Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman limited in return to Falcons practice

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman returned to practice Monday following hamstring strains but saw limited action.

Both players were injured in the first week of training camp. Coleman strained his left hamstring running a route, while Freeman strained his right one doing the same a couple days later. During Monday's practice, they mostly stood and watched after light individual drills.

"I feel good," Freeman said. "It's a great progression. Still taking it one day at a time. It's just exciting to be back out there and having fun with the boys. I feel like I'm back a part of something even though nobody never left me out. Just being out there grinding with them, feeling the pain (of competition), felt good."

Said the rookie Coleman, "I feel pretty good. Just getting back out there practicing with my team. I'm not going 100 (percent), but it just feels good to be out there moving a little bit."

Falcons coach Dan Quinn previously said the first step in getting the two back on the field would be individual drills. Next is participating in 11-on-11, so that aspect will be worth monitoring the rest of the week.

There is a strong chance both Freeman and Coleman will be held out of Friday's exhibition against the New York Jets, just like they missed the first preseason game against the Tennessee Titans.

"I'll leave it up to coach," Freeman said of his status for Friday. "I'm not sure yet. But if I can, I'm definitely going to go."

Injuries at running back have been a recurring theme for the Falcons throughout training camp. After Freeman and Coleman, third-string running back Antone Smith suffered his own hamstring injury against the Titans. Smith did not suit up for Monday's practice and his status remains unclear.

The Falcons signed veteran Evan Royster Sunday to add more depth at running back. Undrafted rookie Terron Ward took the initial, first-team reps Monday followed by Jerome Smith, Michael Ford and Royster.

Quarterback Matt Ryan was asked about adjusting to a new offense geared toward an improved running game without the top running backs in there to establish a rhythm.

"Obviously, you'd like to have everybody every time you go on the field," Ryan said. "But that's kind of not the case in this sport. Guys are going to get nicked up at different times, and you've got to adapt and you've got to move forward.

"I thought some of our running backs stepped up and did a nice job the other night. Jerome Smith, I thought, came in and played really well for us. He was physical in the run game; ran the ball really well. But his pass protection was really, really good. Those are the encouraging things: When guys have opportunities to play and showcase what they can do, it's great to see that. But certainly, we would like to have (Coleman, Freeman and Antone Smith) back."

A few quick-hit items from the 13th practice of training camp on Monday:

  • With starting cornerback Desmond Trufant sidelined with a shoulder injury, the Falcons had a different look in the secondary -- for a least a few snaps -- with Phillip Adams, Jalen Collins and Kevin White playing outside at corner while Robert Alford got work at nickelback. Some thought Alford might kick inside anyhow once Collins emerged as the corner opposite Trufant, but Alford's strong play outside and Collins' struggles had prevented that from happening so far. Still, Quinn said getting Alford some reps in the nickel role Monday was planned. "It was really important," Quinn said. "It was one of things I was looking forward to today's practice. He's such a competitor inside. He's a real good tackler. So, I think he's got nickel ability. We've tried Phillip in there as well. So, there's a number of guys we're going to roll through. It's another skill that you can add to the team. Rob has that, too."

  • Outside linebacker Brooks Reed returned to practice, as promised, off a groin injury but only participated in individual drills. Reed said the injury does not require surgery, so his return was a positive step toward a full recovery. Reed missed the first preseason game against Tennessee, as did Devin Hester (ankle/toe) and Cliff Matthews (ankle), both of whom practiced but were limited Monday.

  • The same first-team offensive line that started the preseason game against the Titans -- Jake Matthews, James Stone, Joe Hawley, Chris Chester and Ryan Schraeder -- continued to work together Monday. Quinn singled out Chester for his play in the first exhibition.

  • The music playlist at practice included Michael Jackson ("Wanna Be Startin' Something"), Jay-Z and Kanye West ("In Paris") and DJ Snake/Lil Jon ("Turn Down For What").