FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Coming off their bye week, the Falcons held two notable players out of Wednesday's practice due to injuries. Cornerback Robert Alford did not practice due to an ankle injury, while kicker Matt Bryant was held out again due to a hamstring injury.
Speaking to the media on Thursday, Falcons coach Dan Quinn provided an update on where Alford and Bryant currently stand and whether or not they would be available this weekend against the Washington Redskins.
"We're not going to rule him out yet, for sure," Quinn said of Alford. "He didn't go yesterday. Like most ankle injuries, there's strength that he can get back into it to get right. He didn't go there yet. We're going to run him on the side again today, and we'll have a better assessment of where he's at going through. We're going to try to give him as much time as we can to see how strong we can get it."
If Alford is unable to play, the Falcons will turn to rookie cornerback Isaiah Oliver, who the team drafted in the second round, to replace him on the outside. Oliver has played in five games this season and started against the Cincinnati Bengals. Thus far, he's registered seven tackles and two pass defenses.
"We've put him a little bit in a number of different spots," Quinn said of Oliver. "What I've seen from him I would say is the discipline at the line of scrimmage, and that part is really improving. The way we want to play our corners, right down and challenge guys at the line of scrimmage, I think he's certainly improving in that area quite a bit. It suits his skill set as well, so we're going to keep drilling him in that way."
As for Bryant, the 43-year-old kicker missed the Falcons' win against the Giants after injuring his hamstring on a 57-yard field goal against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The veteran kicker has continued to progress in his rehab, and a decision will likely be made regarding his status after the coaching staff gets a chance to watch him kick during Thursday's practice.
"We haven't ruled him out yet," Quinn said. "Today is the day he normally kicks. We'll do some work on the side with him today. If he's able to progress and make some moves, we wouldn't rule him out just yet. But he's certainly close. But it's up to us to make sure that we do the right thing and bring him back when he is ready to do what Matt does, and that's all the power that he has on the big kicks. Today will be a better assessment. I'll have a more accurate picture tomorrow, because I haven't seen him kick yet. Today will be the first day he'll be back.
"As we go through it today, I'll have a look to day to see if he's able to hit it full speed. If he's not able to hit it full speed then we'll stay in that mode, and I'll know we'll have to wait till the next week. It's not even so much a number [of kicks for him to make], it's can he hit the power? If that happens, then we're looking like there's a chance."
If Bryant has to miss his second-straight game, the Falcons will again turn to kicker Giorgio Tavecchio, who was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week after hitting all three of his field goal attempts against the Giants, including a 56-yarder.
The other injured player Quinn discussed Thursday was Pro Bowl linebacker Deion Jones, who was placed on injured reserve after Week 1 with the opportunity to return later this season. The earliest point he could return would be Week 11 against the Dallas Cowboys, but Jones may be able to start practicing earlier than that. In fact, if things check out medically, he could get back on the practice field as early as next week.
"We'll take another look next week to see where he possibly could be, and if we could, that might be a chance [for him to return to practice]," Quinn said of Jones. "But we're not there yet, and he hasn't had his follow-up visits from the medical staff. He's meeting all of his markers, and that's what we're very encourage by. Where's he at on pain? Where's he at on speed? Where's he at on change of direction? As we're going through the markers we're very deliberate in terms of how we're doing it, based on what the doctors say for how long [he needs to heal]. He's really attacked it, and he's really chopping at the bit to get going. But, until we get to that stage, we're not going to put the cart before the horse, so to speak."