FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) Falcons star wide receiver Julio Jones cleared his final hurdle for Sunday’s NFC championship game against Green Bay by practicing for the first time this week on Friday.
Coach Dan Quinn said Jones had no limitations in his first practice since aggravating his sprained left toe last week.
Jones did not appear to favor the foot in the portion of the practice open to reporters.
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”We were pleased with his response and how quickly he came back and had good bounce,” Quinn said. ”He ran hard, jumped, so he looked good.”
Jones, the All-Pro receiver, missed two games with a toe injury this season and sat of part of the second half of last week’s playoff win over Seattle.
On Thursday, he described the injury as ”a little snag” and said he’ll be ready for Sunday’s game.
Against Seattle, Jones temporarily left the game after aggravating the injury. He then returned to action before returning to the sideline for good.
Quarterback Matt Ryan said Friday he’s confident in Jones even if the receiver is still less than full speed.
”He’s pretty good at whatever percentage he is,” Ryan said. ”He’s made a lot of plays at less than 100 percent. You know what, at this time of year no one is really feeling exactly perfect, but he’s a great competitor and regardless of what he has he’s going to give everything he’s got.”
Ryan set an NFL record by throwing touchdown passes to 13 players this season. The Falcons have made good use of a deep receiving corps and also have dual-threat running backs in Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman.
Despite Ryan’s deep list of targets, Jones remains a key to the Falcons’ hopes of reaching only their second Super Bowl.
Such other targets as Mohamed Sanu, who was second on the team with 59 catches, and Taylor Gabriel, who led the receivers with seven touchdowns, add depth. But Jones is the go-to leader of the receivers who opens up big plays for others by drawing extra attention from defenses.
The Falcons need Jones to remain on the field in what is expected to be a high-scoring game against the Packers. It would be a bad sign for the Falcons and their fans to see Jones again favor the left foot while leaving the field early in the game.
Ryan was encouraged to have Jones back in practice.
”He looked good to me,” Ryan said. ”He’s always a guy who if he gets reps during the week or he doesn’t, he’s always ready to go.”
Jones said Thursday he has adjusted to similar practice schedules this season in order to play on Sundays.
”Everybody is going through pain right now,” Jones said. ”My pain is no different from any of the other guys on the team. Unfortunately for me, I’ve just been dealing with it for weeks now. It works for me to be limited throughout practice and be able to go Sunday.”
NOTES: Quinn said any player who has been limited by an injury this week will be listed as probable for the game. The list includes Jones, DT Jonathan Babineaux (shoulder), WR Taylor Gabriel (foot) and S Keanu Neal (foot).
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