, however, it was announced that he had a concussion and would not return. Freeman had two carries for three yards before the injury. It is his second concussion this year and third of his career.
Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis believes Freeman suffered a concussion in last week’s game at Carolina.
“The Hitchens hit didn’t knock Freeman out,” Davis posted on Twitter. “He was concussed in our game last week and should’ve been taken out. Scary site (sic) but praying he’s good though.”
Davis’ comments were brought to Quinn’s attention on Monday. He defended the team’s medical analysis on Freeman.
“Bruised knee, that’s what he was on our injury report for,” Quinn said. “I know he was evaluated on the sidelines.”
Quinn believes Davis was mistaken in medical analysis of Freeman.
“I don’t because that is nothing that I have control of,” Quinn said. “What makes this game special is the players and the competitive fire that they have. Respect that they have for one another to go after it. I know what we do and how we go through. We don’t look to anyone else outside of our walls for any motivation or any accuracy on a medical decision, for sure.”
Quinn doubled down and said he wouldn’t rule Freeman out of the Seattle game, which is set for Monday despite multiple reports that Freeman will miss at least one game.
“Not until we get all the way through the medical reports and go through all of that and it’s extended by a day,” Quinn said. “I won’t rule him out until they say he’s ruled out. We are going to do the very best looking out for him. I promise you that. Until (the doctors) say that ... there’s nothing from my end to report.”
Freeman was in in the concussion protocol in August and the two-time Pro Bowl player went through the league’s five-step process. He left practice Aug. 13 and did not return until Aug. 27.
Freeman also suffered a concussion against the Colts in November of 2015.
With Freeman down, Tevin Coleman (20 carries for 83 yards) and Terron Ward (nine for 23) combined for 106 yards rushing on 29 carries in Sunday’s 27-7 win over the Cowboys.
“It was good to get Tevin some extended playing time,” Quinn said. “For him to get 20 carries in a game, I thought was a good deal for him to show that he could handle that load. They are such a good complement together, both Tev and Free. “Occasionally, there are times where one is out and the other has to take the load and that was the case with Devonta leaving so early in the ball game. We knew we could lean on Tevin in that way. We’ll continue to do so until Freeman comes back.”
Ward is a dependable backup and key special teams player.
“Ward is somebody that we’ve counted on for three years now,” Quinn said. “Whenever his number is called, he’s a guy who likes to answer the ball and answer the challenge. He’s always been one of our most prepared players.”
The Falcons also drafted Brian Hill out of Wyoming in the fifth round of this year’s draft. He’ll slide into Ward’s role as the third back with Freeman down.
“He’s really been making progress over the last couple of weeks,” Quinn said of Hill. “As his (developmental) work has taken place, I feel like over the last month, you seen that come through. He’s been one of the black jersey award winners for us during that time. We are encouraged about his development during that process.”
Against the Cowboys, the Falcons rushed for more 100 yards for the seventh time this season after being held to 53 yards by Carolina. The 132 yards rushing was the team’s fifth-highest total of the season.
“We believe that our entire offense is complementary,” Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan said. “Whether it be running to set up the pass or throwing to set up the run game for us, we’re going to be consistent. We’re going to stay balanced. I thought (offensive coordinator) Steve Sarkisian did an excellent job of staying with it when we needed to and got the run game going in the second half.”
The Falcons converted on 7 of 13 third downs against the Cowboys. They had recently struggled on third downs.
“We were able to use the passing game a little bit, wear those guys out, and convert some third downs to keep us moving,” Ryan said. “When we did that, it really opened up the run game.”
Ryan credited the offensive line with helping to spring Coleman and get the offense back on track.
“In the second half, I really think they wore that defense down, and that was huge,” Ryan said. “The reason we were successful is because those guys battled and played well up front.”
Freeman had a solid start to the season but tailed off in recent weeks.
Through the first four games, Freeman had 70 carries for 285 yards and five touchdowns. After the bye in Week 5, he has 46 carries for 230 yards and no touchdowns. For the season, he has rushed for 515 yards on 116 carries and has five touchdowns.
Last week in the 20-17 loss to the Panthers, Freeman had 11 carries for 46 yards.
Freeman agreed to a five-year, $41.25 million contract extension that made him the highest-paid running back in the league in August. The deal had a $15 million signing bonus and included $22 million in guaranteed money.