Safety J.J. Wilcox suffered a torn right ACL in the first practice and will be out for the 2019 season, Falcons coach Dan Quinn said after practice Tuesday.
Also, defensive tackle Michael Bennett suffered a broken ankle that will require surgery, but he may be able to return for part of the 2019 season.
Later, the Falcons officially placed Wilcox on injured reserve.
“With J.J., it ended up being a season-ending injury where he had an ACL,” Quinn said. “He’s really had a strong impact here amongst him teammates in a short time. Anytime you get that bad news, the call or conversation with the (doctor), it’s hard. A number of teammates and coaches reached out to him. He’ll have to get that repaired and then comeback for the (2020) season.”
The Falcons’ defensive coaching staff had been impressed enough with Wilcox that they were tinkering with some three-safety packages to include the veteran in the so-called Big Nickel.
Ryan Neal and undrafted rookie Parker Baldwin are now behind Keanu Neal on the depth chart in the strong safety slot.
When Wilcox went down, safety Keanu Neal and nickel back Damontae Kazee helped him off the field.
“I was just there for him,” said Neal, who missed last season with a similar injury. “I know what it’s like to get that news. … you get the game that you love taken away for a whole season. I was hurting for him. I talked with him and let him speak and we prayed.
Neal just wanted to provide some support in the time of need for Wilcox, who played at Georgia Southern and Cairo High.
“There were a lot of people there for me, coaches and players to let me cry and hit me up every now and then to make sure that I was good throughout it,” Neal said.
Bennett played sparingly with the Falcons last season and was a longshot to make the final roster.
“Michael’s is not as bad as a season-ending (injury), but it will set him back for a while,” Quinn said. “They have to do a procedure (surgery) to get him back. Hopefully for him, at some space, he’ll be able return in the ’19 season.”
Position-by-position series: July 8: Special teams | July 9: Safeties | July 10: Cornerbacks | July 11: Linebackers | July 12: Defensive line | July 13: Quarterbacks |July 14: Offensive line | July 15: Wide receivers | July 16: Tight ends | July 17: Running backs
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