We were expecting it to happen but it sure is great to finally see. After Neal’s junior season was cut ridiculously short due to an ACL tear, he’s finally back out on the field. It is just OTAs but it is a major step in the right direction.
First let’s start with this sweet video.
Jersey on. Helmet on. Gloves on.— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) June 6, 2019
We're ready for you, @Keanu_Neal. pic.twitter.com/uegKXBwJEJ
Next we have my favorite quote out of a coach in some time.
Injury update: @AtlantaFalcons defensive passing game coordinator Jerome Henderson said that S Keanu Neal participated in walk-throughs for the first time during OTAs.— Matt Tabeek (@MatthewTabeek) June 5, 2019
"Any time you get a player of that caliber back ... it helps. You feel his grown man-ness on the field."
Grown man-ness is definitely something the defense was missing last year. The injuries piled up quickly for the Falcons, with players like Deion Jones, Grady Jarrett, and Ricardo Allen going out for extended periods of time. The defense was never the same, but those injuries weren’t enough to save Marquand Manuel’s job.
It is just OTAs so there’s obviously no contact. The staff will certainly bring him along slowly and get him back into game shape. (Not that he looks out of shape).
One. Step. Closer. pic.twitter.com/e7cIbJ5lxx— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) June 6, 2019
#Falcons safety Keanu Neal (knee) hitting the dummy. Has a helmet. Will get update after practice. pic.twitter.com/WDi2WTIa1f— D. Orlando Ledbetter (@DOrlandoAJC) June 6, 2019
Thanks to the early injury (week 1), Neal is sitting at a good spot. Per D. Orlando Ledbetter, he was running without a knee brace.
#Falcons SS. Keanu Neal just ran by. He doesn’t have a knee brace on.— D. Orlando Ledbetter (@DOrlandoAJC) June 6, 2019
There’s not much else to update. It will be awhile before we see Neal return to the “old” Neal. His counterpart, Allen, is not back yet. Allen suffered an Achille’s injury, typically more severe, at a later part of the season. Coaches may be penciling him in for the regular season.