Falcons coach Dan Quinn expresses respect for injured Kelvin Benjamin

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The complexion of the NFC South might have changed a bit with the season-ending ACL tear suffered by Carolina receiver Kelvin Benjamin.

The Falcons face the Panthers Dec. 13 on the road and Dec. 27 at home, and a lot could change for both teams between now and then. But unless rookie Devin Funchess emerges as one of the top receivers in the league, Carolina will sorely miss Benjamin.

Falcons coach Dan Quinn expressed kind words for Benjamin.

"I'm so disappointed for him," Quinn said. "He's such a good competitor; good player. ... When I saw that, I was totally bummed for him and the team. He's such a good competitor and somebody I respect a whole bunch."

Quinn, formerly the defensive coordinator in Seattle, recalled crossing paths with Benjamin during the draft process.

"I can remember even being at his workout at Florida State," Quinn said. "I was looking at some defensive guys at the time, and he just jumped out to me like, 'Man, look at this guy going to battle for it.' He's certainly earned my respect."

Benjamin, college teammates with Devonta Freeman, has the respect of Falcons players as well. Free safety Ricardo Allen tweeted out a message sending out prayers to his opponent. Cornerback Robert Alford expressed similar sentiments toward Benjamin following Thursday's practice.

"You always feel bad every time you hear about a player going down in this league with an injury like that," Alford said.

The 6-foot-5-inch, 245-pound Benjamin caught 10 passes for 118 yards and a touchdown in two games against the Falcons last season as cornerback Desmond Trufant shadowed him.