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Falcons' Antone Smith Impresses As Top 2 Rbs Sit Out


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BUFORD, Ga. (AP) -- One week into training camp, first-year coach Dan Quinn is pleased the Atlanta Falcons haven't been hit with a major injury.

That doesn't mean the Falcons aren't hurting.

Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, the Nos. 1 and 2 running backs, missed the team's annual Friday night practice at a local high school. Both sustained hamstring injuries in the last couple of days.

With Freeman and Coleman both unlikely to play in next Friday's preseason opener against Tennessee at the Georgia Dome, Antone Smith becomes the starting running back.

A broken leg ended Smith's season in Week 11 last year. The seven-year veteran will get plenty of snaps to show what he can do in new coordinator Kyle Shanahan's scheme.

Though he spent most of his first six seasons on special teams, Smith had some highlights at running back last year, averaging 6.3 yards a carry on 23 attempts and catching touchdown passes that covered 54, 74 and 41 yards.

''For him to have an injury and then come back and battle the way he did through his rehab, I was so thrilled for him tonight,'' Quinn said. ''I really felt that burst. There was a draw, there was an outside run, catching the ball - a terrific night by him. Kind of a way for him to say, 'I'm back and I can play again.' "

Julio Jones, Roddy White, Leonard Hankerson and rookie Justin Hardy took turns catching passes from Matt Ryan on a variety of routes.

Ryan watched the last 30 minutes because the coaching staff wanted to take longer looks at No. 2 QB T.J. Yates and third-stringer Sean Renfree.

Hardy, a fourth-round draft pick from East Carolina who set the major-college career record with 387 catches, impressed Quinn while running routes for the backups.

''I was really thrilled with Justin,'' Quinn said. ''He's got terrific hands, so for him to go and catch the deep ball and catch the winner in the 2-minute shows what kind of competitor he is.''

NOTES: LB Brooks Reed, nursing a strained hip, watched from the sideline as the Falcons went through a two-hour workout at Buford High School. ... FS Charles Godfrey left practice early with cuts on his forehead and nose.


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