Gurley, Mack sit out Falcons’ first practice in full pads

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — Todd Gurley was just an observer for the Atlanta Falcons’ first practice in full pads of training camp on Tuesday.

Center Alex Mack also didn’t participate.

It was all part of coach Dan Quinn’s plan.

Even in this unusual summer, when there will be no preseason games and limited time in full pads, Quinn is scheduling days off for some players.

The official description from the team was load management.

Tight end Hayden Hurst said veterans like Gurley, the All-Pro running back in 2017 and 2018 with the Rams, and Mack, the center entering his 12th NFL season, don’t need to practice every day.

“Those guys are professionals and they’ve been doing this a long time,” Hurst said. “They’re going to be ready to go. … We don’t worry about guys like that. They’re professionals and they’re going to get the job done.”

Quinn said last week he might limit practice time for some players. It is not an unusual policy, though it was notable to see it implemented during the much-anticipated first practice in full pads.

Quinn said he saw “a little more energy in the building” before the practice. It was the team’s 13th session in training camp, as the NFL mandated more walk-through days because of the coronavirus pandemic.

There’s good reason to limit Gurley’s exposure to contact. He has a long history of knee problems that began with a serious injury at the University of Georgia. He was limited at times during his five seasons with the Rams.

Gurley is expected to replace Devonta Freeman, who was cut after last season, as Atlanta’s lead running back.

Tuesday offered a chance to view the depth chart at running back after Gurley.

Brian Hill, who started two games in 2019, and Ito Smith are Atlanta’s top returning running backs. Qadree Ollison played in eight games and scored four touchdowns as a rookie last season.

Even while protecting the health of certain veterans, Quinn must use the contact practices to make up for not having preseason games. His plan is to simulate game situations.

“We’re creating those moments,” Quinn said. “A lot of thought went into that. How do we create more scrimmage opportunities, unscripted plays against different people? We have a number of those lined up throughout training camp. Those will be the best chances for that, when they’re unscripted and they’re playing it like in preseason game format, so to speak.”

NOTES: Safety Jamal Carter was activated from the COVID-19 reserve list. Carter was the team’s last player on the list. … Undrafted rookie OT Evin Ksiezarczyk from Buffalo was carted off the field after suffering an apparent leg injury on the final play of the practice.

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