Injury report: Falcons’ Jeff Okudah expected to return early in season

Falcons cornerback Jeff Okudah (1) jogs as he warms up Wednesday, June 14, 2023, in Flowery Branch, Ga.

 Miguel Martinez /

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Falcons cornerback Jeff Okudah (1) jogs as he warms up Wednesday, June 14, 2023, in Flowery Branch, Ga. Miguel Martinez /

FLOWERY BRANCH — Falcons cornerback Jeff Okudah, who was carted off the field with an ankle injury Friday, could return early in the regular season, coach Arthur Smith said Saturday.

Smith declined to share specifics of Okudah’s injury, but he was happy with the prognosis.

“We expect he’s got a great chance to be back the really early part of the season,” Smith said. “I just can’t give if that’s Week 1, 2, 3, whatever. But we feel really good for Jeff, all things considered.”

The update was one of several that Smith gave Saturday. On each, Smith shared good news.

Injured left guard Matt Hennessy and tight end Jonnu Smith are close to returning. The pair did not suit up for practice Saturday, but they were on exercise bikes on the sideline.

“They’re getting closer,” Arthur Smith said. “It’s good to have them out there.”

The team also is missing defensive end Calais Campbell, who has been out with a non-football injury. Specifics of his injury have not been released. Smith said that they’d know more Monday, but Campbell is “trending in the right direction.”

Okudah was the third overall pick by the Lions in the 2020 NFL draft, but he has struggled with injuries. He missed six weeks with a groin injury in 2020 and ruptured his left Achilles in Week 1 in 2021, missing the rest of the season. He started 15 games for Detroit in 2022, but was traded in the offseason for a 2023 fifth-round pick.

The Falcons have had a revolving door at the second cornerback spot opposite A.J. Terrell. They had hoped Okudah would fill that role. Okudah still will have that opportunity, but it will come weeks down the road. Tre Flowers played opposite Terrell after Okudah’s injury, but the Falcons likely will take a committee approach in the coming weeks.

“Yeah, that’s the NFL,” Smith said. “Unfortunately, guys get nicked up or someone has an equipment issue, and they have come out of the game. You’ve got to have depth. That’s one thing we’ve tried to build in here, and we’ve got to cultivate that.”

Hennessy was working at left guard with the first-team offense throughout the offseason and early in training camp, but he is in a position battle with second-round draft pick Matthew Bergeron. Hennessy has been out since sustaining a leg injury July 28. Bergeron has worked with the first team in Hennessy’s absence.

Jonnu Smith was acquired by the Falcons in March from the Patriots for a 2023 seventh-round pick. He’s been out since Tuesday, but Arthur Smith said Wednesday that Jonnu Smith would be back by the team’s joint practices in Miami next week.

Campbell signed with the Falcons in March. He is one of several veterans signed to bolster the Falcons’ defensive line, which has struggled in recent years. His injury is undisclosed.

The Falcons are off Sunday before returning to practice Monday. They will practice with the Dolphins on Tuesday and Wednesday before playing them in an exhibition game at 7 p.m. Friday at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida.