<
>

Falcons believe Vic Beasley Jr. can shoulder heavier preseason load

Naturally, there has to be some level of concern for the Atlanta Falcons regarding Vic Beasley Jr.'s health.

Beasley, the No. 8 pick in the NFL draft in 2015, played with a torn labrum in his right shoulder last season. And now he is recovering from an unrelated sprained AC joint in the same shoulder. The injury occurred last week in practice and led to the outside linebacker missing the second preseason game at Cleveland.

As the Falcons return to practice Sunday, it's fair to wonder if Beasley should rest as much as possible for the rest of the preseason in preparation for the games that count. That doesn't appear to be the plan. In fact, Falcons coach Dan Quinn is confident Beasley will play in Thursday night's preseason game against the Miami Dolphins in Orlando -- the most meaningful preseason game in terms of the starters getting significant playing time.

So why not hold Beasley out and get him fully healthy?

``We're hopeful that the time that we're taking now to get it right and ready will be the case,'' Quinn said, referring to sitting Beasley the last game with the ``minor'' sprain. ``We'll take it through the injury protocol. He'll do the individual work back into play starting on Sunday, in a limited fashion. And then Monday and Tuesday, we'll see where he goes.

``We'll kind of do the normal way we like to bring guys back through -- a part-time practice, then a three-quarters and then all the way back. If he can go through those tests and pass all those, then we feel comfortable about getting ready for the game this week. I'm anticipating that happening, but I don't want to cross that bridge until he kinds of goes through the three days.''

The Falcons expect Beasley to have a significant impact on their pass rush this season despite making the transition from defensive end to strong-side linebacker. He'll still rush off the edge in the nickel package and will likely to be asked to blitz from his Sam linebacker spot. But Beasley himself has emphasized the importance of being more violent with his hands this season, so overcoming his shoulder issues will be a significant element to the equation.

Beasley did not have surgery to fix the torn labrum, saying rehab helped him cope with the pain. He refused to use it as an excuse for a mediocre rookie season.

"No excuses, not at all," Beasley said back in December. "I mean, I had the labrum injury, but I'm a tough guy. I play through pain. It hasn't limited me from anything.''

The latest shoulder injury kept Beasley from suiting up against the Browns last Thursday, but he was feeling better as of Friday. Sprains of the AC joint can lead to four-to-six weeks of missed time if it's serious, or no time missed at all if it's a minor issue. Beasley's injury seems to fall into the latter category so expect to see him back on the field sooner rather than later.