Gurley's troublesome left knee injury is a problem, according to Dr. David J. Chao.
“The arthritis in his knee will not go away but can be managed,” wrote Chao after the Rams released Gurley. “Gurley still has plenty of football left in him, but his carries/touches will need to be limited as well as his practice time. Going forward, Gurley can still add value as a part-time running back, but teams need to adjust expectations given the health of his left knee.”
Chao is a former NFL team doctor for 17 years and practicing orthopedic surgeon.
"Just two years after a record-setting deal with the Rams, he has been released," Chao wrote. "We discussed his left knee in multiple articles and subscriber updates while also foreshadowing in our (exhibition) season injury report that Gurley was no longer a bell-cow running back."
Gurley averaged 3.8 yards per carry last season and put up career lows in carries (223) and yards (857).
Gurley, who will wear jersey No. 21, was a fan favorite when he played at Georgia.
Gurley essentially is a replacement for running back Devonta Freeman, who was released after the season.
The Falcons are hoping that Gurley, 25, can put some pop back in the rushing attack.
Gurley has rushed for more than 1,000 yards in three of his five seasons in the NFL and won the league’s offensive player of the year award after the 2017 season.
Overall, Gurley has rushed 1,265 times for 5,404 yards and 58 touchdowns.
Gurley, after not rushing for 1,000 yards last season, believes he can return to form with the Falcons.
The Falcons, who also have Ito Smith, Qadree Ollison and Brian Hill to back up Gurley, are hoping that Gurley can be an improvement over Freeman, who rushed for 656 yards on 184 carries last season.
At Georgia, Gurley finished his career ranked second in school history in career touchdowns (44), all-purpose yards (4,322) and rushing yards (3,285). He also held the UGA record for average yards per carry in his career (6.44), edging out Charley Trippi (6.42).
The Falcons addressed the injury concern in contract negotiations.
“We looked closely at it,” general manager Thomas Dimitroff said at the time. “We have language in our contracts that are going to protect us and the player. If the player comes in and has an issue that he might not pass a physical, that’s something that we’ll address then.”
Now that Gurley has passed his physical, there’s nothing to address.
Because of the NFL rules in place during the coronavirus pandemic, team doctors could not fly to Los Angeles to conduct the physical.
Normally, the free agent would have come to the team facility to take his physical and then sign his contract.
Gurley averaged 252 carries over his first five seasons in the league.
Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter studied how the Rams used Gurley, who reportedly has an arthritic left knee, last season.
“He averaged about 17 touches a game last year,” Koetter said. “Which is a little bit lower than he’d been when he was All-Pro. We are just going to have to find that out once he gets here. Get him up and running.”
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