FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) Julio Jones opened the week on the practice field instead of the trainer’s room on Monday.
For the Atlanta Falcons, a healthy Jones is the first sign that three straight off days could move the team closer to full strength for Sunday’s game at Tennessee.
The Falcons may have starting center Mike Person (ankle) and linebacker Justin Durant (elbow) back this week. Person and Durant worked on the side in Monday’s practice after missing Thursday night’s 31-21 loss at New Orleans.
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Coach Dan Quinn hopes Person and Durant can take part in team drills on Wednesday.
”They moved around today, so they’re following right along with the plan,” Quinn said.
Jones has played in every game despite missing some practices with toe and hamstring injuries the last four weeks. One week ago, he missed the first practice before the Saints game. He then was listed as questionable before finally being upgraded to probable.
The star receiver’s production has dropped after he opened the season on the best pace of his career. Through three games, he had 34 catches for 440 yards and four touchdowns.
He had 15 catches for 198 yards with no touchdowns in the last three games. His best game in that span came against the Saints, when he had six catches for 93 yards.
Quinn said Jones has been making steady improvement in the last week.
”I think just from the end of last week he’s doing really good,” Quinn said. ”There were no setbacks during the game so I think he’s moving forward.”
Quinn said even players who have not been on the injury report needed the long weekend.
”All players are dealing with some type of injury, so for us to get back and be as healthy as we are, I’m pleased about that,” he said.
The Falcons lost three fumbles in the loss to the Saints. Person’s replacement, James Stone, botched a shotgun snap on one of the fumbles.
While enjoying their long weekend, Falcons players and coaches were able to watch on TV as Carolina took a 27-23 win at Seattle on Sunday. That left the Panthers (5-0) ahead of the Falcons (5-1) in the NFC South.
The Falcons and Panthers will play two games in December.
Quinn and his players refused to say Carolina’s win raised the bar in the division race.
”It’s a great division,” said defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux. ”It’s always challenging every year. We’ve got to continue doing what the Falcons do. We’re not worried about anyone else right now.”
Quinn said ”a constant theme” will be ignoring other teams’ results and keeping the focus on the Falcons.
”We’re not going to concern ourselves too much with the opponent,” Quinn said. ”Our division really comes down to us and the attitude and style that we play. … We’re not going to allow other teams to dictate how we play and what we think.”
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