FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Just when you thought Julio Jones was prepared to sit out 11-on-11 on Friday evening, the Atlanta Falcons wide receiver darted off the sideline and ran a crossing route during full-team drills.
Jones looked his typical explosive self, although the ball didn't come his way.
"Just staying in shape," said Jones, who has been limited during training camp as he makes his way back from March surgery on his left foot. "Staying in the thick of things. Just moving around. Just hearing the playcalls; going out and getting set. I have to do that. Even though it's not really no-contact, I'm exploding. I'm doing these little things. I've still got to stay in football shape and go out there and hear the call. Just being a professional."
The Falcons have said all along there's no need to rush Jones back into full action. Coach Dan Quinn said it would be a gradual process, and training camp started with the 28-year-old participating in individual drills only. He slowly worked his way into some 11-on-11 action Wednesday, although he's yet to catch a pass in such a scenario.
"I feel great about it," Jones said about easing back into action. "We all know what I can do. It's no need to go out there and be like, 'OK, we're going to go full practice, full speed every route, every rep.' Just easing myself back into it. I know my teammates got me, and they know I got them. I'll be ready when it's time to go."
With Jones and fellow receiver Taylor Gabriel (lower leg) working back from injuries, some younger receivers have gotten meaningful reps. Marvin Hall, in his second year out of Washington, continues to catch passes from Matt Ryan. Undrafted rookie Reggie Davis has impressed with his speed. Anthony Dable, a native of France who has played professionally in Europe, opened eyes with a one-handed catch during one-on-one drills. And Josh Magee has made a few catches here and there.
It's hard to single out one, but Hall has looked the best over the past few days.
"He's been phenomenal for us," Jones said of Hall. "But all of them have -- Magee, all of them. I can't just say like one guy's really been standing out. All the young guys, they've bought into the system. And they come to work every day."
The Falcons' top four receivers are Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Justin Hardy and Gabriel. Andre Roberts might be the fifth guy as the primary return man, and he's had some solid practices at receiver, too. If the Falcons go with six wideouts, guys such as Hall, Davis, Magee and Nick Williams might be in for a dogfight. That's why the preseason will be so important.
As for Jones, don't expect him to see much action in exhibition games. He played 25 snaps in three preseason contests in 2016. The Falcons' first game is this Thursday at Miami, and it would make sense for Jones to sit out based on his practice reps. Quinn said a decision hasn't been made on Jones' status for the game.
"Whenever I'm ready, I'm ready," Jones said. "I can't really say when I'm going to go, like in the preseason. But whenever I'm ready, I'm going to go. Like I said, I'm a professional. I don't want to hurt myself nor the team. So when I'm ready, I'll go."