FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn said he expects running back Tevin Coleman to play Sunday against the Broncos despite Coleman's concerns about how having the sickle cell trait could affect him in the altitude in Denver.
Coleman told ESPN he was unsure about playing because his blood disorder, related to sickle cell disease, can cause complications in environments with low oxygen, such as the high altitude in Denver. Coleman said he would consult with Quinn about the best way to proceed.
Quinn addressed the topic Monday and did not express doubt about Coleman's playing status.
Former Pittsburgh Steelers defensive back and current ESPN personality Ryan Clark, who has the sickle cell trait, not the more serious sickle cell anemia, had an episode after playing in Denver in 2007, when he became gravely ill and ultimately lost his spleen and gallbladder. Clark was then kept from playing in two subsequent games in Denver, including a playoff game.
Last year, Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins was cleared to play in Denver with the sickle cell trait and played 39 of 65 defensive snaps in a 20-17 overtime loss to the Broncos.
"There's been a number of guys who have sickle cell trait who've played in Denver over the last nine years and certainly before then," Quinn said. "So we fully intend on Tev playing and playing well."
Quinn downplayed the possibility that Coleman's reps would need to be monitored. However, a medical source with previous experience with an NFL team told ESPN that teams should strongly consider cutting down reps when a player has the sickle cell trait, depending on how that player's body adjusts to the altitude. The biggest factor is staying hydrated, something Coleman planned to do all along.
"I guess coach will see how I feel when we get there," Coleman told ESPN. "And I just have to communicate with him, if I am out there [playing], if I'm dead [tired] or can't breathe. We just have to play it smart."
In August, Coleman was pulled from the end of a practice as a result of his condition and the extreme heat.
Coleman has been a major factor in the Falcons' 3-1 start while sharing carries with starter Devonta Freeman. Through four games, Coleman has 129 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns on 40 carries. He also has 13 receptions for 181 yards.