Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Mohamed Sanu adds punch to offense
The Atlanta Falcons were cautious on the opening day of training camp Thursday, pulling star wide receiver Julio Jones out of practice with an injury coach Dan Quinn described as minor.
Quinn wouldn’t describe the injury, and Jones showed no apparent difficulty as he walked off the field at the end of the session.
“He just had a little tweak, so we just decided to hold him,” Quinn said. “He’ll likely be back in there tomorrow. He could have come back in today and he was asking me to, but I decided not to.”
Jones, who had two surgeries on his right foot in the past five years, is coming off his first All-Pro season. He’s among the team leaders after the release of receiver Roddy White.
Jones had surgery in 2013 to repair the fractured fifth metatarsal in his right foot. He broke the same bone in the foot in 2011.
The second surgery raised concerns, but the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Jones put to them rest by posting two straight seasons with more than 100 receptions and 1,500 yards. Jones and Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown shared the NFL lead with 136 catches and Jones led the league with 1,871 yards receiving last season.
The Falcons gave Jones a $71.25 million, five-year contract extension, with guarantees of $47.5 million, before last season.
This year the Falcons signed free agent Mohamed Sanu to a five-year, $32.5 million deal to provide another threat at receiver. Sanu was a part-time starter with Cincinnati.
Sanu said Jones is the leader of the receivers and “an unbelievable player.”
Second-year receiver Justin Hardy could earn a bigger role in training camp, possibly as the No. 3 receiver.
Running back Devonta Freeman had 73 catches out of the backfield last year and had a long touchdown catch from Matt Ryan on Thursday while lining up outside.
“The more you can do, the better,” Freeman said. “It helps all of us win. That was a situation they put me in to make our team win. That’s what I’m all about.”
Quinn said he plans to use the speed of Freeman and Tevin Coleman as receivers on more than just short passes from Ryan.
“Those are the matchups we can plan during the week, this is the part of the game we’re going to attack,” Quinn said.
“For us to be at our best, knowing who our guys are at running back, that’s a tough assignment. So we want to exploit that whenever we can.”
NOTES: Quinn said the speed picked up in the second half of the practice after a “feeling out” process. … The first players given an opportunity to field punts were rookie receivers J.D. McKissic and Devin Fuller. The team released Devin Hester on Tuesday after Hester missed most of the 2015 season with a toe injury. WR Eric Weems will keep working on punt and kickoff returns.