Devonta Freeman to miss second straight game

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman remains in the concussion protocol and he will not play against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, coach Dan Quinn said Friday.

Freeman will miss his second consecutive game, with Tevin Coleman set for another start and Terron Ward serving as the backup.

Quinn expressed optimism when Freeman returned to practice in a limited role Thursday, wearing a black no-contact jersey. Freeman has not been cleared for contact, meaning his return will have to wait at least another week.

He suffered his second concussion since August and third since November 2015 when he was knocked out of the first quarter of the Falcons' Week 10 win over the Dallas Cowboys. Freeman absorbed a blow from linebacker Anthony Hitchens after Hitchens went unblocked.

Freeman remains the Falcons' leading rusher this season with 515 yards on 116 carries. He also leads the team with five rushing touchdowns.

Asked if Freeman could return next week against the Minnesota Vikings, Quinn said, "I'm not going to go to that one. I'm just not going to go ever against whatever they recommend in any way, shape or form. What I can say is that it was awesome having him back out on the field -- even in a limited fashion -- seeing his speed, his quickness and the way he can catch."

Freeman must be cleared by an independent neurologist before he can return to game action.

Coleman rushed for 43 yards on 20 carries in last week's 34-31 win at Seattle. He scored on a 1-yard run and had what appeared to be another rushing touchdown overturned after a review determined he was short of the end zone.

The 6-4 Falcons sit third in the NFC South and hold the second NFC wild-card spot with six games remaining. Sunday's matchup with the Buccaneers (4-6) marks the first of three consecutive home games for the Falcons.