Falcons considering limited workload for Todd Gurley in training camp

Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn said running back Todd Gurley II, who has had lingering issues with his left knee, could be among the players limited once the team gets into the heart of training camp practices.

Quinn did not announce a specific plan for Gurley, who passed his physical after signing a one-year, $5.5 million contract in the offseason. But Quinn hinted at taking precautions to ensure that Gurley will be at his best for the regular season.

The contact integration period, in which the Falcons can have a maximum of 14 padded practices, is Aug. 17 through Sept 6.

When asked if he plans to limit reps for Gurley, safety Keanu Neal (coming off a season-ending Achilles tear) and center Alex Mack (a 34-year-old veteran), Quinn responded:

“Yeah, for sure, one size doesn’t fit all. Sometimes you’re monitoring reps. ‘OK, I’m going to put him from a certain amount down to a lower amount.’ Sometimes it might be a day off where it’s not back-to-back-to-back. So for sure, we’ve gone through that process with a number of the players as we get into the training camp portion. There will be some players that will have limited reps or an off day occasionally just to make sure, man, just keep hitting the markers of where we’re at.

“All three of the players that you had said would be on different [plans] but could certainly have some limitations here and there -- not physically but more for just their overall longevity in where they’re at."

Neither Gurley nor the Los Angeles Rams, who released Gurley in March, have confirmed that Gurley has an arthritic condition in his knee. Upon joining the Falcons, the 26-year-old Gurley pointed out that his knee was surgically repaired six years ago after an ACL tear, and that didn’t prevent him from playing in 15 of 16 games last season.

During the early phases of the Falcons’ acclimation period, Gurley walked with a noticeable limp and wore a compression sock on his left leg, yet he showed speed and explosion during drills.

One source familiar with Gurley from his days with the Rams told ESPN, “He can’t put his foot in the dirt and go like the old Todd Gurley, but he could still be a productive back."

Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, who praised Gurley’s speed, power and elusiveness as the former NFC Offensive Player of the Year, agreed that Gurley can still be effective but wondered how often he can do it in terms of durability.

The Falcons won’t ask Gurley to carry the full load with Brian Hill, Ito Smith and Qadree Ollison in the running back group. Not to mention, the Falcons are likely to rely on their passing game, with Matt Ryan at quarterback, Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley as his top receivers, and Hayden Hurst, an intriguing newcomer with something to prove, at tight end.

Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff spoke in general terms when asked about monitoring reps for Gurley.

“I think with any veteran player in this league, a team has to be mindful and cognizant of how they are practicing and how they are working out to make sure they’re in the best possible shape they can be," Dimitroff said. “With someone like Todd, we’ll be mindful of that. We’re very fortunate to have a head coach that is very open with regards to make sure our players are staying fresh and our players aren’t beaten up.

“I think that’s going to be important for a number of players on our team. We’ll be very mindful of Todd and how he practices, and he’ll be very communicative with us. We said from the very beginning that it’s very important to have mutual communication between the club and the player in this situation. And again, he is that type of guy. We have a good working relationship already in place in the short time that he’s been here, at least with his coaches and Dan. I’m very encouraged with how he’s communicating.

Gurley played 750 snaps last season and finished with 1,064 yards and 14 touchdowns on 254 total touches. He rushed for 857 yards and 12 touchdowns on 223 carries.