The Atlanta Falcons will take a cautious approach with at least one key player once training camp begins Friday.
Starting center Joe Hawley, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament in his right knee last September at Minnesota, was told his full-team reps will be limited at the start of camp. Hawley had planned to be full go from the outset, but he cautioned the final decision would be made by the medical staff.
Hawley is scheduled to go through individual drills, as he did during minicamp. However, he'll be "eased" into full-team work during the first week of camp, with a few reps added each day.
Hawley previously said his knee might not be fully healthy throughout the season, but he expects to be well enough to make it through 16 games. His presence as the starter is a key factor as the Falcons transition to offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's outside-zone blocking scheme -- a scheme Hawley should thrive in based on his ability to get outside and block downfield.
It remains unclear how the Falcons plan to proceed with some of their other key players on the mend. Veteran wide receiver Roddy White was held out two days of the team's three-day minicamp as a precaution believed to be related to his left knee. Coach Dan Quinn wouldn't immediately reveal any plans to limit White during training camp.
Starting left tackle Jake Matthews was limited throughout the offseason after January surgery to repair a Lisfranc ligament tear in his foot. The same held true for starting strong safety William Moore, who had major right shoulder surgery, and rookie cornerback Jalen Collins, who has foot surgery prior to being drafted. And starting right guard Jon Asamoah saw limited offseason work due to an ankle injury.
The Falcons need Moore's leadership in the secondary, while Hawley and Matthews arguably are the two most important figures on the offensive line. Second-year player James Stone is likely to get the first-team reps at center until Hawley is fully recovered, while veteran Tyler Polumbus is the most likely candidate at left tackle if Matthews is at all limited.
When Asamoah was sidelined during minicamp, veteran newcomer Chris Chester filled in at right guard, although Chester seems likely to become the starting left guard. There still is no word on whether the Falcons plan to pursue free-agent guard Evan Mathis, a two-time Pro Bowl selection.
Collins is expected to challenge Robert Alford for a starting spot outside at corner, or at least fill the nickelback role.
Other players coming off injuries to monitor include rookie running back Tevin Coleman (groin), outside linebacker Brooks Reed (groin), defensive end Malliciah Goodman (knee), cornerback Dezmen Southward (knee), tackle Lamar Holmes (broken foot), center/guard Peter Konz (knee), and linebacker Marquis Spruill (knee). Holmes, Goodman and Southward could be candidates to start camp on the physically unable to perform list (PUP).