Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman vowed not to change his running style after sustaining two concussions this year, and three total since November 2015.
Freeman, who missed the last two games after being knocked out in the first quarter of a Week 10 win over Dallas, cleared the concussion protocol and returned to full practice Wednesday. The Falcons weren’t in pads.
“All of us, if you still play football at this level, I can only imagine you’ve been getting concussions since you were young,” Freeman said. “That’s a part of football. You’re going to get concussions.
“Hey, if it happens again, it happens again. I’m a competitor. I’m a dog. I’m going to still be try to be the same ‘Free’ as I can. I’m going to work to be the same way. Ain’t nothing going to change. I just want to win and get better.”
Falcons coach Dan Quinn said he hopes Freeman returns to his normal workload as the Falcons (7-4) approach Sunday’s showdown with the Minnesota Vikings (9-2). The team also has Tevin Coleman, a starting-caliber player who started in place of Freeman the previous two games.
Quinn addressed the topic of Freeman’s long-term health related to his multiple concussions.
“From the medical side, it was something that they discussed from this year,” Quinn said. “He had two concussions this year … one from training camp and one from three weeks ago.
“We’re going to always take great care of our guys. We care about them on the field, off the field. That’s the doctors and the medical side to determine when he’s ready to play. And we totally trust the process that the league and the team goes through. And we are 100 percent fired up to have him back.”
Freeman has 515 yards on 116 carries with five rushing touchdowns in nine games . He also has 19 receptions for 137 yards.
“It’s always good, when you have good players like that, to have them back is huge,” Matt Ryan said of Freeman’s return. “Devonta, he does so much for us in terms of running the football. But also in our passing game, he’s a critical part of it. I think it’s huge that he was able to practice today and he’ll be able to go later this week.
“It adds a lot of depth at that running back position for us. I thought Terron did a great job of stepping up in Devonta’s absence. But being able to use all three of those guys and keeping them fresh is a good thing for us.”