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Ito Smith out Sunday against Seahawks, in concussion protocol

The team’s tough-as-nails second-year back has suffered his second concussion of 2019 and should be out a while.

Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Ito Smith is the kind of player you want on your team, as trite as that sounds. He’s a hard runner and a willing blocker, and it’s that second admirable trait that led directly to his second concussion of the 2019 season, which is extremely worrying.

Early in the game, Ito gamely stood in the way of Rams linebacker Corey Littleton and got absolutely trucked over. He did disrupt Littleton on the play, but he also suffered a scary head injury that had him down on the turf and ultimately carted off. It looked like a concussion and now we know it is, and the Falcons may have to seriously consider shutting Ito down for most or all of the season given that we know concussions are nothing to play around with. Remember, he already suffered one earlier in the year and didn’t miss any time.

With Ito out, the Falcons will activate Qadree Ollison for the first time in 2019. Devonta Freeman continues to be the obvious lead back in Atlanta despite up-and-down performances behind an offensive line that has not blocked well for him, while Brian Hill will be his direct backup and is certain to get some touches even after a pretty quiet game against the Rams. Ollison will likely stick to special teams and a small handful of touches in the here and now, but his role may grow if he looks good. The Falcons’ decision to hold onto four backs (five if you count Kenjon Barner) wasn’t necessarily the most intuitive use of roster spots, but whether it was the right call or the wrong call, it’s going to pay off now.

We’ll hope the Falcons ground game can get going against a surprisingly meh Seattle run defense, and we’ll hope Ito recovers well and isn’t rushed back by a team going nowhere.