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Dan Quinn: Don’t play Julio Jones

Julio Jones’ missing earring is now a celebrity judge on The Gong Show

NFL: NFC Championship-Green Bay Packers at Atlanta Falcons Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Dearest Dan Quinn, hear this plea. This fast, physical, urgent plea, formed by a committee of thousands of leading mathematicians and scholars.

Don’t play Julio Jones.

Don’t play him. Seriously. Sit him. Don’t let him touch the field. Keep him on the bench. Lock him in the locker room. Take away his car keys. Search for him a good Netflix show to watch. Find a great aunt he can visit. Maybe get him started on the Redwall series. Or a cooking class! People love those! He can have his own Jet Jones apron and all that. Maybe tell him you found his earring, and it’s waiting for him somewhere in Alpharetta. I don’t know, you’re a creative guy. Figure something out.

Just don’t play Julio Jones … on Saturday.

Yes, indeed, on Saturday, when the Falcons take the field against the Arizona Cardinals in a preseason match-up where the stakes are made up and the final score doesn’t matter.

The Falcons WR is obviously the greatest human being in the state of Georgia outside of former President Jimmy Carter, but he has no business being on the field in pads when Mercedes-Benz Stadium opens its doors Saturday night.

Jones is the best wide receiver in the NFL (sorry, Antonio and Odell, you know the truth). He has done, can do and will accomplish many wonderful things in his career, hopefully all of them in a Falcons uniform. He can bend the football field to his will, torch the best of cornerbacks and erase from human existence the ones who aren’t the best of cornerbacks – remember CB Tanner Yancey of the Buffalo Bills? Or CB Evan Lansing of the New Orleans Saints? That’s what I thought…

He is amazing, wonderful and fantastic – but he’s also human. And he’s coming off surgery.

Jones just recently completed the second surgery of his career to, please don’t giggle and be an adult about this, fix a nagging bunion. Apparently, it was not something he’s enjoyed having to play through. He’s also recovering from two ligament issues in the toe, as well as one in the middle of his foot – those were the ailments that bugged him throughout 2016 and caused him to miss a couple of games at the end of the regular season.

That wasn’t ideal for the league’s most dangerous receiving threat, but all signs point to Jones being ready and able to catch passes once again when the regular season gets going in September.

Hypothetically, yes, Jones could probably play Saturday, as could injured WR Taylor Gabriel, who’s had a lingering hamstring issue, and perhaps even RB Devonta Freeman, who’s currently in the concussion protocol, and could be technically cleared for contact by game time.

But why on Earth would you risk it?

Preseason is a dangerous trap for starting football players. It’s a time to get fans excited for what’s ahead, a time for guys to get comfortable on the field going at game speed (well, a slightly-altered version of it) and for coaches to evaluate talent and get comfortable calling plays once again. It’s a time for undrafted guys to make their mark and fringe roster players to make their case.

It’s also a time when sickening, pointless injuries can occur – ones that derail seasons and create havoc for rosters. In the Miami game a short time ago, promising Dolphins rookie ILB Raekwon McMillan tore his ACL. Just the other day, a horror of horrors, Seattle’s starting left tackle George Fant landed on the IR after an ACL injury in a preseason game. It happens, and it’s awful every time.

On one hand, those guys may have needed the experience, but on the other hand, it’s hard not to think about what happens if they don’t touch the field.

Oh, yeah, probably should mention this while we’re on the topic, did you see what happened to Odell Beckham Jr. Monday night against Cleveland? There’s a guy you could have rested.

Injuries are the random small rocks on the highway that hit a player’s metaphorical windshield and can potentially leave all kinds of damage in their wake. They’re so haunting because they’re so random and so often arrive without rhyme or reason, no matter what you do to prepare for them.

The 2013 Falcons season was a nightmarish situation where the injury bug crawled in and laid eggs all over Flowery Branch. That’s when Jones hurt his foot and had to have season-ending surgery to repair the screw that had come loose. You know, the horrific New York Jets Monday Night Football loss that will forever live in infamy and signaled the 2013 season was kaput.

We don’t want another moment like that ever, especially not in the preseason. If something happens to Jones, don’t kid yourself. It changes the offense. The team can survive a few games without him, but not an entire season. No way, no how. The same goes for Freeman. If Gabriel goes down, there goes one of the big reasons opposing defensive coaches are going to be kept up at night when Atlanta’s the next game on the schedule. It would be very bad if he was lost for any reason, so sayeth Captain Obvious.

In the regular season, of course those guys suit up and go. When else would we see them? In the preseason, however, there is really no reason to play them, even if they are healthy. As they continue to heal from injury, it’s fine for those guys to be out for low-to-no-contact practice. But, the preseason is a completely different beast.

“Jet” Jones, “Turbo” Taylor and “Has Lots of Money Now” Freeman need to have nice, relaxing evenings on the sideline when the Falcons take the field Saturday night. They don’t even need to get a whiff of their shoulder pads. Just let them sit, watch, converse among one another, and maybe even coach up the younger guys.

Just don’t put them out on the field until it’s absolutely necessary. Saturday is not absolutely necessary. The good vibes going into 2017 could change really quick if a guy who’s a little banged up gets a lot worse during a game that doesn’t count for anything but kicks and giggles.