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NFL: Falcons safety Keanu Neal suffers season-ending knee injury

NFL: Falcons safety Keanu Neal suffers season-ending knee injury
Atlanta Falcons' Keanu Neal (22) is helped off the field during the second half against the Philadelphia Eagles. (Matt Rourke / Associated Press)

The Atlanta Falcons will look at their current roster to replace Keanu Neal, the safety who will miss the remainder of the season after tearing a ligament in his left knee Thursday night in an 18-12 opening loss at Philadelphia .

Coach Dan Quinn said Friday he and general manager Thomas Dimitroff discussed outside options that could include free agent Pro Bowl safety Eric Reid.

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“We have talked about that,” Quinn said when asked specifically about Reid.

Quinn didn't rule out looking to acquire help in the future, but he said the first option would be a combination of Damontae Kazee, who replaced Neal in the game, and Jordan Richards, a safety who was acquired from the New England Patriots on Aug. 31.

“We'd like to go in-house first,” Quinn said. “The reason is the presence of Jordan and the emergence of Kazee. We'll go down that road first. Then they'll definitely be, when you put a player down for the year on IR, there will be some opportunities that we could look at as well. But from a starting standpoint look in-house first.”

The loss of Neal, a leader on the defense who was selected to his first Pro Bowl in 2017, is a major blow to the Atlanta defense.

“It's very disappointing,” defensive end Takkarist McKinley said following a team meeting on Friday. “He is a leader on this team, our best player. Losing him, someone else has got to step up. We've all got to step up.”

Friday's news was especially devastating because the initial diagnosis of the Falcons medical staff, which Quinn relayed to reporters following the game, was the injury wasn't believed to be serious. The team learned Friday Neal had torn his anterior cruciate ligament.

“You can imagine he was certainly heartbroken,” said Quinn of Neal. “ It was a tough, emotional day.”

Neal used his Twitter account to pass along a message of faith. “TRUST in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. He has a plan,” Neal wrote.

The injury news added more shock to a Falcons locker room reeling from another close loss to the Eagles. After being stopped on the goal line in a playoff loss in Philadelphia last season, the Falcons again were denied on five plays in the red zone to end the game.

Then came Friday's news that Neal was lost for the season.

“You can't replace a guy like that,” said cornerback Desmond Trufant. “We've just got to pray for him and pick up the slack.”

Neal hurt his knee in the first half, returned in the second half and then left the game for good.

Quinn said he didn't think Neal aggravated the injury by returning to the game.

Reid, 26, knelt beside San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick on the sideline during national anthems in the 2016 season to protest social injustice. Reid continued his protest in 2017. He filed a collusion grievance against the NFL in May after he was not signed as a free agent last offseason.

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The NFLPA has filed a grievance on Reid's behalf.

Reid started 69 of 70 games with 10 career interceptions and remained unsigned despite attracting interest from Cincinnati and Tennessee.

Neal was a 2016 first-round draft pick from Florida and one of the key building blocks on Quinn's defense. Neal had 113 tackles with one interception, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries while starting every game last season.

Neal also has set the pace for the defense with his physical style.

“His physical nature is one that he plays like a linebacker, but is fast enough to play in the middle part of the field and play outside,” Quinn said. “We'll certainly miss him because of the physical nature he plays with.”

Chiefs' Berry doubtful for game against Chargers

Chiefs safety Eric Berry is doubtful for Sunday's game against the Chargers in Los Angeles after missing most of training camp and all four preseason games with a heel injury.

Chiefs trainer Rick Burkholder and coach Andy Reid said this week that Berry was “literally day to day,” but he did not take part in any practices. That makes it unlikely that Berry, who missed most of last season with a ruptured Achilles tendon, will play in the Chiefs' regular-season opener.

His absence is a big one for Kansas City, which also is missing safety Daniel Sorensen to a broken bone in his leg. Ron Parker is expected to start at one safety spot a week after resigning with the team, and Eric Murray and rookie Armani Watts will handle the other position.

Berry was the only play to show up on the Chiefs' injury report.

Jaguars CB Ramsey set to go for opener vs Giants, Beckham

Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey practiced without any limitation Friday, clearing the way for him to play against New York Giants star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. in the season opener.

Ramsey was limited in practice Thursday because of right ankle soreness.

Coach Doug Marrone says tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins (core muscle), center Brandon Linder (knee) and right tackle Jermey Parnell (knee) also are good to go against the Giants. Seferian-Jenkins sat out practice Wednesday.

So Jacksonville will go into the opener with only one significant injury: receiver Marqise Lee is out for the season after injuring his left knee in an exhibition game. Lee has surgery last week.

Baltimore Ravens rookie out of hospital, has facial injuries

The rookie Baltimore Ravens kicker injured in an apparent assault has been released from the hospital, and is expected to cooperate with police.

Team spokesman Kevin Bryne told The Baltimore Sun on Thursday that Kaare Vedvik suffered a bruise to the back of his head and significant facial injuries. Vedvik's injuries had been redacted from the police report released Tuesday.

That report said the 24-year-old Norwegian told the team's security head he couldn't remember what happened after a teammate called around 3 a.m. Saturday. Vedvik had told the teammate he was good. He was found around an hour later, injured and missing his phone and wallet.

Police haven't found witnesses.

Coach John Harbaugh has said the injuries likely cost Vedvik an NFL job. He's on the team's reserve/non-football injury list.

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