FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn is well aware of the rash of preseason game injuries that cost the Cowboys starting quarterback Tony Romo (back) for six to 10 weeks, cost the Ravens tight end Benjamin Watson (Achilles) the entire season, and cost the Colts starting left guard Jack Mewhort (knee) two to four weeks.
Even within his own team, Quinn watched rookie first-round pick Keanu Neal go down with a knee injury last Thursday night that required surgery Monday and will keep Neal out three to four weeks. And Quinn's best player, Julio Jones, suffered an ankle injury on the same night, although Jones' injury won't keep him out of the season opener.
"The injuries are such an unfortunate part of it," Quinn said. "Your heart just goes out to guys who totally battle for everything as a ballplayer for a club."
All that being said, Quinn isn't ready to change his approach toward playing starters during the preseason or lobby for a decrease in the number of preseason games. He still plans to play quarterback Matt Ryan in Thursday night's final preseason game against Jacksonville, even if for one snap. The possibility of an injury isn't something consuming Quinn's thoughts.
"At the end of the day, everybody's competing as hard as you can," Quinn said. "We've had injuries here, and you don't like to have them. There are certainly more in the game (as opposed to practice). We understand that's the price of doing business in the NFL. Players, coaches, we understand that's the risk that we all take."
Quinn pointed out that injuries aren't just happening three or four games into the preseason, so it's not like shortening the preseason will totally keep injuries from occurring.
"You can have one game and say, 'Oh man, we shouldn't have a preseason,'" Quinn said. "I don't know what the answer is or when that could change, if it does. I personally think you can get our team ready -- whatever window they give us. We have a shorter training camp now and people were like, 'How are we ever going to make it?' We have a shorter training camp and we're doing OK.
"And if we had shorter window in the preseason, we'd be OK, whatever it was. If they shortened it, all of us would adapt. That's for the higher ups to decide. We'll abide by it. If they decide at one point, 'Hey, we're going to add a (regular season) game and take one off the preseason,' I think everybody would figure out, 'OK, how are we going to schedule and how are we going to use the guys?' But I think some of the guys got hurt very early in their ballgames, so there's no way to predict that."
It's marquee players such as Romo that bring more attention to the debate. But, as Quinn pointed out, you can't ignore the fringe players who don't get a chance to show their value before roster cuts occur.
"There are some really good competitors who get hurt playing this game," Quinn said. "We hate when it happens, and we especially hate when it happens in the preseason. But we also recognize the world we live in with this sport."