Takeaways from Falcons’ OTAs: Keanu Neal returns, Calvin Ridley held out

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – The Atlanta Falcons held their final open practice during organized team activities (OTAs) on Thursday, and a familiar face rejoined his teammates out on the field.

Pro Bowl safety Keanu Neal strapped on his helmet and participated in drills for the first time since suffering a knee injury in the Falcons’ 2018 season opener.

“We did kind of the return-to-play format,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said of Neal’s workload. “Lots of individual (work), lots of the group work as the calls were going … the real purpose is to get back in with the group, then when you start training camp it’s not for the first time.”

In 2017, Neal started every single game for the Falcons at strong safety. He finished the season with 113 tackles, three forced fumbles and an interception.

Three starters held out of practice

While Neal rejoined the team on Thursday, the Falcons were down three other starters – Calvin Ridley, Austin Hooper and Desmond Trufant. Quinn said after practice that Ridley was held out due to a “sore foot,” and he explained that both Hooper and Trufant were excused from the session but did not elaborate on why. That information, he said, would be shared next week during minicamp.

Jordan Miller, Damontae Kazee snag picks

It was a solid day all around for Atlanta’s secondary. Not only did the group get its starting strong safety back, but rookie Jordan Miller and ballhawk Damontae Kazee came away with interceptions off of backup quarterback Matt Schaub. Miller’s occurred after he jumped a route down the right sideline, snagging the ball with open space ahead of him. Kazee’s interception occurred in the far end zone off a tipped ball.

Chris Lindstrom works with the starters

For the first time at an open media practice, first-round pick Chris Lindstrom was seen working with the starting offensive line. Sandwiched between right tackle Ty Sambrailo and center Alex Mack, Lindstrom spent the practice with the first unit. Atlanta’s other first-round pick, Kaleb McGary, continued to rotate it, but it was notable that Lindstrom saw a lot of reps with the main group.

Rookie Marcus Green looked sharp

Neal wasn’t the only notable player who returned to the field after spending much of OTAs on the sidelines. Wide receiver Marcus Green, the team’s sixth-round pick, was out on the field with the Falcons and had a couple of eye-catching moments. He showed off his athleticism during a goal line drill, leaping and twisting to high-point a pass from Matt Ryan while being covered by receivers coach Raheem Morris. Green’s second highlight came during a 7-on-7 drill, where he caught a pass over the middle and showed off his great speed and agility to run away from defenders. He was also back with the punt returners at the beginning of practice, an area he excelled in at Louisiana-Monroe

Falcons S Keanu Neal is back in a jersey to practice with the team for the last day of OTAs.

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