Allen is at least the third significant Atlanta defensive player to suffer a major injury this year. The Falcons lost Pro Bowl strong safety Keanu Neal to a season-ending ACL tear, and Pro Bowl middle linebacker Deion Jones was placed on injured reserve following foot surgery. Jones is eligible to return for the Nov. 18 game against Dallas.
Allen played 66 snaps before being carted off the field during Sunday's 43-37 overtime loss to the New Orleans Saints. The team initially called it a calf injury, as Allen went down without any apparent contact.
"It hurts, especially when you know what Rico means to this defense, how much he means to this whole team, how much he helps everyone, the person he is," linebacker Duke Riley said of Allen. "He gets everything going. He's a big, big part."
The loss of Allen, a designated "chief" as a team leader and one of the smartest players on defense, leaves the Falcons decimated at the safety position. The 26-year-old had shifted over to Neal's strong-safety role, and Damontae Kazee spent more time in Allen's free-safety spot. The Falcons traded with New England prior to the start of the season for Jordan Richards, who initially was viewed as the backup to Neal. And the Falcons signed veteran Keith Tandy, who was inactive for the Saints game.
Coach Dan Quinn, who said the Falcons wouldn't look outside the organization for a starting safety, was asked whether not going to get a high-profile free-agent safety such as Eric Reid or trading for a high-profile safety such as Earl Thomas after the season-ending injuries to Allen and Neal has to do with financial matters and compensation or the fact that he's comfortable with what he has on the roster now.
"One, we really believe in Keanu and [Ricardo], and so when you do bring in a player, where does that player fit in moving forward?" Quinn said. "The next piece of that is at free safety, that is the next in line where we're thinking with Damontae. Had it not been the case, then I'd say, 'Man, we better really go out and make that move.'"
Quinn was asked whether the scrutiny around Reid kneeling during the national anthem in protest of social injustice would factor into not signing him. Reid was one of the first players to join Colin Kaepernick's cause, and both Reid and Kaepernick have filed collusion grievances against the NFL.
"No, not at all," Quinn said. "There are a lot of things that factor in. Contractually, that's one that goes into it with all players. But nothing from an off-the-field standpoint."
Quinn said he's comfortable with the other candidates he has to fill Neal's strong safety void, including nickelback Brian Poole, Richards, current linebacker Kemal Ishmael and newcomer Tandy. If Poole gets a shot, the Falcons would have to move someone else into Poole's nickel role, perhaps starting cornerbacks Robert Alford or Desmond Trufant. The Falcons could move rookie Isaiah Oliver into a starting role outside at corner to replace Alford or Trufant, if that's an option.
The Falcons are likely to give long-term extensions to Neal and Jones in the future, provided both recover from their injuries. Defensive end Vic Beasley Jr. and nose tackle Grady Jarrett also are in line for extensions, which makes the possibility of bringing in a high-priced veteran even more unlikely.
Allen signed a three-year, $19.5 million extension before the start of the season.
The Falcons also are banged up on offense, with running back Devonta Freeman still sidelined by a knee contusion. Starting left guard Andy Levitre was placed on injured reserve with a triceps injury; Wes Schweitzer took his spot in the lineup.