Falcons assistant Ted Monachino returns to the field following retina surgery

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

FLOWERY BRANCH -- Falcons outside linebackers coach Ted Monachino, after missing three games, returned to the team this week after having surgery to repair a detached retina.

Heading into the season, Monachino was out of action because of an eye injury he suffered during a practice. As the linebackers coach, he typically holds the blocking dummy that defenders use to simulate tackling. A hit that came in one of the drills during the offseason caused the injury.

“Six-foot-four, 270-pound men, I shouldn’t be taking hits from those guys every day like I do,’’ Monachino said.

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Monachino, now in his 16th season as an NFL coach, said that’s the way he has done it throughout his entire career. He does that to analyze his players firsthand and thinks it is the most effective method. But, that may not be as viable anymore.

“I want to feel their hands, and I want to feel where they’re strong and where they’re not,” Monachino said. “But, that’s an awful lot of pressure to put on a 55-year-old guy.”

Having held up as long as he has, Monachino attributes the sudden injury to “bad luck as much as it is anything else.” Still, he knew there was something wrong when he took the hit. The next day, he decided to see a doctor.

Now, he has to find a way to coach without as much direct contact. He said his first solution will be to use the sleds on the field, rather than holding the bags himself.

He also plans to coach at more of a “teaching” tempo on the field. This showed immediately in practice when he had the outside linebackers covering routes at a cooler pace while he talked them through coverages.

Furthermore, he said film study will be integral to the analysis aspect of his job – although it will be harder to do.

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While he was recovering from the surgery, he watched games from home. He’d rather been on the sideline.

Watching from home was “brutal,” Monachino said. “You’re helpless anyway, but – when it comes to game day – to feel that way is worse.”

Still, Monachino remained an essential factor to the Falcons’ schemes. The only meetings he missed were the ones directly preceding the opener against New Orleans on Sept. 11, as he was still dealing with protocols from his recovery. Other than that, he was front and center on Zoom, helping coach the team in the best way he could.

Although Monachino still played a role for the Falcons, it wasn’t how he wanted.

“I never missed a rep, let alone a game,” Monachino said. “I dreaded (not being there). I woke up each morning thinking there were a million other places I would rather be.”

Yet, he made it work, given the circumstances he endured.

“‘How can you impact the game the best way you can?’ – That’s what I focused on,” Monachino said. “‘What valuable information can I get to my players and to the defensive coaching staff?’”

Now, after two post-surgery follow-up appointments, everything is on track, according to Monachino.

He‘ll be back on the field Sunday when the Falcons return home to take on the Browns (1 p.m., Mercedes-Benz Stadium), rather than watching the games from home.

“Life as I know it is a little different, but I’m back,” Monachino said.