Jones back on active roster, ‘close’ to return

Falcons linebacker Deion Jones has not played since suffering injury in first week of season. (Video by D. Orlando Ledbetter/AJC)

Falcons plan to be cautious as Pro Bowl returns from broken foot

Deion Jones can’t wait to smack around some poor running back again.

“Close,” Jones said on Wednesday when asked for a percentage on when he would return from a broken foot.

The Falcons’ defense, which has been ravaged by injuries this season, could receive a major boost from the return of the Pro Bowl middle linebacker.

Jones was activated from injured reserve on Monday and the team announced it on Tuesday.

“That’s good news,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said on Wednesday. “He’s making real progress.”

Quinn stopped short of pronouncing Jones ready to play when the Falcons (4-5) play the Cowboys (4-5) at 1 p.m. Sunday at Mercedes Benz Stadium.

“We are going to make sure that we take great care of him,” Quinn said. “When he’s able to fully be Deion Jones all the way through, we’ll let him get back to it.”

The Falcons want to monitor Jones’ progress in practice this week. He’s been working on his agility and conditioning off to the side with the trainers for the past two weeks.

“There is a lot of practice to get it,” Quinn said. “I’ll keep you updated. We’ll know toward the end of the week about his readiness for the game.”

Jones has missed eight games and per the new rule that was adopted at the NFL’s 2018 annual meeting, Jones had to sit out eight games and not eight weeks after being placed on injured reserve otherwise the bye would have counted.

Jones suffered a broken foot in the season-opening loss to the Eagles on Sept. 6 and was placed on injured reserve with a designation to return.

Jones has been attending meetings and walk-throughs. He’s been sharing information from his film review sessions.

“I can’t wait to be out there with my boys,” Jones said. “I can’t wait.”

Jones has recorded 253 tackles, 23 pass defenses, seven interceptions and two touchdowns since being drafted in the second round of the 2016 draft. He was named to his first Pro Bowl in 2017 as an alternate.

Jones is hoping the unit can rebound from giving up 211 yards rushing in a 28-16 loss to the Browns on Sunday.

“We are going to move forward from that,” Jones said. “I don’t think we need to keep dwelling on it.”

Jones will help the Falcons in pass coverage if he can make it back.

Quinn wants to make sure that he doesn’t rush Jones back into the lineup.

“We are going to take it through the next few days,” Quinn said. “He’s got lot of practice and work to get in. That’s his standard of how he plays, too. We’ll take a good look at him over the next few days.”

The medical hurdles have been cleared.

“They’ve cleared him to come back by the doctors who did the surgery and the doctors that are here,” Quinn said. “He’s meeting all of the markers, but until he can fully be him for the long haul. We want to make sure that he’s capable of playing the way. ... That’s the standard he wants to play with.”

Quinn will consult with Jones to determine if there are any setbacks after his practice sessions. If there are no setbacks, why would the Falcons hold out on of their top defenders?

“We’ll talk every day,” Quinn said. “I have a pretty good sense from being with him the last few years of what his best looks like. I’ll keep talking to him about it.”

With Jones out, along with strong safety Keanu Neal (knee) and free safety Ricardo Allen (Achilles), the Falcons defense has struggled this season.

“He’s a huge part of our team,” linebacker De’Vondre Campbell said. “ He’s one of our leaders. Everyone knows what he’s capable of doing on the field.”

The players are excited at the prospect of Jones’ return.

“When Deion is out there he makes a difference,” strong safety Sharrod Neasman said. “He is fast. He plays like a centerfielder. He can get to the ball at any moment. He has the quickness, ability and mental capacity. He’ll definitely be around the ball for a fact.”

Jones has been fighting to get back on schedule.

“He’s been trying his best whether that’s been in the treatment room,” said defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, who missed two games with an ankle injury. “This whole process has been tough for him, a guy that’s highly competitive who wants to be out there every week.”

If Jones can play, he’ll get the helmet with the communication device and green sticker. The Falcons said part of their issues on defense was the communication as the designated helmet bounced from the linebacker unit to the secondary and then back to the linebacker group.

“As far as the communication of things, when you’ve got your head guy in the back end calling things, it’s just the small things,” Jarrett said. “Communications you don’t really realize until somebody like that is gone.

“It will be good, definitely, because he’s a great playmaker, but also from whether it’s a leadership standpoint or a communication standpoint just to have those pillars on every level of defense is important.”

Jones is eager to get going.

“Just taking it day by day,” Jones said. “Talking to (Quinn) to make sure we’re on the same page. Meeting with the guys in the training room, when I’m ready, I’ll be ready.”

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