Falcons coach Dan Quinn announced Monday that second-year running back Ito Smith is in the league’s concussion protocol and has already been ruled out for Sunday’s game against the Seattle Seahawks.
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Smith sustained the injury while stepping up to block an oncoming pass rusher, and he was then carted off the field after being attended to trainers.
“Sometimes you can quickly turn around to get going but, in this case, he’ll be out for this week,” Quinn said. “And, much like Matt [Ryan], how we were talking earlier, the bye will come at a good time for him. We’ll see what it looks like for the game after that. He’ll be out for this week, but good news for him that reports came back and he’s going to be OK.”
The Falcons have deployed Smith as their primary backup to running back Devonta Freeman this season, and he’s performed when called up. Smith has carried the ball 22 times for 106 yards, an average of 4.8 yards, and scored one touchdown.
With Smith sidelined for the upcoming game, the Falcons have a few options they can turn to. After losing both Smith and Freeman, who was ejected after an altercation with Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, on Sunday the Falcons relied on Brian Hill at running back. Hill carried the ball five times for 11 yards against the Rams, who were stout against the run, and he caught two passes for 14 yards.
Hill is in his third NFL season and has shown he can have success when given the opportunity. In a Week 16 win against the Carolina Panthers last season, Hill gained 115 yards on eight carries. He was also one of the team’s primary standouts during the 2019 preseason.
Qadree Ollison, who the Falcons selected in the fifth round of this year’s NFL Draft, was another preseason standout for Atlanta and someone who the team could also choose to use at running back with Smith out. Ollison has been inactive for every game thus far in 2019, but Sunday could provide an opportunity for that to change and for the Falcons to give the rookie an expanded role. Kick returner Kenjon Barner could also be a player the Falcons use as a backup to Freeman against the Seahawks.