Falcons’ Isaiah Oliver back at practice, hopes to return to roster soon

FLOWERY BRANCH – Falcons cornerback Isaiah Oliver, who is coming off major reconstructive knee surgery, returned to practice Wednesday.

The Falcons have 21 days to activate Oliver to the 53-man roster.

“The knee felt good,” Oliver said Wednesday. “It felt comfortable. Now, it’s just a matter of getting back into it. Obviously not having practiced for the last few weeks, kind of the biggest thing is getting back use to it. It definitely felt good today.”

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Oliver played in the third and final exhibition game against Jacksonville, but was still a few weeks away from 100%.

“Just talking to Coach about it, we felt like I probably needed a couple more weeks,” Oliver said. “Then it would feel more comfortable. We thought about just doing the inactive route. Just being inactive on game day and doing it that way.”

But with Oliver on IR, the Falcons could use his roster spot to start the season.

“We kind of came up with a solution like that four weeks would be the best spot for me, even it was one week too long,” Oliver said. “It’s not the end of the world. Just to give myself some comfortability. Just being comfortable to be able to go back out there.”

Oliver returned to practice almost a year to the date of the injury, which he sustained against Washington on Oct. 3 last season.

“Difficult,” Oliver said of the year. “Difficult for sure. Just kind of going through the process. It was tough, but I feel like where I am now, I did all the right things. There were a lot of great people here to help me along the way.”

Oliver is not sure if he’ll be active Sunday, when the Falcons (2-2) are set to play the Buccaneers (2-2) in an early-season battle for first place in the NFC South.

“I don’t know. We are kind of going off this week of practice,” said Oliver, who wasn’t working with the first-team defense during the open portion of practice. “Kind of that is the determining factor. I felt like I was really probably ready last week. So, we just had that extra week to be 100%. We’re going to go off this week’s practice, the game plan and things like that.”

Oliver, who was drafted in the second round (58th overall) of the 2018 NFL draft, played nickel back with the reserves against Jacksonville.

Oliver, who was moved to nickel back in the 2020 season, was injured when Washington running back J.D. McKissic blocked Oliver when he was rushing the quarterback, and his knee was injured on the play.

The Falcons have played Mike Ford, Dee Alford and Erik Harris at nickel back this season. Oliver is ready to go back to nickel or play outside if that’s where he’s needed.

“Nickel, outside, wherever they feel I will be best at this week for that scheme,” Oliver said. “Whatever, it doesn’t matter to me.”

Oliver wants his instincts to start taking over in practice.

“Just the feel of getting back to football,” Oliver said. “Once you take four weeks off (from) football, you kind of (have) to play football again. Once I get that feeling back, I’m good to go.”

Oliver has played in 50 games and made 33 starts for the Falcons. He has played 2,159 defensive snaps and 363 on special teams.

Oliver senses the Falcons have turned a corner on defense.

“Just the confidence is up in the whole locker room,” Oliver said. “We kind of understand how we play football. We understand our identity, our brand of football. It’s just a matter of being consistent at this point.”

Oliver could be helpful as the Falcons are set to face former teammates Russell Gage and Julio Jones, who play for the Bucs.

“Looking (forward) to seeing those guys, definitely,” Oliver said. “That would be cool.”

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Atlanta Falcons 2022 NFL schedule

Sept. 11: Saints 27, Falcons 26

Sept. 18: Rams 31, Falcons 27

Sept. 25 Falcons 27, Seahawks 23

Oct. 2 Falcons 23, Browns 20

Oct. 9 at Tampa Bay, 1 p.m.

Oct. 16 vs. San Francisco, 1 p.m.

Oct. 23 at Cincinnati, 1 p.m.

Oct. 30 vs. Carolina, 1 p.m.

Nov. 6 vs. Los Angeles Chargers, 1 p.m.

Nov. 10 at Carolina, 8:15 p.m.

Nov. 20 vs. Chicago, 1 p.m.

Nov. 27 at Washington, 1 p.m.

Dec. 4 vs. Pittsburgh, 1 p.m.

BYE WEEK

Dec. 18 at New Orleans, TBD

Dec. 24 at Baltimore, 1 p.m.

Jan. 1 vs. Arizona, 1 p.m.

Jan. 8 vs. Tampa Bay, TBD