FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The status of Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman, as well as cornerback Desmond Trufant, remains in limbo as both players work their way through the concussion protocol.
Their availability for Sunday's NFC clash with the streaking Minnesota Vikings likely won't be clear until late in the week. Freeman has missed the last two games, while Trufant sustained a concussion during a collision with teammate Keanu Neal in a 34-20 win over Tampa Bay on Sunday.
Freeman told folks close to him he felt ready to return last week, but the two-time Pro Bowler was not going to force the issue, letting the medical process take place. He returned to limited practice last Thursday but wore a black no-contact jersey while going through light drills.
Freeman also tried on the innovative VICIS helmet designed to minimize impact on the head, but it doesn't appear that Freeman will switch to the helmet upon being cleared to play.
Tevin Coleman will remain as the primary running back until Freeman returns, with Ward as the backup. Coleman had two touchdown runs against the Buccaneers and now leads the team with seven total touchdowns.
Meanwhile, the initial word in the Falcons' locker room after the Tampa Bay game was that Trufant could be in the lineup against the Vikings, although there's no guarantee. The starters that have sustained concussions this season -- right tackle Ryan Schraeder, free safety Ricardo Allen, and Freeman -- all have missed at least one game as a result of the injury.
If Trufant can't go and if nickel back Brian Poole, who is day-to-day with a back injury, is unable to play, the Falcons would have to improvise like they did against the Buccaneers. Converted wide receiver C.J. Goodwin played a season-high 47 defensive snaps outside at cornerback after Trufant exited the game. Starting free safety Ricardo Allen played nickel for the first time after playing some strong safety the week before at Seattle when Keanu Neal got banged up. The No. 2 cornerback, Robert Alford, took a knee in the back during the Tampa Bay game but he's good to go this week. Rookie Damontae Kazee can jump into the free safety role whenever Allen has to move around.
"I think we'll be ready," Allen said of facing the Vikings possibly short-handed. "This week is going to be a big recovery week for us. It's going to be a big week for everybody to get back. But at the end of the day, we can go out there and get the job done. It's going to make us fight a little harder, but we can get the job done."
The 9-2 Vikings have won seven in a row, while the 7-4 Falcons have won three straight.