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Deion Jones returns to practice Wednesday for Falcons

He returns to an uncertain role.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Buffalo Bills Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

This has been a long summer for Deion Jones. Every move Atlanta made this offseason to bolster the inside linebacker group seemed to indicate that they were gearing up for life after him, and then surgery and recovery kept him from practicing for a long time. In between all of that, trade rumors and speculation about his future with the Falcons swirled and grew.

We come to August 24 no more certain of Jones’ future in Atlanta than we were in March, if I’m being frank, but what we do know is that he’s finally back to practice. If he does stick in Atlanta, it appears the road between where he is now and a starting job is a long one.

Jones is fresh off a season that has been widely characterized, here and otherwise, as the worst of his career. He was still a full-time starter for Atlanta, but his coverage woes and missed tackle offset the occasional brilliant plays that were glimpses of the Jones who was once considered one of the team’s brightest stars. The Falcons responded to that season—and, of course, the departure of Foye Oluokun—by signing Rashaan Evans and Nick Kwiatkoski and drafting Troy Andersen, adding potential short-term starters and one potential long-term one to a group that already featured rising third year pro Mykal Walker and quality reserve Dorian Etheridge. The intent was clearly to at least push Jones hard for his starting job, if not insure the team would be fine if they did trade him.

Now that Jones is back, the Falcons may pick up trade conversations again, but it’s unclear whether any are ongoing. If they don’t find a taker, the team has indicated they’ll hold on to Jones, and the veteran will be looking to climb the ladder and hopefully return to a starting role. At the moment, at least, he appears to be well behind Evans and Walker, and it does seem unlikely that a single preseason effort and a few practices will let him leapfrog either.

We’ll see if Jones plays Saturday against the Jaguars, and from there, we hope to get a better idea of his future. I’m sure Jones and the Falcons would like to figure that out, themselves.