Falcons' Terron Ward gets chance to shine with Devonta Freeman out

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn already knew what he had in starting running back Devonta Freeman and backup Tevin Coleman, but Quinn entered training camp wanting to get a closer look at the guys behind his dynamic duo.

A handful of players are vying for that third running back spot: Terron Ward, rookie Brian Hill, B.J. Daniels, recently signed Kelvin Taylor, and even fullback/halfback Derrick Coleman.

Now that Freeman is sidelined while going through the concussion protocol, more opportunity exists for a guy like Ward to earn a spot on the 53-man roster. He'll move into the backup role behind Tevin Coleman for at least Sunday's exhibition against Pittsburgh, with Freeman already ruled out.

"Man, I take advantage of every rep, even when Devonta is here," Ward said. "When he goes out, that's a big load taken from our offense. I feel like I have the capabilities to -- I don't want to say fulfill everything he does -- but I can hold my own in the offense and not have the play-caller not be able to call plays, because I can do everything that he wants to do. When (Freeman) is out, it's always next man up. It's what we preach here. You've just got to get the job done."

The 5-foot-7-inch, 201-pound Ward, signed as an undrafted free agent out of Oregon State in 2015, has played in 18 games, giving him the experience edge over the likes of Hill, Daniels, and Taylor. Hill (6-1, 219), a fifth-round selection out of Wyoming, will, of course, get a long look as one of five draft picks. Daniels (5-11, 217) is sidelined with a hamstring injury and Taylor (5-10, 205) is just a few days into learning the system.

"I'm just trying to come out here and do what I do," Ward said. "I'm not worried about anybody else or any so-called competition or who they draft. As long as I come here and do the best I can do, at the end of the day I'll be fine with what they do and the decisions they make.

"I'm just trying to put my best foot forward. At the same, I'm helping B-Hill and I'm helping K.T., and I'm helping Free, T-Cole responsibility-wise, playcall-wise. The brotherhood is not just a saying. We take that to heart. If I can make those guys better and make myself better, at the end of the day we're all going to be better."

In last week's 23-20 exhibition loss in Miami, Ward carried the ball 11 times for 48 yards, scoring a 3-yard touchdown and breaking off a game-long 26-yard run. He also had a great blitz pickup on one play, and made a tackle on special teams.

"If you can play special teams, that's always a bonus," Ward said. "I'm still trying to get better on special teams as we speak now. I've been here for three years. I kind of have an idea of what (special teams coach) Keith (Armstrong) wants. Special teams is like go get it or don't go get it, you know what I mean? There's a lot of responsibilities and a lot of rules to it, but you just have to go out there and play hard."