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Camp report: Tre Flowers, Mike Hughes step in with Jeff Okudah out

Veterans took first-team reps opposite A.J. Terrell with Jeff Okudah sidelines due to an ankle injury

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — With positive news came positive reinforcement.

The ankle injury Atlanta Falcons cornerback Jeff Okudah sustained Friday should only sideline him for the remainder of training camp and the beginning of the season. That temporary absence creates an opening. So far, Tre Flowers has initially been called upon to step up and into Okudah's starting position opposite of A.J. Terrell in the secondary.


"Tre is a guy that's played some quality snaps in this league," Falcons head coach Arthur Smith said after Saturday's practice. "He's got a different skillset.

"That's what happens, too. A lot of times, especially in critical downs, it's a matchup league. We've got guys we think can uniquely matchup, and they may not be the same week in and week out. It's the same thing with our safeties. It depends on who they put out there in those critical downs."

Flowers did share what would have been Okudah's first-ream reps with Mike Hughes. Terrell maintained his role on the other side of the field.

Both Flowers and Hughes have experience in the NFL that may ease any transitional worries.

Flowers was a fifth-round draft pick by the Seattle Seahawks in 2018 out of Oklahoma State. He spent last season with the Cincinnati Bengals, where he appeared in 15 games and recorded 27 tackles, three pass breakups, an interception and a fumble recovery. The Falcons signed Flowers as free agent back in May.

Hughes was a first-round draft pick by the Minnesota Vikings in 2018 out of Central Florida. He spent last season with the Detroit Lions, where he appeared in 16 games and made 51 tackles and a pass breakup. The Falcons signed Hughes as a free agent back in March.

"We mix and match all day," Smith said. "That's part of it, building depth. (Injuries are) going to happen. You hate it. You wish nobody ever got hurt, injured or had to come out. But that's part of, to me, our philosophy of team building."

Roll call: Okudah was obviously not at practice Saturday. Offensive lineman Matt Hennessy and tight end Jonnu Smith were also not practicing with their respective position groups, but Smith did say they were out there, "getting closer."

Defensive lineman Calais Campbell remains on the non-football injury list, though Smith shared a better update on his status, too.

"He's been doing a great job inside," Smith said. "We have plans for everybody. So, there's a good chance next week we can maybe ramp up a little bit more. What that looks like, I'll know more on Monday. Trending in the right direction."

Campbell was placed on the NFI list on July 25.

There are now five players on injured reserve: tight end Feleipe Franks, wide receiver Chris Blair, running back Avery Williams, offensive lineman Ethan Greenidge and defensive lineman Ikenna Enechukwu.

Stay tuned: During the final set of team drills, two Falcons members went down with injuries.

Defensive lineman Joe Gaziano first went down and was tended to by athletic trainers on the field. He ultimately walked off under his own power – albeit very gingerly and with a trainer nearby on both sides – before getting looked at further on the sideline.

Defensive back DeMarcco Hellams then went down after intercepting a deep pass from quarterback Logan Woodside. Hellams was also able to walk off slowly own his own, with one trainer by his side.

Niether Gaziano nor Hellams participated in the Falcons' down-and-back runs to close out practice, but neither left early either.

For what it's worth, Smith spoke highly of Hellams after practice, with no mention of a possible injury.

"DeMarcco is doing a nice job," Smith said. "He was a fun player to evaluate (during the pre-draft process). … You just saw him pop all over the tape. He was all around the football. You saw that today.

"I think he's done a really good job as a communicator back there. I'm excited. He's a guy I'm really excited to see in the preseason, see how that translates."

Team highlights: There were three interceptions during Saturday's practice. Hellams had his aforementioned pick off Woodside. Defensive back Breon Borders had also picked off Woodside earlier. Safety Jessie Bates III intercepted quarterback Desmond Ridder. … Linebacker Kaden Elliss had a nice pass breakup as Ridder tried to connect with tight end Kyle Pitts. … Ridder threw a clean touchdown pass to running back Bijan Robinson. … Wide receiver Frank Darby had an impressive sideline catch from quarterback Taylor Heinicke. … After four straight incompletions, Woodside threaded the needle to wide receiver Slade Bolden in double coverage.

Special teams: Mike Hughes, Penny Hart, Scotty Miller and Mathew Sexton rotated in order as punt returners. Zay Malone Keilahn Harris traded off kick-return duties.

Up next: The Falcons have Sunday off. They'll practice in shells Monday before traveling to Miami. There, they'll have joint practices Tuesday and Wednesday with the Dolphins in full pads. Thursday will be a walk-though practice before the two teams have their preseason opener Friday at 7 p.m. (FOX) in Hard Rock Stadium.

Take a look as the Atlanta Falcons put in the work in Flowery Branch during the 2023 AT&T Training Camp.

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