Falcons lose SS Neal for season

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Nelson Agholor (13) runs ball against Atlanta Falcons strong safety Keanu Neal (22) during the fourth quarter in the NFC Divisional playoff game Jan 13.Photo: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

Keanu Neal suffered a torn left ACL in opening game.

The Atlanta Falcons suffered a devastating injury in their season opener, losing starting strong safety Keanu Neal for the season, the team announced Friday.

Neal suffered a torn left ACL that was revealed following an MRI exam, according to the NFL Network.

Falcons head coach Dan Quinn told reporters after Thursdays 18-12 loss at the Philadelphia Eagles that the injury to Neal did not appear serious.

Neal went to the sideline because of a knee injury in the second quarter but returned shortly thereafter. He re-injured the knee in the third quarter and was done for the night, needing assistance from the teams medical staff to leave the field.

A first-round draft pick (No. 17 overall) of Atlanta in 2016, Neal underwent arthroscopic knee surgery before his rookie season after he was hurt in a preseason game. He still played in 14 games that season and was named to the NFL All-Rookie Team.

Neal earned Pro Bowl honors in 2017, starting all 16 games while registering 113 tackles and one interception.

The 6-foot, 211-pound Neal played three seasons at the University of Florida. He had three interceptions in 2014 and ranked 10th in the SEC with 51 solo tackles in 2015.

The Falcons avoided another serious knee injury when the NFL Network reported that running back Devonta Freeman is fine after exiting Thursdays game, favoring his right knee as he walked off the field.

Freeman was limited to six carries for 36 yards but was on the sideline without a helmet in the fourth quarter. Freeman told the NFL Networks Mike Garafolo after the game that he was OK.

The fifth-year back was stopped twice at the 1-yard line on Atlantas opening possession of Thursdays game, including a fourth-and-goal situation.

Freeman injured his knee in the 2017 regular-season finale. He struggled mightily in Atlantas postseason loss to Philadelphia, rushing for only seven yards on 10 carries.

After the season, Freeman revealed he had played with sprained posterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his right knee. He sought a second opinion and was told he did not require surgery.

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