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Keanu Neal, Dan Quinn discuss J.J. Wilcox’s devastating injury

The Falcons were hoping for big things from the veteran safety, and their sadness is evident.

Wild Card Round - Atlanta Falcons v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images

When you’re an NFL player and you lose your entire season, it’s devastating. For J.J. Wilcox, who the team was penciling in as a key reserve safety, it’s reality.

It’s a reality Keanu Neal is familiar with, as well. The team’s star safety spoke to the media on Tuesday, a day after Wilcox tore his ACL, and explained why he was the first player to go to Wilcox’s side when the injury happened.

“I consoled him,” Neal said. “I’ve been through it, and I know what it’s like to get that news, and it sucks. It sucks when you get the game that you love taken away from you, and you know, I was hurting for him.”

Neal, of course, was the first defender of many to fall last year, ultimately missing all but the first game of the season. He spoke about being mentally prepared for the year ahead as he targets Week 1, but his empathy for Wilcox was obvious.

Quinn weighed in as well, noting that Wilcox was a player who had impressed early on, and will be missed. He also said Neal told the defense to remember that injuries rob players of opportunities suddenly and all too often.

“Keanu said, ‘you just can’t take it for granted,’” Quinn said.

Without Wilcox, who may return to the Falcons next year if he’s healthy given the coaching staff’s evident fondness for him, the team will likely turn to Sharrod Neasman or Ryan Neal as Keanu Neal’s immediate backup. If those guys falter, there still may be another signing in the offing. Hopefully Wilcox’s recovery goes well.