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Just for kicks: Devonta Freeman stands as returner at OTAs

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Devonta Freeman made a cameo appearance as a kickoff returner during Tuesday's organized team activities, a role the Atlanta Falcons running back hasn't had for quite a long time.

"I did it one time in high school," Freeman said. "I took it like 60 yards, but I got tackled. That was it."

The Pro Bowler isn't likely to fulfill those duties once the regular season comes around, so don't read too much into it. Freeman simply was asked to be one of the returners for a segment of practice during which special teams coach Keith Armstrong emphasized spacing for his blockers. Freeman was first up, followed by fellow running back Tevin Coleman and receiver Mohamed Sanu.

Two of the true kick returners on the roster, Devin Hester and rookie Devin Fuller, did not participate. Hester is coming off toe surgery, while Fuller is battling a hamstring injury. Eric Weems will most likely be called upon if Hester isn't healthy and if Fuller is not ready once the regular season rolls around. Armstrong believes the kickoff is moving toward extinction, anyway.

After practice, coach Dan Quinn mentioned how Coleman's quick one-cut ability is something the coaches might have to consider on returns. That's not to say Coleman will assume those duties. Again, the drill was about aligning the blockers in the correct manner, so Matt Ryan could have been back there fielding kicks. But if anyone is going to be considered a candidate between Freeman, Coleman, and Sanu, it would be Coleman -- provided he corrects his fumbling issues. Freeman and Sanu are expected to have starting roles on offense.

Sanu was asked about when was the last time he returned a kickoff.

"Little league," he said with a laugh.

As for Freeman, he did show some rust in dropping a ball.

"Nah, I didn't drop one," Freeman said with a smile. "I don't know what you saw."