FLOWERY BRANCH — The Falcons had wide receiver Julio Jones back with full clearance for Thursday’s practice, confirming the team’s biggest star will be ready for Sunday’s opening game against Tampa Bay.
Jones’ status for the opener was never really in doubt, even when he was held out of last week’s final preseason game with an ankle injury and was limited in Wednesday’s practice.
Even so, having the All-Pro practice without restrictions was comforting for coach Dan Quinn and the Falcons.
“He looked like Julio, which is a good thing for the Falcons,” Quinn said.
Added offensive coordinator Mike Shanahan after the practice: “Julio always looks good.”
Jones is coming off one of the most prolific seasons in NFL history. Jones led the league with 1,871 yards receiving, the second-highest total in NFL history. Jones and Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown shared the NFL lead with 136 catches.
Asked if he is ready for the opener, Jones said, “Of course. Everything is great.”
Jones’ role as a leader on the offense grew following the team’s release of Roddy White, who holds most of Atlanta’s career receiving records.
The Falcons signed Mohamed Sanu from Cincinnati to be the No. 2 receiver. Jones said he expects extra attention from defenses while Sanu, Justin Hardy, Eric Weems and Aldrick Robinson adjust to their roles in the offense.
“I feel like they’re going to try to double me and take me away from the game and make other guys prove themselves,” Jones said. “But I have all the faith in the world that those guys will prove themselves. … The way we’ve been practicing has been awesome.”
Former Falcons coach Mike Smith is Tampa Bay’s new defensive coordinator.
“Coach Smith will have something going,” Jones said. “… It’ll be fun though.”