Falcons Pro Bowl linebacker Deion Jones, who’s been out since the first game of the season, returned to practice on Wednesday.
“We will begin practicing with Deion Jones today,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said before the team’s walk-through. “You won’t see him on the injury report because he’s technically not on the active roster. It’s the next step that we want to make with him.”
Jones worked off to the side with the training staff last week in preparation for the game against the Redskins.
“We are really pumped,” Quinn said. “He has worked extremely hard to get back. This is the next step for him, beginning the practice portion of his recovery. We are really fired up to get 45 back on the field.”
Jones suffered a broken foot in the season-opening loss to the Eagles on Sept. 6 and was placed on injured reserve.
“Just really picking where I left off and being prepared to do that,” said Jones before practice. “I have been trying to help these guys out as much as I can.”
Jones has been attending meetings and walk-throughs. He’s been sharing information from his film review sessions.
“I feel like they’ve been doing a really good job,” Jones said of Duke Riley and Foye Oluokun, who have played in his place. “They realize what it takes to pretty much get stops and be a good defense. They’ve been doing it.”
Jones could return against Dallas on Nov. 18.
“I know that me rushing back won’t help my team,” Jones said. “Me being out there is going to be the best thing for us.”
Jones approved of the deal to add defensive end Bruce Irvin Wednesday.
“I think it’s going to be a good addition to our team,” Jones said. “He’s a good player. Him having to be on the front, he’ll fit right in.”
Cornerback Robert Alford (ankle) and kicker Matt Bryant (hamstring) are also injured. Alford returned to practice, while Bryant came outside without a helmet for the workout Wednesday.
Jones was set to work with the scout team and help the offense get ready for the Browns (2-6-1), whom the Falcons (4-4) will face at 1 p.m. Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium.
Jones has missed six games and per the new rule that was adopted at the NFL’s 2018 annual meeting, Jones must sit out eight games and not eight weeks after being placed on injured reserve.
The NFL has had “injured reserve with a designation to return” since 2012. In 2017, the rule was expanded to include two players who could return. The Falcons have also designated running back Devonta Freeman (sports hernia/core) to return later this season.
A player can practice after six weeks, but that starts a 21-day clock before he can be activated. The Falcons are set to start Jones’ 21-day period. He could play against Dallas on Nov. 18.
Jones, who led the Falcons in tackles last season with 138, would immediately boost a unit that is yielding 419.4 yards per game and allowing offenses to convert on 54 percent of third downs.
Jones responsibilities have been split between veteran De’Vondre Campbell, the second-year Riley and the rookie Oluokun.
Jones was named to the Pro Bowl following the 2017 season and has played in 32 games since joining the Falcons as a second-round draft pick in 2016. He has totaled 253 tackles, including 14 for loss, seven interceptions, 23 passes defensed and one forced fumble. His seven interceptions are the most by a linebacker in the NFL since 2016.
Quinn believes that the re-worked defense, which is also missing strong safety Keanu Neal (knee surgery) and Ricardo Allen (Achilles surgery), turned the corner in the 23-20 win over the Giants before the bye.
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