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Keanu Neal’s injury looms large in Falcons’ loss: ‘It didn’t look good’


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https://theathletic.com/1231828/2019/09/22/keanu-neals-injury-looms-large-in-falcons-loss-it-didnt-look-good/

 

INDIANAPOLIS — The look on his face said everything. Tears were streaming down as Keanu Neal placed both hands over his face. Looking to be in a world of pain, Neal seemed to realize the non-contact Achilles injury he just suffered was serious. The team declined to provide an update after Sunday’s 27-24 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, although it probably didn’t need to.

Given how Neal went down, and the anguish he displayed, the Achilles injury at least appears to be significant. Head coach Dan Quinn said he will provide an update on Neal on Monday.

For Neal, it has to be excruciating physically and mentally. After tearing his ACL in last year’s season opener, Neal spent nearly a full year undergoing rehab, which was grueling at times. To suffer this kind of injury in only his third game of the season is a brutal blow. It’s one all too familiar to fellow safety Ricardo Allen, who suffered an Achilles tear a year ago.

“In his eyes, it didn’t look good,” Allen said.

Allen’s Achilles injury occurred two weeks after Neal’s torn ACL. The two friends often rehabbed together at the team facility. It was a big deal for both to return in time for the start of this season, and it obviously hurt Allen to see his teammate go down.

“Sucks. It ain’t a good thing. Keep your head up, keep your mind right,” Allen said. “He understands that. He’s done it before. You have to keep believing, keep fighting. There ain’t nothing else to do. You can either fight or give in.”

The fact that the Falcons lost a winnable game on the road was enough of a bad thing. If Neal’s injury is as serious as it seems, it will be hard for his teammates to handle.

Neal is one of the most well-liked players in Atlanta’s locker room. The work he put in during the summer to ensure he would be ready for the season was noticed by everyone. His absence also would change how the Falcons line up defensively, considering Neal’s balance against the run and the pass. Neal’s penchant for being an enforcer certainly will be missed if the injury falls under the worst-case-scenario category.

“It’s definitely tough,” cornerback Desmond Trufant said. “Just the type of person he is, he’s a great person. You hate to see something bad like that happen to him. He definitely doesn’t deserve that. But that’s the game we play. Sometimes it’s like that. I know we’re going to fight for him and leave it all out there on the field. We’ll definitely pray for him.”

Said defensive end Vic Beasley: “It’s sad to see him go down. He’s a kid who you want it so bad for. He put a lot of time in. I’ve seen him working. I feel sad for him.”

Sunday’s loss bore eerie similarities to last season in terms of injuries, considering how many the team endured a year ago. In addition to Neal, Grady Jarrett suffered a toe injury and couldn’t finish the game. Ito Smith and Kenjon Barner were evaluated for concussions, with Smith being the only one confirmed to have suffered one. Right guard Jamon Brown injured his hand, and Takk McKinley injured his knee, but both were able to return.

Losing Neal would force Quinn into a contingency plan, much like last year. His top option would have been J.J. Wilcox, but he tore his ACL on the first day of training camp. The backup safeties on the roster right now are Sharrod Neasman and Kemal Ishmael, and they could be used in much the way the Falcons used Neasman and Jordan Richards in 2018. Richards played on run downs, and Neasman played in passing situations.

Neasman said it was disheartening to see Neal carted off the field.

“It’s just heartbreaking, man,” Neasman said. “The guy puts in so much work on his body. He spends countless amounts of money on his body, every week. He’s always thinking about it. He’s always on the details of everything he does. For it to be taken out of your hands just sucks. We can’t do anything but keep him in our prayers, check on him, make sure his mind is in the right place, his head is good, and he fights back from it.

“He’s a fighter, he’s a warrior. He’s going to get through it. I’m a firm believer that God doesn’t put you through anything you can’t get through. We can only keep him in our prayers and let him bounce back from it.”

Losing Neal is the biggest piece of news, especially in the bigger picture of Atlanta’s season, to come from Sunday’s defeat. In the short view, the loss was especially frustrating for a team that started slowly but still had every opportunity to rally to win. Atlanta scored only three points in the first half but had another drive stall in Indianapolis territory after Matt Ryan threw his sixth ill-advised interception of the season.

The Falcons committed 16 penalties for 128 yards, with the Colts committing only four penalties for 39 yards. Atlanta’s defense, after forcing a punt on Indianapolis’ first drive of the second half, couldn’t get a stop on either of the following series.

All of those factors contributed to the loss, with Atlanta inching fairly close to must-win territory next week against Tennessee.

But it wasn’t all doom and gloom in the postgame locker room. Trufant noted that most of the mistakes made are correctable. While it’s maddening, for example, to allow seven first downs off penalties, a chunk of the issues came before the snap, which Trufant said can be addressed during the upcoming week of practice.

“We made a lot of mistakes (Sunday), I feel like,” Trufant said. “They’re all fixable. A lot of them are mental. That’s why I’m still encouraged. You hate losing, but sometimes you’ve got to lose to look yourself in the mirror and then bounce back.”

Through three games, there have been two iterations of the 2019 Atlanta Falcons. There are the slow-starting road Falcons, who’ve had their share of defensive trouble. Then there are the home Falcons, who played a hard-fought physical battle in a victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 2.

Atlanta surely hopes the home Falcons show up at Mercedes-Benz Stadium next Sunday against the Titans.

“I think everyone is angry with not performing the way we can,” Ryan said. “The penalties, the turnovers and those types of things — we’ve had too much of that the first couple weeks of the season. We had too much of that (Sunday). Those are things we’ve got to clean up to be a better football team.”

 

 

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50 minutes ago, Goober Pyle said:

The Falcons committed 16 penalties for 128 yards, with the Colts committing only four penalties for 39 yards. Atlanta’s defense, after forcing a punt on Indianapolis’ first drive of the second half, (the only time they punted the entire game), couldn’t get a stop on any series except for just that one.  

Fixed it.

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6 minutes ago, Optimus_Cr1m35 said:

Hate to say this, but I think Neal is done. Like, done - done. I don't know the history of anyone coming back from ACL suffering an Achilles, then coming back as the same player.

 

Sucks, since I rather enjoy Neal, but I think we need to draft a new SS...

Yeah he's done.

If he does come back you can't count on him to be back to what he was.  The really sad thing was he never peaked.

Falcons will need to hedge their bets and bring in new blood.

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He is done.... as sad as it is... we are probably on the hook for 6.5m on his fifth year option (guaranteed for injury), but there is no way we extend him... plus, I really have trouble seeing him getting back to full speed and was never the fastest guy to begin with... his best option is probably trying to be Thomas Davis, switching to LB after multiple serious injuries.

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9 minutes ago, Herr Beast said:

He is done.... as sad as it is... we are probably on the hook for 6.5m on his fifth year option (guaranteed for injury), but there is no way we extend him... plus, I really have trouble seeing him getting back to full speed and was never the fastest guy to begin with... his best option is probably trying to be Thomas Davis, switching to LB after multiple serious injuries.

That’s what I wonder as well... can he/will he make a switch to LB?

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3 minutes ago, quotemokc said:

So much negativity, Rico is back and Neal is clearly very driven and does everything right.

I back him to get back.

Out of curiosity, is the Achilles injury on the same leg as his ACL?

I don't know for certain, but my gut is telling me that it is.

 

Look, I dig Neal. I really do. But having an ACL and an Achilles back to back is tough. Again, I don't know that you can find anyone in the history of the NFL who has come back from something like that.

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20 minutes ago, Optimus_Cr1m35 said:

I don't know for certain, but my gut is telling me that it is.

 

Look, I dig Neal. I really do. But having an ACL and an Achilles back to back is tough. Again, I don't know that you can find anyone in the history of the NFL who has come back from something like that.

But was it on the same leg?

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1 hour ago, quotemokc said:

So much negativity, Rico is back and Neal is clearly very driven and does everything right.

I back him to get back.

Out of curiosity, is the Achilles injury on the same leg as his ACL?

I think he can come back and be a productive NFL player. But no doubt he'll never reach the form he would have had without these two devastating injuries. Could have been a perennial pro bowl safety for us. Incredibly unlikely he reaches that level now. 

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1 hour ago, Optimus_Cr1m35 said:

I don't know for certain, but my gut is telling me that it is.

 

Look, I dig Neal. I really do. But having an ACL and an Achilles back to back is tough. Again, I don't know that you can find anyone in the history of the NFL who has come back from something like that.

Someone has to be the first person to do it!!  I wouldn't bet against Neal.  He's a high character and driven individual.   

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2 hours ago, Optimus_Cr1m35 said:

Hate to say this, but I think Neal is done. Like, done - done. I don't know the history of anyone coming back from ACL suffering an Achilles, then coming back as the same player.

 

Sucks, since I rather enjoy Neal, but I think we need to draft a new SS...

Agree. That's why he was so devastated when it happened. He knew it was the end of his time in the game.

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Just now, vafalconfan said:

Seven times, the Falcons extended Indy drives with penalties. On the defensive side we seldom blitz and our DBs cannot cover forever which leads to PI and holding calls..we cannot get pressure or sacks with rushing only 4 players. Yesterday was hard to watch. 

This loss is on DQ. He treated Brissett as a sub par QB. He played a soft zone on 1st down. Which gave them 5 yard every first down. By the time he started playing press and applying pressure, the game was already 20-3.

 

Hard to win if you allow the opposing team to have 2nd and short every time...

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